Real or Fake: Studies in Authentication


Real or Fake: Studies in Authentication


Joe Nickell


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This book reveals the secret to detecting artifacts items. Detailing how the pros determine whether an Abraham Lincoln signature is forged or if a photograph of Emily Dickinson is genuine, the book provides the essential tools necessary to identify counterfeits. In this general introduction to the principles of authentication, the book provides readers with step-by-step explanations of the science used to detect falsified documents, photographs, and other objects. Illustrating methods used on hit shows such as Antiques Roadshow and History Detectives, the book recommends that aspiring investigators employ a comprehensive approach to identifying imitations. One should consider the object's provenance (the origin or derivation of an artifact), content (clues in the scene or item depicted), and material composition (what artifacts are made of), as well as the results of scientific analyses, including radiographic, spectroscopic, microscopic, and microchemical tests. Including fascinating cases drawn from an illustrious career, the book combines historical and scientific investigations to reveal reproductions and genuine objects. This book explains the warning signs of forgery, such as patching and unnatural pen lifts; chronicles the evolution of writing instruments, inks, and papers; shows readers how to date photographs, papers, and other materials; and traces the development of photographic processes since the mid-nineteenth century.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY




978-0-8131-7330-6 (pdf version)


978-0-8131-3910-4 (epub version)



Artifacts, Counterfeits, Authentication, Material composition, Scientific analysis, Historical investigation, Reproductions, Forgery


History | Social History