ah, to be a forger

Just found ‘The Songs of Bilitis‘, a cult classic of lesbian literature from a contemporary of Sappho around 600 BC. Famous for its frank and tender portrayal of Sapphic love.

But the best part, it’s all fake. The poems are the invention of a clever forger named Pierre Louÿs who fooled most of the experts with his “big find” in 1894. Once finally found out, the fraudulent origins did little to lessen the impact of the poems. In 1955 San Francisco, the first lesbian organization founded itself as the Daughters of Bilitis.

The tantalizing talents of the an art forger. Paul Auster laid them out in “Brooklyn Follies.” How do you find old paper to fool the X-rays & ultraviolet scans? Were the ingredients in your ink available at the time of writing? Do you know all of the tics of your writer? That Hawthorne always wrote sloppy and consistently spelled  “cieling” & “stedfast” incorrectly. The perfect work comes only from a mountain of research and preparation.

The great shame is that these masters of trickery have produced fakes, copies and missing originals so perfect that they currently sit in museums and private collections around the world. To be the master of your profession is to be completely unknown for it.

an image from one of the many illustrated editions of the “Songs of Bilitits”:

15000.jpg

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Lex Pelger

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