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The mid-1950s saw the unmasking of two scientific forgeries: the well-known Piltdown skull was shown to be a fake by J. S. Weiner, and Derek Price, a researcher in the newly opened Whipple Museum, demonstrated that a number of ‘early’ scientific instruments were in fact no more than half a century old. When Price announced his findings, he invoked the Piltdown story, urging historians to be as careful as their scientific colleagues. In this paper I use the Piltdown case and Derek Price’s work identifying five forgeries in the Whipple Museum’s collection to argue that the detection of forgeries was as much a matter of the changing nature of collections as it was a result of new scientific techniques or a more discerning eye. I characterize the change in attitudes towards the Piltdown skull as a move from visibility to legibility, and show that the same holds for Price’s own research into antique scientific instruments, which moved from the collector’s cabinet to the museum card-catalogue and, again, from visibility to legibility.
This chapter explores the early history of scientific instrument collecting through an assessment of the practices of two key collectors working in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century: Lewis Evans and Robert Whipple. The chapter focusses, in particular, on the presence of fake scientific instruments in the early trade in antique instruments. By using a data-driven analysis of the buying and selling of antique scientific instruments in the early years of the trade, a general picture of the preferences exhibited by different buyers and the features that added value to antique scientific instruments is presented. These factors and how they may have influenced the types of forgery that emerged are then considered. It is shown that fake scientific instruments were being sold at public auction as early as the 1890s, with at least one collector actively taking measures to spot them and avoid buying them.
This paper examines the social currency of copper-plate charters on the basis of Persian copper-plates from the Deccan. Indic religious systems have a long tradition of conferring land grants using this medium, partially rooted in beliefs of metaphysical qualities attributed to metals. The objects from this region are highly unusual because there are no other recorded instances of a sultan issuing or authorizing land grants on copper-plates. The Persian-language copper-plates appear from the sixteenth century onwards, and seem to be later copies of (or extracts from) paper-based charters issued by Bahmani sultans and other kingdoms in the Deccan. Issues of authenticity and forgeries, fakes and copies are also raised in this paper. This study examines objects that combine material culture and textual content. While the textual content of these objects has always been privileged as being a source of history, the medium – which itself has a history of reception – has not been given its own historical narrative. The paper provides new perspectives on what we might call the “social life” of different documentary formats in medieval and early modern India, in particular the copper-plate grant.
Over 800 clay coin moulds, excavated from 85 London Wall in 1988, had been used for casting copies of silver denarii and copper-alloy dupondii and asses which dated from Trajan to Trebonianus Gallus. The discovery of the moulds in the ditch of Londinium's defensive wall led initially to thoughts that this was the concealment of incriminating evidence, but it is now recognised that counterfeiting coins was rife and perhaps even uncontrollable. The wide variety of moulds made it a complicated task to identify the numbers and types of coins used to make the moulds. This article describes the types of moulds found, examines how the moulds were produced, and discusses the prevalence of coin moulds at differing periods and on differing sites in Roman Britain and on the Continent.
RIB I, 2334* purports to be a dedication by Sallustius Lucullus, governor of Britain in the first century a.d. This paper considers arguments for and against its authenticity, coming to the conclusion that is in fact a forgery. The author also argues against Russell's contention that RIB I, 2334* and I, 90 taken together suggest that Lucullus was the son of Amminus and grandson of Cunobelinus.
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