An Outbreak of Forged Signatures
By Edward Mendelson
Collectors and librarians may wish to be alerted to the emergence of a number
of books with obviously false signatures by Auden. The false signatures share
many common characteristics, and seem to derive from the same source.
A few samples are noted below:
- In 2007 Christie's (New York) sold a photograph (sale 1938, lot 1008) with
badly-forged signatures of Auden, Christopher Isherwood, and Stephen Spender. After I alerted
Christie's to the forgery, the auction house reported the bad news to the buyer.
- Guaranteed Autographs
(which for some reason keeps changing its name and is now
Autographs) in 2011 was offering for sale
a copy of Homage to
Clio with a forged signature, and a copy of
Epistle to a
Godson with a similarly forged signature. As of March 2018, the firm was still offering the first of these despite having twice been warned that both are forgeries.
The seller is the subject of
this interesting web posting and similar postings on other sites.
- In 2013, the same firm, having changed its name to Guarantee Authographs, was again offering forged signatures of Auden, one in a copy of
The Oxford Book of Light Verse, another in a copy of New Verse, both obviously from the same source.
- An eBay seller in 2011 was offering a
Academic Graffiti with a forged signature probably from the same source as the prceding items.
- In 2013 two booksellers, both based in East Sussex, were offering the same copy of Auden's New Year Letter with a
forged inscription to Keith Vaughan, again probably from the same source.
In 2015, the same copy was still on offer from Maddison Books in East
- Bloomsbury Auctions, in 2013, offered an absurdly unconvincing forgery of a letter from Auden to Isherwood, also probably from the same source. The poem attributed to Auden in this forgery may provide amusement to anyone who has ever read anything that Auden actually wrote.
After I alerted the sellers to the forgery, the auction listing was removed
from the web site, thus making it unlikely that any future visitor will
mistakenly discover an unpublished poem by Auden.
- In 2014 an eBay seller offered two books inscribed by Auden to Clare Boothe Luce, one titled
Treasures, the other an American edition of Letters from
Iceland. Both signatures are forgeries, obviously from the same
source as the ones listed above. The seller withdrew the two books from sale and
returned them to another dealer after being notified that they were
forgeries. The Letters from Iceland then briefly reappeared on eBay
from a different seller,
who, after being alerted to the forgery, sold it to a collector who (the
bookseller reports) believes the signature to be genuine. (The signature is
most definitely a forgery.) A photograph of
the forgery may be found here.
Other such items will doubtless come to light and will be noted here.
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