“Forgers, Fakes and Pirates: Faking the Book”

The Museum of Printing History is displaying original copies of the Texas Declaration of Independence, checks signed by George Washington and autobiographies by people including Adolf Hitler and Charles I of England (this one allegedly written on the eve of his execution in 1649). The collection of these and other works would be considered priceless, if it weren’t for one small flaw: They’re all fakes. “Forgers, Fakes and Pirates: Faking the Book” takes a look at the intricate — and surprisingly bizarre — world of forgery. Each of the documents is paired with the story of a sorry soul who tried to make a living by faking others people’s John Hancocks.

Curator Todd Samuelson tells the story of Mark Hofmann, a forger who re-created works by Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain, as well as what he wanted to pass off as the first printing in the American Colonies, Oath of Freeman. Samuelson says Hofmann tried to sell Oath to the Library of Congress, which rejected it after extensive forensic testing — and that’s where things got crazy. “Expecting to make a lot of money on this deal, [Hofmann] had racked up a lot of debt,” Samuelson says. Hofmann began to panic, and instead of going out and getting a real job, he began making pipe bombs and setting them off in various locations in Salt Lake City. “He ended up killing two people, and then he was taking another one to plant, and it blew up in his car,” Samuelson says. Hofmann tried to convince authorities he was the target, not the culprit, but apparently he wasn’t good at faking that either and eventually admitted to all his dirty deeds. Also part of the exhibit is a special installation dedicated to Houston forgers, so you can see how locals fake it.
Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Starts: May 10. Continues through Sept. 30, 2007


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