The McLellin Papers

Lots of coverage of the sale of the genuine McLellin papers which figured in the Mark Hofmann case. PhiloBiblos did a nice summary of what's happening now.


Tip of the Hat

Fiona got a bit of favorable mention in The Washington Times in mid-December. Our thanks to John McCaslin for bringing the project to the attention of the high and mighty in our nation's capital.
And this just in: "...Late last night I began reading your blog Literary Fraud & Folly and expect to dive in even deeper in the morning. As a rare book and manuscript librarian who has worked with a number of forgeries, your subject is of constant interest to me."
-Brad Westwood, Westwood Arcade, a blog about collecting personal correspondence

Fiona Now on Amazon

Those who prefer to purchase via Amazon can now access Fiona's order page. If clicking here: Fiona Mysteries doesn't work, you can type the words in at the Amazon search section. We especially appreciate any kind words posted in the Reviews section, if readers are so inclined. That sort of thing gives potential readers confidence in the product.


"Fiona" Now Available!

Strange and intriguing stories, fascinating to book lovers, are found in the field of literary deception. These include mysterious cases of forgery, fraud, hoaxes, false memoirs, fake discoveries, travel to nonexistent locales and related crime and mischief.

“Fiona: Mysteries and Curiosities of Literary Fraud and Folly,” a new annual publication in book format, focuses on that field from its ancient roots to modern manifestations. Articles in the 100-plus page first edition, available via, explore questions and controversies including:

• What vital procedure should you follow to prove a rare book or document isn’t forged or stolen?

• Parson Weems to the contrary, George Washington apparently “swore a false oath.”

• Biographers may insist, but John Paul Jones did not say, “I have not yet begun to fight.”

• Did someone in China write the Dead Sea Scrolls?

• Is the Voynich Code nothing but gibberish?

• If your rare manuscript qualifies as a “public document,” do you really own it?

• And how does the mysterious Carmelita fit into the legend of Wyatt Earp?

Plus other features and news of interest to armchair literary detectives.

W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of Fiona, has an extensive background in investigative reporting and antiquarian research; he is author of several thousand news and feature stories for national publications. For many years he wrote the "Small Presses" column for The Washington Times' book section while also serving as a frequent reviewer of mainstream books. For ten years he wrote and published a newsletter reviewing books on antiques and antiquarian subjects. Among his recent work is a book challenging the attribution of a high-priced “vintage” photo frequently appearing at auction identified as Josie Earp, wife of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp.

Fiona takes its name from the elusive Scottish romantic poetess and writer Fiona MacLeod. Though sought by admirers, suitors and literary investigators, she was never actually seen in person. Upon the death of writer William Sharp, it was revealed that he, in fact, was Fiona MacLeod.


Where to Begin?

Here's a very nice list of books about literary forgery and fraud from LibraryThing. You can follow titles along to reviews, if they've been done here, or once you've found an interesting title you can search it on Google and learn more about it. Unfortunately, as you've probably noticed in your studies, many scholarly reviews are locked behind toll booths like JStor, you have to pay to read them. 


Churchill, Dickens, Napoleon

 In the course of other searching I came across several references to a site listing the top selling autographs. What impressed me was that it wasn't all Michael Jackson, Madonna and the celebrity crowd. As the headline indicates, there is still an appreciation of history's truly great, at least as of my visit to the site.

If This Is Friday, We Must Be Marooned

Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" was long thought to belong in the realm of "imaginary travel," and to some extent that may be so. But, as is now common knowledge, the book was based on the experiences of Scottish mariner Alexander Selkirk. The castaway was rescued by Capt. Woodes Rogers, a very successful privateer. Rogers, a friend of Defoe, mentions Selkirk in his diary. A hundred copies of the diary are thought to survive, including this recent find.


Spotting fake autographs

Though it may not qualify as "literary fraud," the faking of sports autographs certainly has crossover elements. It's epidemic. Here's a good starter "how to" from the BBC: 

Just noticed a novel suggestion for those who want to avoid autograph fakery. Collect signed, cashed checks. I can see where there'd be risks but the odds favoring authenticity seem better than with other materials...


Ah, distinctly I remember...

I put together a list of recent fake memoirs for the Amazon site. There are only 19 books on my list, going back to Education of Little Tree. Perhaps I should have gone on back as far as T. Lobsang Rampa, the fake Tibetan who begged pardon, saying his cat dictated his 20 or so books to him. I would bet a list of a thousand could be easily compiled just featuring modern efforts. We only hear about those that rise to the top before exposure. The list includes current prices for the books. In some cases those prices indicate that while literary fraud may not pay, grabbing up fraudulent memoirs in the early days for later sale can be profitable. By the way, the New York Times attempted a list similar to mine. The usual suspects. ABC News also did one, more detailed, in fact so similar as to make one wonder if they neglected to credit the primary source?


Internet Research 101

Be sure you read a couple of profiles of famous explorers here before you go poking around the other entries on that site to see what the heck is going on.


A Great Idea Jeopardized by Saboteurs

Wikipedia is a great idea, a free forum for sharing knowledge. But, the world being as it is, humans tend to make a mess of such things. Here's a story on political sabotage via Wikipedia -- though focused on a particular sphere, it tends to cast all Wikipedia content in doubt.


284,000 Stolen Books?

Sometimes I've offered a used book on Amazon at considerably less than the competing sellers simply in hopes of moving it off my shelf. All the same, one has to wonder when a book appears at price dramatically lower than other listings ... is it hot? Here's a story from Japan about $4-million in missing library books, and I imagine the stateside story would be far more astonishing.