Meanwhile: Some Utter Nonsense.

How to Spot a Fake Book!!!!!!


Right, that link will lead you to a CNBC page referring to an episode of a programme called “Treasure Detectives.”

In the video, a gentleman disguised as Damian Hirst will attempt to inform you that fake books smell of walnut oil, and that the easiest way to spot one is to look for signs of over-ageing. I can only assume that this is taking place in some parallel universe where people actually sit down and fake entire copies of rare books, painstakingly printing every single page, aging it with…walnut oil (Why? What? How?), “painting” the binding (Really?) and then waiting for you…the hapless punter to come along and pay “A week or even a month’s wages…” for it.

Obviously, this is what we in the ABA and ILAB refer to as “Bollocks.” The likelihood of anyone sitting down and faking any complete, known collectable book to a degree of success where someone would genuinely be deceived enough to actually buy it would require a level of artisanship that in and of itself would be worthy of the highest respect. We’d actually be impressed. Seriously. You fake me a copy of the Hypnerotomachia and I will cover myself in walnut oil. Although the possibility of anyone liking that sort of thing is just as remote as the faking.

Took me three hours to knock this up...difficult part was sourcing pink walnuts.

Took me three hours to knock this up…difficult part was sourcing pink walnuts.

People don’t fake collectable books. They might fake a previously unknown edition (if it was short enough), they might fake an important pamphlet (with a suitable supply of old paper and access to the right type etc.)…but to be honest they are far more likely to fake a signature, an inscription, a letter of provenance or some-such. Rather than educate potential book collectors about those possibilities (which are a very real and present danger to the neophyte), this show has instead opted to introduce the spectre of  “Total Rare Book Fabrication” as a possible peril of entering the field of book collecting. Cheers Treasure Bloke! You Rock!

Yay! You're opinion was just what I needed!

Yay! Your opinion was just what I needed!

Where previously I might have had to call upon the cumulative 100 years of experience myself and my colleagues can summon to explain how I know that this is definitely Tolkien’s signature, or perhaps even point them in the direction of Christie’s or Sotheby’s verification departments to validate the provenance and veracity of an inscription…I am now going to have some poor chap asking;

“But how do you know it’s a real book?”

To which I am very afraid I will have no answer but to to say;

“Well, test it yourself. Does it smell of walnuts?”

Should anyone have any queries about rare books, rare book collecting, how to start, possible pitfalls, what they should collect, terms of the trade or indeed any one of a thousand possible questions (yes, we know we are strange and off-putting, but it’s worth it, really) please just feel free to ask, rather than taking this kind of ridiculous story fabrication seriously.

If you wish, you can ask me, and I will do my best to answer, or I will call upon the experience of the several thousand other fully qualified and well-informed rare book dealers and collectors and get them to assist. Really, that’s what we do. You will recognise us at book fairs because we don’t smell of nuts, and really very few of us have been over-aged.



About bibliodeviant

This is the journal of Jonathan Kearns Rare Books & Curiosities, and all who sail in her. Information, updates, rantings, musings and pretty pictures related (loosely I would imagine) to the world of rare and antiquarian books will be brought to you by a number of different personalities, some of whom cohabit in the same person's head. We welcome queries, comments and contributions of virtually any description, and in return we will attempt to rein in our multitudinous personality disorders and deliver wonders and joys beyond compare. At least that's the plan. View all posts by bibliodeviant

6 responses to “Meanwhile: Some Utter Nonsense.

  • Frank Werner

    It’s been tried, you know. Just ask Norbert Donhofer. Not that it worked, of course. Also, I’ve known booksellers to smell of practically anything – exept walnut oil, obviously.

    • bibliodeviant

      Indeed, on both counts!
      I can think of a couple of examples, certainly. I was kind of more annoyed by the way it was suggested that it’s the most prevalent concern. It’s pretty arcane even by our standards, and we are a majorly arcane, and occasionally smelly trade.

  • Heather O.

    I remember, years ago, a buyer who was seriously preoccupied by the possibility that an entire set of Curtis’s North American Indian might be some kind of evil-genius facsimile. I told him that it would cost much more to fake a set of Curtis convincingly than it would to just buy the damn thing.

    • bibliodeviant

      Indeed…the idea of that becoming a serious preoccupation is a bit disturbing. Also, in other news I cannot believe I only got to see you for a minute in NY! That truly sucks and I’m most unhappy about it. My sincere apologies, even though the loss is all mine.

  • jonathan

    The video left me completely speechless when I realised that I’d been wasting time being a bookdealer when what I should have been is a bookfaker.
    Never mind the issue points dear, just let me whip out the trusty walnut oil and we got ourselves a right little breadwinner.

  • James

    At least we know how to uncover a fake expert now.

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