Fakes, Forgeries & Facsimiles: False imprints
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False imprints

Profit and self-protection are the two most common reasons a printer, publisher, or author might provide false information about when, where, or by whom a book was printed. One sixteenth-century printer created "Italian" books in his London shop in order to profit from their popularity. During the reign of Protestant Queen Elizabeth, Catholic tracts printed in England often appeared with false Continental imprints. And at the end of the nineteenth century, an enterprising scholar created previously unknown editions of poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Swinburne, Tennyson and others and then enjoyed renown for "discovering" them.

Giambattista della Porta (1535?–1615)
De furtiuis literarum notis vulgo
Naples: Joa. Maria Scotus, 1563

Aware of a growing demand for things Italian, whose importation was strictly controlled, John Wolfe began producing "Italian" books in London. Printed in Italian or Latin and with false places of publication—Rome, Palermo, Naples—they appear to be Italian books. Paper, typefaces, and ornaments, however, confirm that they were printed by Wolfe in London. Although the pamphlet on the right claims to be published in Naples in 1563, it was actually issued in London in 1591.

Pamphlet with a false Naples imprint

Pamphlet with a false Naples imprint

Fakes, Forgeries & Facsimiles Exhibition Highlights

Can you spot the fake? | Original copies | Facsimile "witchery" | Famous owners? | False imprints | The Headless Horseman | William Henry Ireland | John Payne Collier | Shakespeare's Mulberry Tree |

Exhibition Intro | Visiting the Folger

This page updated January 26, 2004