4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

Crimes / Forgeries / Hoaxes Timeline


8,000 BCE – 1,000 BCE

"The World's First Typewritten Document" - James Chadwick Circa 2,000 BCE – 1,700 BCE

Sides A (left) and B (right) of the Phaistos Disc. (View Larger)

The Phaistos Disc, a disc of fired clay from the Minoan Palace of Phaistos on the island of Crete, was discovered in 1908 by the Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier, and remains the most famous document found in Crete.

"It is about 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols. Its purpose and meaning, and even its original geographical place of manufacture, remain disputed, making it one of the most famous mysteries of archaeology. This unique object is now on display at the archaeological museum of Heraklion in Crete" (Wikipedia article on Phaistos Disc, accessed 07-26-2009).

Because of the unique features of the disc, and the mysteries surrounding its origin, many people have doubted its authenticity, but no one has yet been able to prove conclusively that it is a forgery.

"The disk has the distinction of being the world's first typewritten document. It was made by taking a stamp or punch bearing the sign to be written in a raised pattern, and impressing this on the wet clay. The maker therefore needed to have as many stamps as there were signs in the script. It has the advantage that even complicated signs can be quickly written, and every example of the same sign is identical and easy to read. The disadvantage is that a considerable outlay of time and effort is required to make the set of stamps before any document can be produced. It is therefore evident that the system was not created solely for a single document; its maker must have intended to reproduce a large number of documents, though it remains some way from being an anticipation of printing.

"It is therefore all the more remarkable that after more than eighty years of excavation not another single scrap of clay impressed with these stamps had been found at Phaistos, or at any other site in Crete or elsewhere. It would be very surprising if there were not somewhere more examples of the script waiting to be found, but the disk remains so far unique, and the suspicion must arise that it was an isolated object brought from some other area.

"This impression of foreign origin can be supported by two arguments. The work of cutting the stamps, whether made directly or perhaps more likely by making moulds into which metal was poured, is a technique very similar to gem-engraving. We might therefore expect the signs to bear a stylistic resemblance to those engraved on seal-stones. In fact the style of art is noticeably different. Secondly, some of the objects depicted by the signs have a distinctly foreign appearance to those familiar with Minoan art" (Chadwick, Linear B and Related Scripts  [1987]  57-58).

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The Nebra Sky Disk 1,600 BCE

The Nebra Sky Disk. (View Larger)

The Nebra Sky Disk, attributed to a site near Nebra, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, is a bronze disk about 30 cm in diameter, with a blue-green patina inlaid with gold symbols which have generally been interpreted as a sun or full moon, a lunar crescent, and stars, including a cluster interpreted as the Pleiades. The disk is associated with Bronze Age Unetice Culture.

"Two golden arcs along the sides, making the angle between the solstices, were added later. A final addition was another arc at the bottom surrounded with multiple strokes (of uncertain meaning, variously interpreted as a Solar Barge with numerous oars, as the Milky Way or as a rainbow)" (Wikipedia article on Nebra sky disk, accessed 11-04-2010).

When it appeared on the antiquities market in 2001 the disk was widely suspected to be a forgery. Scientific research summarized in the Wikipedia article provided evidence for its authenticity that was widely accepted in 2010.

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1100 – 1200

An Illuminated Medieval Travel Guide and Music Compendium Circa 1150

Detail of page from the Codex Calixtinus–or Liber Sancti Jacobi / Book of Saint James Calixtinus–or Liber Sancti Jacobi / Book of Saint JamesCodex Calixtinus–or Liber Sancti Jacobi / Book of Saint James.

Formerly attributed to Pope Callixtus II, but now believed to have been arranged by the French scholar, monk and pilgrim Aymeric Picaud, the Codex Calixtinus was intended as an anthology of background detail and advice for pilgrims following the Way of St. James to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great, located in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain.

The codex is alternatively known as the Liber Sancti Jacobi, or the Book of Saint James. It includes sermons, reports of miracles and liturgical texts associated with Saint James, and a most interesting set of polyphonic musical pìeces. The Codex Calixtinus was intended to be chanted aloud, and contains the first known composition for three voices, the conductus Congaudeant catholici (Let all Catholics rejoice together); however, the extreme dissonance encountered when performing all three voices together has led some scholars to suggest that this was not the original intention. The popularity of the music has continued to the present day with modern recordings commercially available. It also contains descriptions of the pilgrimage route, works of art to be seen along the way, and the customs of the local people.

"The origins and authorship of the Codex Calixtinus have been the subject of much debate amongst scholars. It is generally believed to have been written by a number of different authors and then compiled as a single volume, possibly between 1135 and 1139 by the French scholar Aymeric Picaud. It is thought that in order to lend authority to their work, the authors prefaced the book with a forged letter purportedly signed by Pope Callixtus II, who had already died in 1124.

"The earliest known edition of the codex is that held in the archives of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela,[2] and dates from about 1150. It was lost and forgotten for many years until rediscovered in 1886 by the Jesuit scholar Padre Fidel Fita. A copy of the Santiago edition was made in 1173 by the monk Arnaldo de Monte,[3] and is known as The Ripoll (after the monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll in Catalonia). It is now kept in Barcelona. The book was well-received by the Church of Rome, and copies of it were to be found from Rome to Jerusalem, but it was particularly popular at the Abbey of Cluny.

"The first full transcription of the Codex was done in 1932 by Walter Muir Whitehill, and published in 1944 in Madrid by the Spanish Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, together with a musicological study by Silos's Dom Germán Prado O.S.B., and another on the miniature illustrations by Jesús Carro García" (Wikipedia article on Codex Calixtinus, accessed 07-07-2011).

The manuscript was preserved in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. On July 5, 2011 it disappeared from a safe in the archives of the Cathedral. The theft was under investigation when I wrote this entry on July 7, 2011.

♦ On July 8, 2011 an article appeared on theolivepress.es concerning the left: http://www.theolivepress.es/spain-news/2011/07/07/codex-calixtinus-stolen-from-santiago-de-compostela-cathedral/, accessed 07-07-2011.

On July 11, 2011 an article concerning the codex and the theft appeared in time.com: "Codex Caper: Medieval Guidebook Stolen from a Spanish Church: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2082071,00.html

♦ On July 4, 2012, one day less than a year from the day it was announced stolen, the Codex Calustinus was recovered from a garage in Santiago. A former caretaker and his wife, son, and another women were arrested by Spanish police in connection with the theft.

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1300 – 1400

The Use of Manuscript Rolls in the Middle Ages Circa 1304 – 1340

Folio 323r of Codex Manesse: a portrait of Reinmar dictating poetry scribes, one of which bears a wax tablet. (View Larger)

The Manesse Codex, or Große Heidelberger Liederhandschrift, was produced in Zürich, Switzerland at the request of the Manesse family during the first half of the 14th century. It is the single most comprehensive source for the texts of love songs in Middle High German, representing 140 poets, several of whom were famous rulers, and it includes 137 miniature portraits of the poets with their armorial crests.

"The term for these poets, Minnesänger, combines the words for 'romantic love' and 'singer', reflecting the content of the poetry, which adapted the Provençal troubadour tradition to German. . . . The entries are ordered approximately by the social status of the poets, starting with the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, Kings Conradin and Wenceslaus II, down through dukes, counts and knights, to the commoners" (Wikipedia article on Manesse Codex, accessed 03-09-2009)

The codex had an obscure history before it belonged to the Baron von Hohensax, and the Swiss writer Melchior Goldast published excerpts of its didactic texts. After 1657 the codex was in the French royal library (now the Bibliothèque nationale de France), where in 1815 the manuscript was studied by Jacob Grimm. In 1888 it was sold to the German government following following a public subscription headed by William I and Otto von Bismarck and placed in the Bibliotheca Palatina of Heidelberg. Today it is preserved in Heidelberg University Library.

The price the German government paid for the codex in 1888— £18,000— was the highest price ever paid for a book up to that date. The purchase price was paid to bookseller and publisher Karl Trübner who paid the money to the Fifth Earl of Ashburnham in return for 166 manuscripts, of which 99 had been stolen from French libraries by Guglielmo Libri and sixty-six had been stolen from the Bibliothèque nationale de France by Jean-Baptiste Barrois. This deal, which cost the French library £6000 plus the Codex Manesse, had been accomplished largely by the determination and industry of the adminstrative director of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Léopold Delisle, who by painstaking research over more than twenty years had proven Libri's and Barrois's thefts of the manuscripts, and had lobbied effectively for their return to France.

In February 2014 a digital facsimile of the Codex Manesse was available at this link.

Of particular interest for book history is the portrait of Reinmar dictating poetry on folio 323 available at this link. The poet dictates to a notary who records the poems on wax tablets. A woman sits opposite the notary writing down the text on a roll draped across her lap—a depiction of writing in the medieval roll manuscript format, of which very few examples have survived. It is also a record of the use of wax tablets at this relatively late date.

Rouse & Rouse, Authentic Witnesses. Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts (1991) 23, and plate 5.

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1400 – 1450

The Voynich Manuscript: Uncrackable Code or Great Written Hoax? Progress in its Deciphering Circa 1404 – 1438

Several pages from the indecipherable Voynich Manuscript. (View Larger)

The Voynich manuscript, a mysterious illustrated manuscript book written in what long appeared to be an indecipherable text, has been the subject of much research and speculation for centuries. However, its author, script and language remain unknown, and for centuries it was believed that the manuscript might have been intentionally meaningless. The mysteries involved with this manuscript have resulted in various videos of which the following appeared to be the best in February 2014:

"Over its recorded existence, the Voynich manuscript has been the object of intense study by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including some top American and British codebreakers of World War II fame (all of whom failed to decrypt a single word). This string of failures has turned the Voynich manuscript into a famous subject of historical cryptology, but it has also given weight to the theory that the book is simply an elaborate hoax — a meaningless sequence of arbitrary symbols" (Wikipedia article on the Voynich Manuscript).

The book is named after the Polish-American book-dealer Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912. Since 1969 it has been preserved in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, having been donated by the American rare book and manuscript dealer, H.P. Kraus.

Progress on the deciphering the manuscript was made in the 21st century:

♦ In 2011 scientists, using carbon-14 dating, were able to date the vellum on which the manuscript was written to between 1404 and 1438. This pushed its origin back perhaps 50 years.  However, the meaning, if any, of the circa 250,000 characters and the many diagrams in the manuscript, remained unknown.

In June 2013, Marcelo Montemurro, a theoretical physicist from the University of Manchester, UK, published a study which he believes shows that the manuscript was unlikely to be a hoax. Using a computerised statistical method to analyse the text, Montemurro and Zanette found that it followed the structure of "real languages":

Montemurro MA, Zanette DH (2013) "Keywords and Co-Occurrence Patterns in the Voynich Manuscript: An Information-Theoretic Analysis," PLoS ONE 8(6): e66344. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066344

In issue no. 100 of the American Botanical Council's HerbalGram, published in 2013, Arthur O. Tucker, and Rexford H. Talbert identified some of the plants illustrated in the manuscript and suggested that manuscript possibly originated in Mexico:

Tucker & Talbot, "A Preliminary Analysis of the Botany, Zoology, and Mineralogy of the Voynich Manuscript," herbalgram.org, Issue 100, 70-84 (reprodcuing numerous color illustrations, and with a bibliography of 74 citations.

In January 2014 Stephen Bax, an expert in applied linguistics from Bedfordshire University, reported that he had deciphered 10 words in the Voynich manuscript and was optimistic that using his methods more words would be deciphered:

"A proposed partial decoding of the Voynich script," Version 1, January 2014.  http://www.academia.edu/5932444/A_proposed_partial_decoding_of_the_Voynich_script#

In January 2014 Bax also produced a video on the issued involved:

In January 2015 palaeographer Judith Fagin Davis posted an exceptionally interesting and well-illustrated account of the Voynich Manuscript in her blog, Manuscript Road Trip: The World's Most Mysterious Manuscript. Highly recommended!

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Medieval Mappa Mundi, Stolen during an Auction 1411 – 1419

The De Virga world map. (View Larger

The De Virga world map, drawn by Albertinus de Virga, contained a mention in small letters:

"A. 141.. Albertin diuirga me fecit in vinexia"
"Made by Albertinius de Virga in Venice in 141.."

(the last number of the date is erased by a fold in the map)

The map was "discovered" in a second-hand bookshop in 1911 in Srebrenica, Bosnia by Albert Figdor, a map collector, and it was analysed by Franz Von Weiser of the Austrian State University in Vienna. Authenticated photographs were taken at the time, which are preserved in the British Library. Regrettably the original map was stolen during an auction in 1932, and has never been recovered.  It may have been a source for the Venetian Fra Mauro map (circa 1450), with which it is generally consistent.

"The map is oriented to the North, with a wind rose centered in Central Asia, possibly the observatory of astronomer, mathematician and sultan, Ulugh Begh, in the Mongol city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan, or the western shore of the Caspian sea. The wind rose divides the map in eight sectors.

"The map is colored: the seas are left white, although the Red Sea is colored in red. Continental land is colored in yellow, and several colors are used for islands. The mountains are in brown, the lakes are in blue, and rivers are in brown.

"The extension shows a calendar with depictions of the signs of the zodiac and a table to calculate lunar positions"  (Wikipedia article on De Virga world map, accessed 01-12-2009).

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Lorenzo Valla Proves that the Donation of Constantine is a Forgery 1440

A depiction of the Donation of Constantine in the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City, by an artist of Raphael's studio. (View Larger)

Italian priest, humanist, rhetorician and orator Lorenzo Valla circulated in manuscript De falso credita et ementita Constantini Donatione declamatio, proving on historical and linguistic grounds that the Donation of Constantine was a forgery.  Because of church opposition the essay was not formally published in print until 1517. It became popular among Protestants, and an English translation was published for Thomas Cromwell in 1534. Valla's case was so convincingly argued that it still stands today, and the illegitimacy of the Donation of Constantine is generally conceded.

Valla showed that the document could not possibly have been written in the historical era of Constantine I (4th Century), as its vernacular style dated conclusively to a later era (8th Century). One of Valla's reasons was that the document contained the word satrap which he believed Romans such as Constantine I would not have used.

The document, though met with great criticism at its introduction, was accepted as legitimate, in part owing to the beneficial nature of its content for the western church. The Donation of Constantine suggested that Constantine I "donated" the whole of the Western Roman Empire to the Roman Catholic Church as an act of gratitude for having been miraculously cured of leprosy by Pope Sylvester I. This would have obviously discounted Pepin the Short's own Donation of Pepin, which gave the Lombards land to the north of Rome.

"Valla was motivated to reveal the Donation of Constantine as a fraud by his employer of the time, Alfonso of Aragon, who was involved in a territorial conflict with the Papal States, then under Pope Eugene IV. The Donation of Constantine had often been cited to support the temporal power of the Papacy, since at least the 11th century" (Wikipedia article on Lorenzo Valla, accessed 01-17-2009).

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1450 – 1500

Columbus's Description of the New World: the First Eyewitness Report to Become a Bestseller; in 2016, Reports of a Theft and Forgery of a Copy of the Third Edition February 15, 1493

Aboard the caravel Niña on February 15, 1493, sailing back from the New World, Christopher Columbus wrote an open letter to the monarchs of Spain, describing his monumental discoveries. When he docked in Lisbon on March 14, 1493 Columbus added a postscript and sent the letter to the Escribano de Racion, Luis de Santangel, finance minister to Ferdinand II and the high steward or comptroller of the king's household expenditures. Santagel had convinced  Isabella I to back Columbus's voyage eight months earlier, and Santagel was the first convey the news of Columbus's success to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.

Santagel promptly turned over the text of Columbus's letter to printer Pedro Posa in Barcelona, and through its different printed editions which followed in close succession, Columbus's letter became the first bestselling eyewitness news account. The sequence of the earliest editions was as follows:

1. As early as April 1, 1493, Posa issued a 4-page pamphlet in small folio entitled Epistola de insulis nuper inventis (Letter on Newly Discovered Islands). Only one copy of the original printing survives. It was discovered in Spain in 1889, and passed through the hands of antiquarian bookseller Maisonneuve in Paris before reaching antiquarian bookseller Bernard Quaritch in 1890. In 1892 Quaritch sold it to the Lenox Library founded by James Lenox. This library later merged with the New York Public Library where the pamphlet is preserved today. (ISTC no. ic00756000.)

2. The second edition, published in Spanish in Valladolid, also survives only in a single copy. (ISTC no. ic00756500.)

3. The third edition, in Latin, was published in Rome by Stephen Plannck, probably in early May 1493. (ISTC no. ic00757000.)

On May 18, 2016 The New York Times reported that a copy of this edition was being returned by the Library of Congress to the Biblioteca Riccardiana Library in Florence, from which it had been stolen years ago, and replaced with a forgery. In 1990 the stolen copy was purchased an unidientified Swiss collector, and purchased by an unidentified New York dealer who consigned it to Christie's in New York, where it was sold in 1992 for $330,000. The copy was purchased at auction by an unidentified private collector who donated it to the Library of Congress in 2004. The seizure warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware filed on August 6, 2014 reflects an extremely high level of bibliographical sophistication and forensic analysis, distinguishing between the authentic copy which was stolen and the forged copy which remained in the Riccardiana.

4. The first illustrated edition, with woodcuts supposedly copied from drawings by Columbus, was issued by Michael Furter, for Johann Bergmann, de Olpe, in Basel, Switzerland, probably in May, 1493. (ISTC no. ic00760000.) 

♦ In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the Basel 1493 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link

5Giuliano Dati translated the letter into Italian verse for publication in Rome June 15, 1493. (ISTC no. id00045890). Dati's version was reprinted in Florence and Brescia in 1493. Of each printing of Dati's version only one copy survived.

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 35.

(This entry was last revised on 05-18-2016.)

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1500 – 1550

Andrew Boorde Issues the First Printed Book to Set Out Rules for a Healthy Diet 1542

In 1542 English physician, traveller, and writer, Andrew Boorde, published in London at the press of Robert Wyer Hereafter foloweth a compendyous regyment or a dyetary of helth: made in Mou[n]tpyllier, compyled by Andrew Boorde of physiycke doctour, dedycated to the armypotent prynce, and valyaunt Lorde Thomas Duke of Northfolche. This was the first printed book to set out rules for a healthy diet, for those who could afford to follow such a regimen.

Formerly a Carthusian monk, but by this time known as "Merry Andrew" to his friends, Boorde was "making an enviable living as a physician and purveyer of health foods in Fleet Street, London; although he had more than once been accused on scandalous behavior and loose living. He is alleged to have attributed his extreme virility and undoubted success with the ladies to a balanced diet in which oysters and figs played a prominent part. . . .

"His Dyetary of helth passed through at least four editions before the end of the sixteenth century, much of its popularity stemming from the many ingenious dietary methods he revealed by which male virility could be improved and erections prolonged. The common artichoke was his favorite recommended aphrodisiac, and must have led to a considerable run on this scarce vegetable for several seasons. Mixed with rocket seed, the effect was alleged to be dramatic. 'Eat them at dyner,' he advised his readers, 'they doth increase nature, and provoke a man to veneryous actes.'

"Unfortunately, there were an unlucky few on which this sovereign remedy for keeping one's end up did not immediately work, and Boorde devoted a whole chapter to those he designated with a compassionate eye as melancholy men,' For them the diet was strict:

'Melancholy is colde and drye; wherefore melancholy men must refrayne from fryde meate, and meate whych is ower salte. And from meate this sowre and harde of dygestyon, and from all meate whych is burnt and drye. They must abstayn from immoderate thurste, and from drynking of hot wines and grosse wine, as red wyne. And use these thyngs; cowe mylke, almond mylke, yokes of rere eggs. Boyled meate is better for melancholy men that rosted meates whych do engender good blode, and meates that whyche be temperately hote, be goode for melancholy men. And so be all herbes whyche be hotte and moyste. These thyngs followyng do purge melancoly; quycke-beam, senna sticados, harts-tongue, mayden-hair borage, oraganum [majoram] suger and whyte wyne.'

"Once having thoroughly purged melancholy, a generous helping of rocket seed and artichoke would have its usual dramatic and uplifting effect, with the one-time enforced celebate made 'merrry wyth much venery.' This was Dr. Boorde's specific for nearly all masculine ills, and one he seems to have constantly restorted to himself, to an extent that caused so much scandal in his home town of Winchester that the 'three loose women' he kept in his rooms there were 'openly punished in the greate churche and stretes of that city.'

"His Breviary of Healthe appeared in 1547; but within a month or two of its appearance Boorde was arrested and thrown unceremoniously into the Fleet Prison on charge of permitted 'boggery' in Winchester, together with an assorted array of sexual malpractices that would make headline news in the Sunday newspapers even today. Merry Andrew indignantly denied the charges, but there was no escape. He resigned himself to death and made his will on April 1, 1549. He died in Fleet soon after, probably of the 'syckness of the Prysons,' so at least he cheated the executioner. As Merry Andrew, his effigy was erected as an Aunt Sally or cock-shy by fairground stallholders for several centuries after his death, the name giving a new phrase to the English language" (Quayle, Old Cookery Books. An Illustrated History [1978] 29-31).

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The Oldest Surviving Articulated Human Skeleton in Europe, Articulated by Andreas Vesalius May 1543

On May 12, 1543 Jacob Karrer von Geweiler of Basel, a bigamist and attempted murderer, was beheaded. When confronted by his wife for bigamy, Geweiler had attacked her with a knife and left her for dead. At the time of the execution Andreas Vesalius was in Basel, supervising the publication of his De humani corporis fabrica at the press of Johannes Oporinus, and the body of this executed criminal reached Vesalius, who peformed a dissection and articulated the bones using the method he described in the Fabrica. Remarkably this articulated skeleton, with some parts missing, is preserved in the Anatomical Museum of the University of Basel. It is the oldest surviving articulated human skeleton in Europe. It is also possible that this is the oldest anatomical specimen preserved in Europe, but this has not been confirmed.

Vesalius's exposition of his method of bone articulation appears in Book 1, Chapter 39 of the Fabrica. According to Vesalius, his method was new. The traditional method involved maceration in lime followed by cleansing in a fast-flowing river. This method, Vesalius wrote, was "dirty and difficult," and did not show features of bones such as processes, epiphyses, or depressions, because the process left them covered by blackened ligaments. Instead Vesalius wrote that bones and cartilages should be obtained from a cadaver by boiling. Then the bones should be articulated with wire.

Vesalius, On the Fabric of the Human Body. Book I: The Bones and Cartilages, Translated by Richardson & Carman, Chapter XXXIX "How the Bones and Cartilages of the Human Body are Prepared for Study" (Novato: Norman Publishing, 1998) 370-384. 

Kusukawa, "Vesalius, the Book and the Bones." In: The Alchemy of Medicine and Print: The Edward Worth Library, Dublin, ed. by Danielle Westerhoff (2010).

Wolf-Heidegger  "Vesals Basler Skelettpräparat aus dem Jahre 1543." Verhandlungen der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Basel 55 (1944) 211–234.

(This entry was last revised on 09-15-2014.)

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1600 – 1650

Galileo Issues Images of Revolutionary Discoveries Concerning the Universe; and the Story of a Remarkable Forgery November 1609 – March 13, 1610

After learning in 1609 that a Dutchman, Hans Lippershey, had invented an instrument that made faraway objects appear closer, Italian scientist Galileo Galilei, a resident of Padua, applied himself to discovering the principle behind this instrument. By late in 1609 he built a telescope of about thirty power. This he probably first turned to the heavens in November or December 1609, with astronishing and revolutionary results. In contradiction to the doctrines of Aristotle and Ptolemy, which taught that the celestrial sphere and its planets and stars were perfect and unchanging, Galileo's telescope showed that the surface of the moon was rough and mountainous, and the Milky way was composed of thickly clustered stars. In November or December 1609 Galileo painted six watercolors on a notebook page showing the phases of the moon, as he observed them through the telescope. These images, on a sheet preserved in Florence, at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale (Ms. Gal. 48, f. 28r), were the first realistic images of the moon, and the first recorded images of bodies beyond the earth seen by man. 

On the night of January 7, 2010 Galileo set up a telescope on his balcony in Padua. He spotted three stars near Jupiter, and noted their positions in a notebook. Six days later Galileo returned to his telescope and found the same stars, but by then their position had changed. At that point he realized that the three stars were moons orbiting Jupiter— proof that the universe of stars was not fixed, as postulated by Ptolemy's geocentric theory, and evidence for Copernicanism. Three months later Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius, or Starry Messenger, was published in Venice in an edition of 550 copies. The Sidereus Nuncius described and illustrated with copperplate engravings the first astronomical observations made through a telescope. Its images provided revolutionary new information about the universe. Though it contained only the bare facts of Galileo's observations without any overt reference to the Copernican theory, Sidereus Nuncius aroused a sensation among the European learned community, for it provided the first hard evidence that the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic view of the universe contained inaccuracies. 

"He sent a copy of the book, along with the telescope he had been using, to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo II de’ Medici. Dr. [Owen] Gingerich said the pamphlet amounted to 'a job application' to the Medici family for whom, in one of history’s first examples of branding, Galileo named the four satellites of Jupiter. 'Other planets were gods or goddesses,' said Paolo Galluzzi, director of the Florence institute. 'The only humans with position in sky were Medicis.' The ploy worked, Cosimo II hired Galileo as his astronomer, elevating him from a poorly paid professor at the University of Padua to a celebrity, making the equivalent of $300,000, a year, Dr. Galluzzi said. Galileo returned the favor by giving Cosimo another telescope, clad in red leather and stamped with decorations" (Dennis Overbye, "A Telescope to the Past as Galileo Visits the U.S.", The New York Times, March 27, 2009.)

It is thought that Galileo built dozens of telescopes, of which two survive, both in the Institute for the History of Science (Museo Galileo) in Florence, Italy. One covered in decorated leather, which Galileo sent to Grand Duke Cosimo II de' Medici, retains only one of its original lenses, but the other, covered only in varnished paper, contains its original functioning optics, and has its focal length labeled in Galileo's handwriting on the outside of its tube. This telescope was loaned to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia for an exhibition from April to September 2009. (The online article in The New York Times included a video showing the original telescope being unpacked in Philadelphia.)


In June 2005 antiquarian bookseller Richard Lan (Martayan-Lan, Inc.) purchased a copy of the Sidereus nuncius from Marino Massimo De Caro and antiquarian bookseller Filippo Rotundo that was represented as a proof copy, signed by Galileo, originally from the library of Federico Cesi, founder of the Accademia dei Lincei. Instead of copperplate engraved illustrations as in other copies of the book, this copy contained watercolors of the phases of the moon similar to those which Galileo made at the end of 1609 and which are preserved in Florence. It was known that the Venetian printer had sent Galileo thirty copies with blank spaces indicating where etchings would be placed. Presumably this was one of those copies, in which Galileo had personally painted images for presentation to Federico Cesi, instead of having engravings printed in. The copy was examined by all the leading authorities, subjected to various tests, and was generally considered a unique proof copy.

The Martayan Lan copy was included in the discussions in a symposium convened at the Library of Congress in November 2010 entitled "Galileo's Moons," intended to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Sidereus Nuncius and the acquisition by the Library of Congress of an uncut copy of the first edition bound in the original limp paper boards. Papers presented at this symposium accepted the authenticity of the Martayan Lan copy.

In 2011 De Gruyter published a rather grand 2-volume set, fully illustrated in color, based on research begun in 2007. Volume one, edited by Irene Brückle and Oliver Hahn, was entitled Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius. A comparison of the proof copy (New York) with other paradigmatic copies. Volume two, written by Paul Needham, was entitled Galileo Makes a Book. The First Edition of Sidereus Nuncius, Venice 1610. Regarding the significance of Needham's study, I quote from the review by G. Thomas Tanselle, Common Knowledge19, #3, (Fall 2013), 575-576:

"Needham’s book is based on eighty-three other copies, and he draws as well on Galileo’s letters, drafts, and various external documents. The result is a detailed account of the early months of 1610, from January 15, when Galileo decided he must publish his discoveries, to March 13, when the printing was completed; an additional chapter discusses the book’s distribution and Galileo’s corrections in some copies. The task of bibliography, as stated by Needham, is to know “the materials and human actions that produced (in multiple copies) the structure of a printed book.” Systematically he takes up the paper, type, and format of Sidereus Nuncius and provides a quire-by-quire analysis of its production, making exemplary use of many techniques of bibliographical analysis, each patiently and clearly explained, with accompanying illustrations. The book could serve as an excellent introduction to this kind of work; but even more remarkably, it demonstrates how interconnected are the physical object and its intellectual content. The title sentence, “Galileo makes a book,” has a double meaning: not only did Galileo write the text, but he also attended to its physical production, making the presentation of the text integral to its meaning. Needham does not neglect Galileo’s writing itself: he calls Galileo “an artist with words,” whose “prose embodies not just close reasoning, but also life and emotion.”

"This assessment applies equally to Needham’s own writing, which combines rigorous but readable technical analysis with an awareness of the human side of that work and the story it reveals. This combination recalls an earlier bibliographical classic, Allan Stevenson’s The Problem of the Missale Speciale (1967), another full-length treatment of a single book. Even the sense of humor displayed by Stevenson has its counterpart here: when, for example, Needham explains two hypotheses as to when the printing of Galileo’s book began, he calls the one that postulates a later date “the dilatory view.” At the end Needham praises the many nameless actors, such as papermakers and printing-shop workers, who played roles in the story; and he closes with “the mules and oxen whose humble labor moved sheets of Sidereus Nuncius across the face of Europe, under the eyes of the boundless sky.” This passage, occurring in a work of bibliographical analysis, epitomizes the work’s unusual accomplishment: it breaks new ground in the study of a major book, sets forth its discoveries in an engaging narrative, and in the process shows how bibliography can be essential to intellectual history."

Until early 2012 Richard Lan was privately offering the copy for sale for $10,000,000. Then Nick Wilding, an historian of science at Georgia State University who had been asked to review the 2-volume set mentioned above, presented concrete proof that the Martayan-Lan copy was a forgery:

  • The book bears a library stamp by the founder of the Accademia dei Lincei Federico Cesi. But the stamp in the Martayan Lan copy doesn’t match those in other books with Cesi's stamp.
  • The title page was different from genuine copies, but bore similarities to a 1964 facsimile and an unsold Sotheby’s auction copy.
  • There was no record of the Siderus Nuncius in the original library from which this copy was thought to come.

Slowly the thread of fabrication began to unravel. Discovery of the forgery coincided with the exposure of massive thefts of rare books from the Girolomini Library in Naples, for which Marino Massimo De Caro, and others were eventually convicted. In 2013 the Library of Congress and Levenger Press issued Galileo Galilei, The Starry Messenger, Venice, 1610. From Doubt to Astonishment. This volume contained a facsimile edition of the Library of Congress copy, an English translation, and the text of the papers delivered at the November 2010 symposium. However, as the editor of the volume noted, Paul Needham revised his paper (now retitled "Authenticity and Facsimile: Gaileo's Paper Trail") in light of his later acceptance that the Martayan Lan copy was a forgery. On December 16, 2013 The New Yorker magazine published a detailed background article on the forgery and how it was accomplished, by Nicholas Schmidel: "A Very Rare Book. The mystery surrounding a copy of Gaileo's pivotal treatise." While the article filled in many blanks concerning the Sidereus Nuncius forgery, it raised other questions concerning other unknown thefts and forgeries by Marino Massimo de Caro and his associates.

In February 2014 De Gruyter issued an originally unintended volume three of their 2011 two-volume set entitled A Galileo Forgery. Unmasking the New York Sidereus Nuncius, edited by Horst Bredekamp, Irëne Bruckel, and Paul Needham. When I last revised this entry in August 2014 the full text of the volume was available as an Open Access PDF at no charge. This was the most comprehensive account and proof of the forgery. In many ways it was the most remarkable and admirable volume of the set, in which the scholars, recounted how the forgery was discovered, drew their final conclusions proving the forgery, and explained how they had been deceived in the first place.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 855.

(This entry was last revised on 04-04-2015.)

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Stephen Dayes Establishes the First Printing Press in North America: No Copies of the First Two Imprints Exist 1639

Stephen Daye established the first printing press in North America at Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1639. Daye's first publications were a broadside entitled The Oath of a Freeman, and Peirce's Almanack for 1639. Of these two printings, no authentic copies are known.

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1650 – 1700

Jacques Raveneau Issues the First Book on the Detection of Forged Documents 1665 – 1666

In 1665 and 1666 French forensic writing expert Jacques Raveneau published the first book on the detection of forged documents:Traité des inscriptions en faux et reconnoissances d'escritures & signatures par comparison & autrement. In the Bibliothèque nationale de France there is a copy published by Raveneau and dated 1665 (B. N., F. 42404). All other copies cited in OCLC when I searched in January 2016 were of the second, or permitted issue, issued in Paris by Thomas Jolly in 1666. According to Anne Sauvy, Livres saisis à Paris entre 1678 and 1701 (1972) No. 19, the 1665 edition bears a privilege dated July 1665. In that copy is a note indicating that this privilege was obtained improperly. Presumably Raveneau had to delay publication until he obtained an accepted privilege; the privilege in the 1666 edition is dated April 8, 1666. The edition includes a florid dedication to French magistrate Guillaume Ier de Lamoignon, marquis de Basville, who was first president of the Parliament of Paris. The dedication is prominently featured on the title page.

In spite of the political influence of the dedicatee, authorities suppressed publication of the 1666 edition, believing that the information it contained was as useful to forgers as it was to those who attempted to detect forgeries. Sauvy indicates that Raveneau may have been imprisoned for publishing this work. Whatever the case, its suppression in Paris did not prevent its publication elsewhere. An edition was published in Luxembourg, 1673, and another edition was issued in Paris, in 1691 by Jean Guignard.

(This entry was last revised on 01-08-2016.) 

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The Beginning of Palaeography 1675

Jesuit Daniel van Papenbroeck (Papebroch) published "Propylaeum antiquarium circa veri ac falsi discrimen in vetustis membranis" in Acta sanctorum, Aprilis II (Antwerp, 1675) I-LII. In this paper Papenbroeck proved that a charter guaranteeing certain privileges to the rival religious order, the Benedictines, supposedly issued by the Merovingian king Dagobert in 646, was a forgery. He also argued that handwriting should be examined carefully before an ancient document is accepted as genuine. This paper may be considered the beginning of palaeography.

Boyle, Medieval Latin Palaeography: A Bibliographical Introduction (1984) no. 71.

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Foundation of Palaeography and Diplomatics 1681

In his book on medieval documents, De re diplomatica libri sex, published in Paris in 1681 Benedictine monk Jean Mabillon founded the formal study of palaeography and diplomatics, laying down the principles for dating scripts and ornament in manuscripts.  At this time the term palaeography did not exist. It was later coined by Mabillon's pupil Bernard de Montfaucon, who in his Palaeographia Graeca (1708) applied similar principles to the dating of Greek manuscripts.  

Initially paleography developed to resolve legal disputes over documents. During the Middle Ages, the production of spurious charters and other false documents was common, either to provide written documentation of existing rights or to bolster the plausibility of claimed rights. These spurious documents were later employed to bolster claims that were fraudulent. In 1675 the Jesuit Daniel van Papenbroeck (Papebroch) proved that a charter guaranteeing certain privileges to the Benedictines, supposedly issued by the Merovingian king Dagobert in 646, was a forgery.

"The French Benedictine order, which had recently been revived under the title of the Congregation of Saint Maur and was devoting itself to various scholarly enterprises, treated van Papenbroeck's work as a challenge. One of its most able members, Dom Jean Mabillon (1632-1707), spent several years in studying charters and manuscripts, drawing up in a systematic way for the first time a series of criteria for testing the authenticity of medieval documents. The result was De re diplomatica (1681), to which we owe the word diplomatic, normally used as the technical term for the study of legal and official documents. Mabillon's work dealt also to a lesser extent with manuscripts, but was resticted to Latin. It was immediately recognized as a masterpiece, even by van Papenbroeck, who had a cordial exchange of letters with Mabillon, acknowledging that his attempt to prove the spuriousness of all Merovingian charters was an excess of skepticism. On the other hand his thesis about the charter of 646 was upheld" (Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars 3rd ed [1991] 189).

Boyle, Medieval Latin Palaeography: A Bibliographical Introduction (1983) No. 72.  Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) No. 158.

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1700 – 1750

Crime and Punishment during the Ancien Regime: The Arrest, Trial and Execution of Cartouche and his Cour des Miracles Gang November 28, 1721

One of the more unusual volumes that I handled during my long career as an antiquarian bookseller was a collection of 78 legal documents and other printed pamphlets relating to the arrests, trials and punishments of Louis Dominique Bourguignon, called Cartouche, and his notorious “Cours des Miracles” gang of criminals. This was bound with 62 documents, including official arrest and sentencing records, relating to crimes committed in France in the 17th and 18th centuries. One of France’s most famous outlaws, Cartouche was portrayed (and romanticized) in countless stories, plays, songs and films, including the 1962 film “Cartouche,” starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Claudia Cardinale. His crimes and those of his followers were exhaustively detailed in the collection, which consisted chiefly of documents issued by the Cour de Parlement de Paris, the ancien régime’s primary legislative and judicial body.

Cartouche was the son of a wine merchant. After expulsion from school, he became the head of a gang in Normandy, then served for a time as a police informant before joining the army. Upon leaving the army, Cartouche and some of his fellow soldiers formed a new criminal gang, headquartered in the Cour des Miracles, a notorious Parisian slum. Cartouche's Cour des Miracles gang, which appears to have had over one hundred members (both male and female), was an early example of organized crime in France: Cartouche had himself elected leader, and punished challenges to his authority with death. Members of Cartouche’s gang terrorized the city with almost daily robberies and murders; they were especially feared for their attacks on carriages traveling from Versailles to Paris.

Betrayed by one of his accomplices, Cartouche was arrested on January 6, 1721 and thrown into prison. Believing that his gang would rescue him, he at first refused to divulge any information to the authorities, even when subjected to the question extraordinaire, a particularly brutal form of judicial torture. Cartouche was scheduled to be executed on November 27, 1721, and hoped for rescue up until the last minute; however, when he finally realized his gang had broken faith with him, he begged the officiating priest for a reprieve so that he could take revenge by betraying his former associates. On November 28, after making his confession, Cartouche was broken on the wheel (rompu vif), the standard execution for robbers and brigands in 18th-century France. Document no. 6 in the collection (see list below), dated November 26, 1721, records the death sentence given to Cartouche and seven of his associates by the Cour de Parlement de Paris.

After Cartouche’s execution, most of the remaining Cour des Miracles gang members were arrested and tried for their crimes, which included murder, armed robbery, breaking and entering, stealing from churches and royal residences, receiving stolen goods, and harboring other criminals. These proceedings, which took place at the Cour de Parlement de Paris in the summer and fall of 1722, are recorded in documents in the list below.  The sentences included hanging, being burned alive, the wheel, branding, whipping, the stocks, banishment and the galleys.

Of the remaining documents in this collection, the most interesting were a defense of the notorious Marquise de Brinvilliers, executed in 1676 for poisoning her family; the arrest records of Robert-François Damiens (no. 130), drawn and quartered in 1757 for attempting to stab Louis XV, and of Damiens’s family arrested and punished for their association with him; and a record of the judgment against the famous French smuggler and bandit Louis Mandrin. The remaining documents record arrests and punishments for diverse crimes, including theft, pimping, infanticide, fraud, heresy, and refusing a dying person the last rites.

This remarkable collection on crime may have been assembled by Pierre Théodore Noël du Payrat, seigneur de Razat (1761-1832), jurist, King’s counsel, acting procurer general of the Parlement of Paris, delegate from the Dordogne to the États généraux in 1789, and member of the Council of Five Hundred. Noël de Peyrat’s descendants still maintain the Chateau de Razat and its important library of books on jurisprudence. 


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1750 – 1800

Von Kempelen "Invents" the Chess-Playing Turk & Edgar Allan Poe Compares it to Babbage's Difference Engine No. 1 1769 – 1836

In 1769 Hungarian author and inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen (Johann Wolfgang Ritter von Kempelen de Pázmánd; Hungarian: Kempelen Farkas) built his chess-playing Turk, an automaton that purported to play chess. Although the machine displayed an elaborate gear mechanism, its cabinet actually concealed a man controlling the moves of the machine.

Von Kempelen's Turk became a commercial sensation, deceiving a very large number of people. It became the most famous, or the most notorious, automaton in history. It also must have been kind of an open secret within the professional chess community because over the years numerous chess masters were hired so that The Turk could challenge all comers with its chess skills. With a skilled concealed operator the Turk won most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for nearly 84 years, playing and defeating many challengers including Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin. Although many had suspected the hidden human operator, the hoax was first revealed by the English engineer Robert Willis in his illustrated pamphlet, An Attempt to Analyse the Automaton Chess Player of Mr. de Kempelen. With an Easy Method of Imitating the Movements of the Celebrated Figure. . .  (London, 1821). The operator or operators working within the mechanism during Kempelen's original tour remain a mystery; however after the engineer Johann Nepomuk Mälzel purchased the device in 1804, and exhibited it first in Europe and in 1826 in America, the chess masters who secretly operated it included Johann Allgaier, Hyacinthe Henri Boncourt, Aaron Alexandre, William Lewis, Jacques Mouret, and William Schlumberger. In 1818, for a short time while Boncourt was the operator of the Turk, he caught the flu and his chess performance was rather poor, and he could not control his coughing which could be heard by spectators, creating a certain embarrassment to Mälzel who owned the machine. For this reason Mälzel added some noisy gears to the Turk, which had no other purpose than to cover any noise that might come from the operator.

One of the most insightful commentators on The Turk was the American writer, poet, editor, literary critic, and magazinist Edgar Allan Poe. who in April 1836 published in the Southern Literary Messenger issued from Richmond, Virginia "Maelzel's Chess Player." In this article on automata Poe provided a very closely reasoned explanation of the concealed human operation of von Kempelen's Turk, which Poe had seen exhibited in Richmond by Maelzel a few weeks earlier. 

Poe also briefly compared von Kempelen's Turk to Babbage's Difference Engine No. 1, which was limited to the computation of short mathematical tables, suggesting essentially that if the Turk was fully automated and had the ability to use the results of one logical operation to make a decision about the next one—what was later called "conditional branching" —it would be far superior to Babbage's machine. This feature Babbage later designed into his Analytical Engine

Here is Poe's comparison of the two machines:

"But if these machines were ingenious, what shall we think of the calculating machine of Mr. Babbage? What shall we think of an engine of wood and metal which can not only compute astronomical and navigation tables to any given extent, but render the exactitude of its operations mathematically certain through its power of correcting its possible errors? What shall we think of a machine which can not only accomplish all this, but actually print off its elaborate results, when obtained, without the slightest intervention of the intellect of man? It will, perhaps, be said, in reply, that a machine such as we have described is altogether above comparison with the Chess-Player of Maelzel. By no means — it is altogether beneath it — that is to say provided we assume (what should never for a moment be assumed) that the Chess-Player is a pure machine, and performs its operations without any immediate human agency. Arithmetical or algebraical calculations are, from their very nature, fixed and determinate. Certain data being given, certain results necessarily and inevitably follow. These results have dependence upon nothing, and are influenced by nothing but the data originally given. And the question to be solved proceeds, or should proceed, to its final determination, by a succession of unerring steps liable to no change, and subject to no modification. This being the case, we can without difficulty conceive the possibility of so arranging a piece of mechanism, that upon starting it in accordance with the data of the question to be solved, it should continue its movements regularly, progressively, and undeviatingly towards the required solution, since these movements, however complex, are never imagined to be otherwise than finite and determinate. But the case is widely different with the Chess-Player. With him there is no determinate progression. No one move in chess necessarily follows upon any one other. From no particular disposition of the men at one period of a game can we predicate their disposition at a different period. Let us place the first move in a game of chess, in juxta-position with the data of an algebraical question, and their great difference will be immediately perceived. From the latter — from the data — the second step of the question, dependent thereupon, inevitably follows. It is modelled by the data. It must be thus and not otherwise. But from the first move in the game of chess no especial second move follows of necessity. In the algebraical question, as it proceeds towards solution, the certainty of its operations remains altogether unimpaired. The second step having been a consequence of the data, the [column 2:] third step is equally a consequence of the second, the fourth of the third, the fifth of the fourth, and so on, and not possibly otherwise, to the end. But in proportion to the progress made in a game of chess, is the uncertainty of each ensuing move. A few moves having been made, no step is certain. Different spectators of the game would advise different moves. All is then dependent upon the variable judgment of the players. Now even granting (what should not be granted) that the movements of the Automaton Chess-Player were in themselves determinate, they would be necessarily interrupted and disarranged by the indeterminate will of his antagonist. There is then no analogy whatever between the operations of the Chess-Player, and those of the calculating machine of Mr. Babbage, and if we choose to call the former a pure machine we must be prepared to admit that it is, beyond all comparison, the most wonderful of the inventions of mankind. Its original projector, however, Baron Kempelen, had no scruple in declaring it to be a "very ordinary piece of mechanism — a bagatelle whose effects appeared so marvellous only from the boldness of the conception, and the fortunate choice of the methods adopted for promoting the illusion." But it is needless to dwell upon this point. It is quite certain that the operations of the Automaton are regulated by mind, and by nothing else. Indeed this matter is susceptible of a mathematical demonstration, a priori. The only question then is of the manner in which human agency is brought to bear. Before entering upon this subject it would be as well to give a brief history and description of the Chess-Player for the benefit of such of our readers as may never have had an opportunity of witnessing Mr. Maelzel's exhibition."

Even though the machine intelligence exhibited by the Turk was an illusion, von Kempelen's automaton was much later viewed as an analog to efforts in computer chess and artificial intelligence.

(This entry was last revised on 12-27-2014.)

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Death by Printing Press in Stockholm 1790

Probably the best and most historically accurate film series that I had seen, as of 2014, was the Anno 1790 Swedish historic crime drama series first broadcast in 2011. I finished the series on DVD in March 2014, following the Swedish dialogue with English sub-titles. The third episode of the ten episode series, entitled in English "Fickle Woman," featured a printer working in an authentic-appearing printing shop, being killed by having his head squished in the printing press. The printer was issuing subversive political documents inspired by the French Revolution, but he mainly got into trouble with his wife for fooling around with too many women who came to get printing done.

From the blurb on the DVD set:

"The Age of Enlightenment, year 1790. After returning from the battle fields of a bloody war in Finland, Swedish army surgeon Johan Gustav Dåådh [prounounced 'Dode'] finds himself reluctantly taking on the job as district police commissioner in Stockholm. Unenthusiastic about police work, he still brings tenacity and dispassionate reasoning to the job, with an eye to ensuring that criminals are caught and the innocent remain free. His methods may not be modern but they work, and the motives for the crimes remain unchanged from today: revenge, greed, love, jealousy, and politics. Beneath the calm exterior, Dåådh is an conflicted as the times he lives in; he's a closeted revolutionary torn between his loyalty to the King and his progressive ideals. He also struggles with forbidden love for his boss' wife Magdalena, who shares his vision for a just and free society."


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Jacob Perkins Invents Steel Engraving Circa 1792 – 1819

In 1792 American inventor Jacob Perkins invented steel engraving for the process of banknote printing. In America Perkins was unable to commercialize the process successfully. Motivated by a £20,000 prize offered by the British government for development of unforgable banknotes, in 1818 Perkins moved to England. He and associates "set up shop in England, and spent months on example currency, still on display today. Unfortunately for them, Sir Joseph Banks thought that 'unforgable' also implied that the inventor should be English by birth. Sir Joseph Banks's successors awarded future contracts to the English printing company started with Charles Heath" (Wikipedia article on Jacob Perkins, accessed 10-21-2012).  

In 1819 Perkins received British patent No. 4400 for: "Certain Machinery and Implements Applicable to Ornamental Turning and Engraving, and to the Transferring of Engraved or Other Work from the Surface of One Piece of Metal to another Piece of Metal, and to the Forming of Metallic Dies and Matrices; and also Improvements in the Construction and Method of Using Plates and Presses for Printing Bank Notes and other Papers, whereby the Producing and Combining various Species of Work is effected upon the same Plates and Surfaces, the Difficulty of Imitation increased, and the Process of Printing facilitated; and also an Improved Method of Making and Using Dies and Presses for Coining Money, Stamping Medals, and other Useful Purposes."  The patent included six large folding engineering drawings.  

In England Perkins entered into business arrangements with English engraver, currency and stamp printer, book publisher and illustrator Charles Heath. To produce steel engravings engravers such as Heath had to use special plates supplied by Perkins. These plates had to be printed on presses designed and provided by Perkins; both the plates and the presses were described in Perkins's patent. The publisher who first recognized the aesthetic and economic advantages of steel engraving was Longman, who issued twenty books containing, all together, around seventy steel engravings beginning in 1821. Longman's first production using steel engravings was the edition of Thomas Campbell's The Pleasures of Hope issued by Longman on January 10, 1821. Heath's four engraved illustrations for this work, including its engraved title page, were dated 1820. According to Longman's ledgers, 3000 copies of this edition were printed, and in November 1824 a further 3000 copies were printed from the same plates, reflecting the extreme durability of steel engravings compared to engravings from copperplates. There was also a printing dated 1822, as I have a copy in my collection bearing that date. 

Roughly twenty years later in 1840 Perkins's methods reached true mass production when they were used to print the world's first adhesive postage stamp. The process, which proved the extreme durability of steel plates compared to any other available graphic reproduction medium of the time, remained in use until 1879:

"Henry Courbould made a drawing of Queen Victoria from the Medal struck on her accession to the throne for which Perkins, Bacon and Petch paid him £12.00. A piece of steel 3" square x 9/16" thick was annealed several times to remove the carbon and when completely soft the background was engraved with the aid of the geometric lathe, followed by the engraving of Queen's head and the inscription "Postage - One Penny". After hardening, the die became harder than it had been originally and 240 impressions were transferred to the printing plate using the Roll Transfer Press. This Master Die 1 was in use from 1840 to 1855 with master Die 2 being used until 1879 - a tribute to the excellence of Jacob Perkins' plate hardening system. It was proved that fully 400,000 imprints could be taken from a single plate without signs of wear. Altogether, over twenty-two thousand million stamps for Great Britain and the Colonies were printed by the Perkins' process during these years" (http://www.bphs.net/GroupFacilities/J/JacobPerkinsPrinting.htm, accessed 06-24-2012).

Hunnisett, Engraved on Steel. The History of Picture Production using Steel Plates (1998) 112.

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1800 – 1850

Ronalds, Cooke & Wheatstone Develop the First Commercial Electric Telegraph July 25, 1837 – January 1, 1845

The first commercial electrical telegraph, based on technology originally invented by Francis Ronalds, was co-developed by Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone, and patented in May 1837 as an alarm system.  The Cooke-Wheatstone telegraph was first successfully demonstrated on July 25, 1837 between Euston and Camden Town in London. It entered commercial use on the Great Western Railway over the 13 miles (21 km) from Paddington station to West Drayton on April 9, 1839. On January 1, 1845 criminal John Tawell was apprehended following the use of a needle telegraph message from Slough to Paddington. "This is thought to be the first use of the telegraph to catch a murderer. The message was:


"The Cooke-Wheatstone system did not support punctuation, lower case, or the letters J, Q, and Z; hence the misspelling of 'just' and 'Quaker'. "Second class compartment" should also probably read "second first-class carriage"; this information was not significant, however, as Tawell was not arrested at the station, but at a nearby coffee shop" (Wikipedia article on Electrical Telegraph, accessed 12-22-2011).

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"The News of the World", a Newspaper for the Newly Literate Working Classes, Begins Publication October 1, 1843

On October 1, 1843 John Browne Bell began publication in London of The News of the World. 

"Priced at just three pence (equal to £1.04 today), even before the repeal of the Stamp Act (1855) or paper duty (1861), it was the cheapest newspaper of its time and was aimed directly at the newly literate working classes. It quickly established itself as a purveyor of titillation, shock and criminal news. Much of the source material came from coverage of vice prosecutions, including transcripts of police descriptions of alleged brothels, streetwalkers, and 'immoral' women" (Wikipedia article on News of the World, accessed 07-07-2011).

(This entry was last revised on March 28, 2014.)

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1850 – 1875

Bibliographer Henry Bradshaw Rebuts Constantine Simonides' Claim that Simonides had Forged the Codex Sinaiticus 1862 – 1863

The bibliographer Henry Bradshaw, who is considered the founder of modern bibliographical analysis, normally avoided public controversy. However, Bradshaw did publish correpondence rebutting the claims of the Constantine Simonides that Simonides had forged the Codex Sinaiticus. It is believed that Simonides made these claims in order to take revenge against Constantin Tischendorf, discoverer of the Codex Sinaiticus after Tischendorf disproved the authenticity of other forgeries by Simonides. The best account of this incident that I have found appears in Prothero, A Memoir of Henry Bradshaw (1888) 92-97, from which I quote. Note that Bradshaw's letter quoted by Prothero, discusses his method of judging authenticity. The letter also seems a model of tact and diplomancy:

"In the early part of 1863, Bradshaw, who abstained from public discussions in general, took some part in a controversy about the authenticity of the Codex Sinaiticus, which made considerable stir in the learned world at that time. This precious document, now generally recognized as the most ancient manuscript of the Bible, was discovered by Dr. Tischendorf in 1859, in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. The controversy about it, now well nigh forgotten, is sufficiently amusing to make it worth while to recall its more important passages. One Simonides a Graeculus escuriens who had some time before been convicted by Dr. Tischendorf of endeavouring to palm off forged manuscripts, gave out, apparently in order to revenge himself, that the Codex Sinaiticus was itself a forgery. He declared that he had written it with his own hands when a young man. This 'whimsical story,' as Dr. Hort calls it, obtained a certain amount of credence. During the autumn of 1862 and the early part of 1863 a correspondence was carried on in the Guardian on the subject. In the number of that paper for September 3, 1862, is a long letter from Simonides, purporting to give an account of how he came to write the manuscript and how it passed into the possession of the monks of Sinai. 'Any person learned in palaeography,' he remarks, 'ought to be able tell at once tht it is a manuscript of the present age,' and he concludes, with an amusing air of injured innocence, 'You must permit me to express my sincere regret that, whilst the many valuable remains of antiquity in my possession are frequently attributed to my own hands, the one poor work of my youth is set down by a gentleman who enjoys a great reputation for learning, as the earliest copy of the Sacred Scriptures.' The story of Simonides was ingeniuous and full of circumstantial details, but it contained statements which, when carefully examined, carried with them their own refutation. Its absurdities were exposed by Mr. Aldis Wright, in a lettered published in the Guardian for November 5, 1862. A month later, a letter appeared in the Guardian, purporting to be written by one Kallinikos Hieromonachos, who wrote in defence of Simonides. His letter was in Greek, and a translated was appended by the editor, who made no concealment of his suspicions. 'I have read,' says the unknown writer, 'what the wise Greek Simonides has published respecting the pseudo-Sinaitic Codex by means of your excellent weekly publication, and I too myself declare to all men by this letter that the Codex. . . which was abstracted by Dr. Tischendorf from the Greek monastery of Mount Sinai, is a work of the hands of the unwearied Simonides himself, inasmuch as I myself saw him in 1840 in the month of February, writing it in Athos.' n the next number Simonides writes to back up his friend. 'I must inform you,' he says, 'that the above mentioned Kallinikos is a perfectly upright and honourable man, well known for truth and probity, so that his simplest word may be relied on.'

"Mr. Aldis Wright had little dificulty in disposing of his advocacy, and involving Simonides in a tissue of inconsistencies and improbablities. 'What does the evidence amount to' he asks. 'Kallinikos says, 'Simonides wrote the Codex, for I saw him.' 'Believe Kallinikos,' says Simonides, 'for he saw me write it.' We know Simonides, but who is Kallinikos?' Unfortunately, no proof of his existence, much less of his probity was forthcoming. 'His story,' says Mr. Haddam, in a letter to Bradshaw, 'reminds me of an Irish lad from Commemara, who sent his regards to the man who had been fishing there, with the said lad to help, and begged him to tell the Londoners 'any number or weight of fish he liked,' as having been caught by him, and he would be ready and delighted to swear to it.' The British chaplain at Alexandria knew nothing of Kallinikos, 'the Greek monk who takes in the Guardian and the Churchman.' In vain did Simonides attempt to strengthen his case by publishing several more letters from Kallinikos. Strange to say, one correspondent of the Guardian, at least, appears to have thought that a repetition of unsupported assertions constituted a proof, but the majority were less easily convinced. Mr. Haddan urged Bradshaw to interfere. In a letter dated November 19, 1862, he says, 'You could really do a service to truth if you would put upon paper the results of your examination of the Codex, and let it be published, with or without your name. . . . The question is really important, and you could throw light upon it.' To this Bradshaw replated that he thought the time was not yet ripe for discussing the palaeographical part of the question.

"However, Simonides returned to the charge, and in a long letter to the Guardian (January 21, 1863) stated, among other facts tending to prove his scapacity for writing the Codex, that had written a letter in uncial characters to Mr. Bradshaw a few months before, when he was staying at Cambridge during the meeting of the British Association. This prodcuced the following letter from Bradshaw, published in the Guardian for January 28, 1863:-


"As Dr. Simonides has cited a letter which he wrote to me in uncial characters in October last, while he was at Cambridge, and as I have with my own eyes seen and examined the Codex Sinaiticus within the last few months, perhaps you will allow me to say a few words.

"The note which Dr.Simonides wrote to me was to convince me and my friends that it was quite possible for him to have written the volume in question, and to confirm his assertion that the uncial character of the manuscript was as familiar and easy for him to write as the common cursive hand of the present day.

"He had invited some of us to Christ's College to examine his papyri and to discuss matters fairly. He could spak and understand English pretty well, but his friend was with him to interpret and explain. They first taxed us with believing in the antiquity of manuscripts solely on the authority of one man like Tischendorf, and they really seemed to believe that all people in the West were as ignorant of Greek as the Greeks are of Latin. But the great question was, 'How do you satisfy yourselves of the genuineness of any manuscript?' I first replied that it was really difficult to define, that it seemed to be more a kind of instinct than anything else. Dr Simonides and his friend readily caught at this as too much like vague assertion, and they naturally ridiculed any such idea. But I further said that I had lived for six years past in the constant, almost daily habit of examining manuscripts—not merely the text of the works contained the volumes, but the volumes themselves as such; the writing, the paper or parchment, the arrangement or numbering of the sheets, the disinction between the original volume and any additional matter by later hands, etc.'; and that, with experience of this kind, though it might be difficult to assign the special ground of my confidence, yet I hardly ever found myself deceived even by a very well-executed facsimile. All this Dr. Simonides allowed and confirmed. He gave the instance of the Jews in the East, who could in an instant tell the exact proportion of foreign matter in a bottle of otto of roses, where the most careful chemical analysis might fail to detech the same. Indeed, any tradesman acquires the same sort of experience with regard to the quality  of the particular goods which are daily passing through his hands; and this is all that I claimed for myself. Dr. Simonides afterwards told me himself that this was the only safe method of judging, that there was no gainsaying such evidence, and that he only fought anginst persons who mad strong and vague assetions without either proof or experience. yet when I told him that I had seen the Codex Sinaiticus, he spoke as if bound in honour not to allow in this case the value of that very criterion which he had before confessed to be the surest; and he wrote the letter to which he refers, in the hope of convincing me. I told him as politely as I could that I was not to be convinced against the evidence of my senses.

"On the 18th of July last I was at Leipzig with a friend, and we called on Professor Tischendorf. Though I had no introduction but my occupation at Cambridge, nothing could exceed his kindess; we  were with him for more than two hours, and I had the satisfaction of examining the manuscript after my own fashion. I had been anxious to know whether it was written in even continousl quaternions throughout, like the Codex Bezae, or in a series of fasciculi each ending with a quire of varying size, as the Codex Alexandrinus, and I found the latter to be the case. This by-the-by, is of itself sufficient to prove that it cannot the be the volume which Dr. Simonides speaks of having written at Mount Athos.

"Now, it must be remembered that Dr.Simonides always maintained two points—first, that the Mount Athos Bible witten in 1840 for the Emperor of Russia was not meant to deceive any one, but was only a beautiful specimen of writing in the old style, in the character used by the writer in his letter to me; secondly, that it was Professor Tischendorf's ignorance and inexperience which rendered him so easily deceived where no deception was intended. For the second assertion, no words of mine are needed to accredit an editor of such long standing as professor Tischendorf. For the first, though a carefully made facsimile of a few leaves inserted among several genuine ones might for a time deceive even a well-practised eye, yet it is utterly impossible that a book merely written in the antique style, and without any intent to deceive, should mislead a person of moderate experience. For myself, I have no hesitation in saying that I am as absolitely certain of the genuineness and antiquity of the Codex Sinaiticus as I am of my own existence. Indeed, I cannot hear of any one who has seen the book who thinks otherwise. Let any one go to St. Petersburg and satisfy himself. Let Dr. Simonides go there and examine it. He can never have seen it himself, or I am sure that, with his knoweldge of manuscripts, he would be the first to agree with me. The Mount Athos Bible mut be a totally different book; and I only regret, for the sake of hismelf and his many friends in England, that he has been led on, from knowing that his opponents here have seen no more of the original book that he has himself, to make such rash and contradictory assertions, that sober people are almost driven to think that the Greek is playing with our matter-of-fact habits of mind, and that, as soon as he has tired out his opponents, he will come forward and ask his admirers for a testimonial to his cleverness. 

"Henry Bradshaw, Cambridge, January 26, 1863"


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1875 – 1900

The First Extensively Used Scientific Method of Criminal Identification 1879

In 1879 French police officer and biometric researcher Alphonse Bertillon first published a description of his method of anthropometry. He developed this system, which used five measurements— head length, head breadth, length of middle finger, length of left foot, and length of forearm from elbow to extremeity of middle finger  — as a means for identifying people. It was the first scientific method for the identification of criminals. Until this time, criminals could only be identified based on eyewitness accounts, which were known to be unreliable. 

Bertillon first employed his method, which was eventually called "Bertillonage," in the successful identification of a criminal in 1883. It became the first extensively used scientific method of criminal identification.

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Fingerprints as a System of Identification October 8, 1880

In a letter published in the London journal Nature on October 8, 1880, Henry Faulds was the first to propose the use of fingerprints as a system of identification, including the scientific identification of criminals. In his letter entitled "On the Skin-Furrows of the Hand," Faulds, a missionary, physician and superintendent of Tuskiji Hospital (Tsukiji) in Tokyo, wrote:

"I am sanguine that the careful study of these patterns may be useful in several ways.

1. We may perhaps be able to extend to other animals the analogies found by me to exist in the monkeys.

2. These analogies may admit of further analysis, and may assist, when better understood, in ethnological classifications.

3. It so, those which are found in ancient pottery may become of immense historical importance.

4. The fingers of mummies, by special preparation, may yield results for comparison. I am very doubtful, however, of this.

5. When bloody finger-marks or impressions of clay, glass, &c., exist, they may lead to the scientific identification of criminals " (http://www.clpex.com/Articles/History/Faulds1880.htm, accessed 03-27-2010).

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Appleton Publishes Imaginary Historical Biographies 1887 – 1889

Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, published in New York from 1887 to 1889, contained biographical information about thousands of people (some famous, some more obscure) in American history.

"But thirty years after the Cyclopedia's initial publication, questions began to be raised about its reliability. . . . To date over 200 suspicious entries have been flagged. But due to the enormity of the work it's doubtful that all of the false information it contains will ever be identified" (Museumofhoaxes.com, accessed 11-21-2008).

    • Barnhart, John Hendley. "Some Fictitious Botanists." Journal of the New York Botanical Garden 20 (September 1919): 171-81.
    • O'Brien, Frank M. "The Wayward Encyclopedias", New Yorker, XII (May 2, 1936), pp. 71-74.
    • Schindler, Margaret Castle. "Fictitious Biography." American Historical Review 42 (1937), pp. 680-90.
    • Dobson, John Blythe. "The Spurious Articles in Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography—Some New Discoveries and Considerations." Biography 16(4) 1993: 388-408.
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Finger Prints as a Means of Identification 1892

In 1892 Victorian polymath, geographer, meteorologist, explorer, statistician, psychometrician, and proto-geneticist Francis Galton published a detailed statistical model of fingerprint analysis and identification, and encouraged their use in forensic science in his book, Finger Prints published in London.

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1900 – 1910

Probably the First History of Ink, by a Celebrated Questioned Documents Examiner 1904

In 1904 David N[unes] Carvalho, a questioned documents examiner of ink, handwriting and paper in New York City, of Sephardic Jewish descent, issued what appears to be the first extensive history of ink, with the following verbose explanatory title: 

Forty Centuries of Ink, or A Chronological Narrative Concerning Ink and its Backgrounds, Intoducing Incidental Observations and Deductions, Parallels of Time and Color Phenomena, Bibliography, Chemistry, Poetical Effusions, Citations, Anecdotes and Curiosa Together with Some Evidence Respecting the Evanescent Character of Most Inks of To-Day and an Epitome of Chemico-Legal Ink.

Carvaho's book was published by the Banks Law Publishing Company of New York, and appeared in the standard dark yellowish brown buckram binding with red and black labels on the spine. Written before the widespread use of typewriters, when virtually all legal documents were handwritten, the study of ink was applied more frequently in legal cases than it is today, when so many legal documents are wordprocessed. Yet some of the issues still apply to handwritten legal documents, or any documents on paper. 

This book came to my attention when in 2014 I ordered a copy of the first edition that contained a handwritten letter from Carvalho to William G. Pengelly, whose signature is on the front free endpaper of my copy. Pengelly also made neat notes in pencil, indexing to pages of interest on the back rear pastedown endpaper.

Carvalho's letter reads as follows:

New York, March 2, 1905.

Wm. G. Pengelly Esq,

My dear Sir:- Per your request I append my autograph to these lines for insertion in "Forty Centuries of Ink, They are written with a Tanno-gallate of Iron ink without added color. May success corwn your effots in the establishment of an official ink for the state of Ohio.


David N. Carvalho.

In looking up the word "Tanno-gallate" online I was surprised to find a Carvhalho's personal explanation of the term in a transcript of his very interesting testamony published in Documents of the State of New York, Vol. 16, Proceedings of the Senate in the Matter of Investigation Demanded by Senator Jotham P. Allds (1910), pp. 1923-1941. Carvalho's definition appears on p. 1924:

"Q. Would you say in a few words what you mean by tanno-gallate of iron ink? A. Gallate acid is found ready made in the bark of some oak tree in connection with tanno. But it is best found in a little excrescence on certain oak trees due to a puncture by a female wasp, making what is called, after the bud dies, what is called gall nuts. Now in that gall nut is found gallate anno acid. Gallo tanic acid when brought into contact with iron, with sulphate of iron, forms the compound which was used in our father's time known as ink, when it was suspended in water by the use of a little gum. The inks, however, of to-day, which are known as chemical writing fluids, are not what we call oxidized inks, as they were in olden times, before bottling. But there is put into the ink as made to-day, by a cold process and not by a boiling process, what we designate as a provisional color, mostly blue, so that when you write first, the ink writes blue, and after a period of time the tanno-gallate of iron, which has an affinity for the oxygen of the atmosphere, begins to blacken and overcomes the blue coloring matter. That blue coloring matter, however, which is aniline—and aniline is a generic term for certain by-products of coal tar, is fugitive in character—that is to say, does not loosen, and after a period of time that blue which is in the ink gradually disappears, leaving the oxidized iron ink present. That is what we mean by a tanno-galle of iron ink, where something taken from nut galls is brought into union with sulphate of iron."

An issue in the legal case in which Carvalho testified was the dating of writing in documents that could be calculated by the level of fading of the blue provisional color. Thus, for permanence of records, Carvalho recommended using "Tanno-gallate of Iron ink" wihout added color, and one of his pet projects was to lobby governments of the various states to standardize ink for permanence. William Pengelly, to whom Carvalho addressed his letter, was a questioned documents examiner in Ohio. From Carvalho's letter we may assume that Pengelly was also attempting to get the government of Ohio to standardize ink used in state documents at the time.

After Carvalho's death his daughter Clare published Crime in Ink, co-authored with Boyden Sparkes. (1929). This work recounted some of Carvalho's most notable cases, including his participation exonerating Dreyfus in the Dreyfus Affair.  Most of Carvalho's cases described in involved unfaithful spouses and disputed wills. Claire noted that 'long before his career had passed its zenith my father estimated that he had affected the courts’ decision as to the ownership and possession of property aggregating over $200,000,000.' This amount, adjusted for more than 100 years of inflation, amounted to over $4.5 billion in 2014.

Carvalho was also a rare book collector; Dodd, Mead offered his collection of 15th and 16th century books for sale for $10,000 in 1911 in A Catalogue of the David N. Carvalho Collection of Incunabula Consisting of a Sequence of Dated Books, 1470-1499, together with a Number of Sixteenth Century Books  The unusually thorough bibliographical catalogue contained a preface by Carvalho.

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1930 – 1940

42,500 Camps and Ghettos Were in Operation During the Holocaust 1933 – 1945

Researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D. C. who in the year 2000 began documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories in operation during the Nazi regime, documented 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, located in German-controlled areas from France to Russia and in Germany from 1933 to 1945. 

In 2009 the Holocaust Memorial Museum began publication of The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945. The vast encyclopedia would be complete in 7 volumes by 2025. In March 2012 the first two volumes were print: 

"Published by Indiana University Press in association with the Museum, each of the encyclopedia's seven volumes will address a group of sites according to type or subordination so that each volume can stand on its own. In this way, the reader can gain some appreciation for the conditions at a particular site as well as for how the system functioned as a whole. Photographs, charts, and maps will supplement the text.


"VOL. I:


"Contains entries on 110 early camps, 23 main SS concentration camps (including Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Dachau), 898 subcamps, 39 SS construction brigade camps, and three so-called youth protection camps. Introductory essays provide broader context, while citations and source narratives offer the basis for additional research. The volume is more than 1,700 pages, with 192 photographs and 23 maps. 


"GHETTOS IN GERMAN-OCCUPIED EASTERN EUROPE. General Editor: Geoffrey P. Megargee; Volume Editor: Martin Dean; Introduction: Christopher R. Browning. Published April 2012.

Provides a comprehensive account of how the Nazis conducted the Holocaust throughout the scattered towns and villages of Poland and the Soviet Union. It covers more than 1,150 sites, including both open and closed ghettos. Regional essays outline the patterns of ghettoization in 19 German administrative regions. Each entry discusses key events in the history of the ghetto; living and working conditions; activities of the Jewish Councils; Jewish responses to persecution; demographic changes; and details of the ghetto's liquidation. Personal testimonies help convey the character of each ghetto, while source citations provide a guide to additional information. Documentation of hundreds of smaller sites—previously unknown or overlooked in the historiography of the Holocaust—make this an indispensable reference work on the destroyed Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. 


"CAMPS AND GHETTOS RUN BY EUROPEAN STATES AFFILIATED WITH NAZI GERMANY, including camps and ghettos in Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Vichy France. Editor: Joseph White.


CAMPS AND OTHER DETENTION FACILITIES UNDER THE GERMAN MILITARY, including prisoner-of-war camps and military brothels. Co-editor: Rüdiger Overmans; Advisor: Pavel Polian.

"VOL. V:

"CAMPS UNDER THE SS-REICH SECURITY MAIN OFFICE AND THE HIGHER SS AND POLICE LEADERS, including the Operation Reinhard extermination camps, Gestapo prisons, and some categories of forced labor, detention, and transit camps.


"NON-SS FORCED LABOR CAMPS, including forced labor camps under Organisation Todt, REIMAHG, local labor offices, and private firms.


"OTHER KILLING AND DETENTION FACILITIES, including so-called euthanasia centers, Justice Ministry penal camps, “Germanization” camps for Polish children, and civilian prisons."

" 'The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought,” Hartmut Berghoff, director of the institute, said in an interview after learning of the new data.  

“ 'We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was,” he said, “but the numbers are unbelievable.”  

"The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.  

"Auschwitz and a handful of other concentration camps have come to symbolize the Nazi killing machine in the public consciousness. Likewise, the Nazi system for imprisoning Jewish families in hometown ghettos has become associated with a single site — the Warsaw Ghetto, famous for the 1943 uprising. But these sites, infamous though they are, represent only a minuscule fraction of the entire German network, the new research makes painfully clear.  

"The maps the researchers have created to identify the camps and ghettos turn wide sections of wartime Europe into black clusters of death, torture and slavery — centered in Germany and Poland, but reaching in all directions."

"The numbers astound: 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettos; 980 concentration camps; 1,000 prisoner-of-war camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm, performing forced abortions, 'Germanizing' prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers.  

"In Berlin alone, researchers have documented some 3,000 camps and so-called Jew houses, while Hamburg held 1,300 sites.

"Dr. Dean, a co-researcher, said the findings left no doubt in his mind that many German citizens, despite the frequent claims of ignorance after the war, must have known about the widespread existence of the Nazi camps at the time.  

“ 'You literally could not go anywhere in Germany without running into forced labor camps, P.O.W. camps, concentration camps,' he said. 'They were everywhere.'" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/sunday-review/the-holocaust-just-got-more-shocking.html?hp, accessed 03-02-2013).

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Hitler Seizes Power in Germany and the Nazis Begin Purging Germany of Jews & Jewish Culture, Eventually Burning 100,000,000 Books and Killing About 20 Million People April 6, 1933 – 1945

The ultra-nationalism and antisemitism of German middle-class, secular student organizations had been intense and vocal for decades prior to the rise of Nazism. After World War I, most students opposed the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) and found in National Socialism a suitable vehicle for their political discontent and hostility. After Adolf Hitler seized power on January 30, 1933 German university students became the vanguard of the Nazi movement, and many filled the ranks of various Nazi formations.

Following Hitler's plans, in 1933 Nazi Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels began the synchronization of culture, to bring the arts in Germany in line with Nazi goals. The German government purged cultural organizations of Jews and others alleged to be politically or artistically suspect. On April 6, 1933, the German Student Association's Main Office for Press and Propaganda proclaimed a nationwide “Action against the Un-German Spirit,” to climax in a literary purge or “cleansing” (Säuberung) by fire. Local chapters were to supply the press with releases and commission articles, sponsor well-known Nazi figures to speak at public gatherings, and negotiate for radio broadcast time. On April 8 the students association drafted its twelve "theses"—deliberately evocative of Martin Luther—declarations and requisites of a "pure" national language and culture. Placards publicized the theses, which attacked “Jewish intellectualism,” asserted the need to “purify” the German language and literature, and demanded that universities be centers of German nationalism. The students described the “action” as a response to a worldwide Jewish “smear campaign” against Germany and an affirmation of traditional German values.

On the night of May 10, 1933, in most university towns in Germany, nationalist students marched in torchlight parades "against the un-German spirit." The scripted rituals called for high Nazi officials, professors, rectors, and student leaders to address the participants and spectators. At the meeting places, students threw "un-German" books into the bonfires with great joyous ceremony, band-playing, songs, "fire oaths", and incantations. The students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of "un-German" books, "presaging an era of state censorship and control of culture." The book burning of May 10 was based on meticulously compiled "black lists" were collected in the spring of 1933 by the Berlin librarian Dr. Wolfgang Herrmann

The formation of the Reichsschrifttumskammer on November 1, 1933 began not only targeted management and monitoring of authors, publishers and booksellers, but expansion of the Herrmann list. By decree of April 25, 1935, the  Reichsschrifttumskammer received the order, "[to compile] a list of such books and records that jeopardize Nazi culture. A first, undisclosed draft was prepared before the end of 1935. Ultimately, the "list of harmful and undesirable writings" consisted of more than 4500 entries, often the entire work of an author or the entire back list of a publisher.

 "Not all book burnings took place on May 10, as the German Student Association had planned. Some were postponed a few days because of rain. Others, based on local chapter preference, took place on June 21, the summer solstice, a traditional date of celebration. Nonetheless, in 34 university towns across Germany the "Action against the Un-German Spirit" was a success, enlisting widespread newspaper coverage. And in some places, notably Berlin, radio broadcasts brought the speeches, songs, and ceremonial incantations "live" to countless German listeners" (United States Holocaust Museum website).

On the night of November 9, 1938—called Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass—92 Jews were murdered, and 25,000–30,000 were arrested and deported to concentration camps. More than 200 Synagogues were destroyed along with tens of thousands of Jewish businesses and homes. This marked the beginning of the Holocaust.

On December 31, 1938 the Reichsministerium fur Volksaufklaerung und Progaganda published the Liste des schädlichen und unerwünschten SchrifttumsThis list of "damaging and undesirable writing" included authors, living and dead, whose works were banned from the Reich because of their Jewish descent, pacifist or communist views, or suspicion thereof.

Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany systematically destroyed an estimated 100 million books throughout occupied Europe, an act inextricably bound up with the murder of 6 million Jews, and millions of other people they considered undesirable. By burning and looting libraries and censoring "un-German" publications, the Nazis aimed to eradicate all traces of Jewish culture along with the Jewish people themselves. 

In March 2011 I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. You cannot grasp the scale of the Holocaust until you visit Birkenau, especially— a giant factory of death capable of processing 20,000 people per day. The impact of the Holocaust was still reverberating in my head in April 2011 when I wrote this database entry. Needing to understand more, I read Richard Rhodes' book, Masters of Death, from which the horrifying wider scope of the Holocaust, unfolded in my consciousness, and from which I quote: 

“The notorious gas chambers and crematoria of the death camps have come to typify the Holocaust, but in fact they were exceptional. The primary means of mass murder the Nazis deployed during the Second World War was firearms and lethal privation. Shooting was not less efficient than gassing, as many historians have assumed. It was hard on the shooters’ nerves, and the gas vans and chambers alleviated the burden. But shooting began earlier, continued throughout the war and produced far more victims if Slavs are counted, as they must be, as well as Jews. ‘The Nazi regime was the most genocidal the world has ever seen,’ writes sociologist Michael Mann. ’During its short twelve years (overwhelmingly its last four) it killed approximately twenty million unarmed persons. . . . Jews comprised only a third of the victims and their mass murder occurred well into the sequence. . . . Slavs, defined as Untermenschenwere the most numerous victims—3 million Poles, 7 million Soviet citizens and 3.3 million Soviet POWs.’ Even among Jewish victims, Daniel Goldhagen estimates, ‘somewhere between 40 and 50 percent’ were killed ‘by means other than gassing, and more Germans were involved in these killings in a greater variety of contexts than in those carried out in the gas chambers’ ” (Richard RhodesMasters of Death. The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust [2002] 156-157).

In tracing and documenting the crimes committed by the SS summarized in these statistics Rhodes did not intend in any way to diminish the incredible losses suffered by the Jews, nor to blur the particular focus of the Nazis' Final Solution on the Jews. His exploration of SS crimes exposed a scope of criminality that was wider, almost beyond comprehension.

 Rose (ed.), The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation (2000).

 (Information adapted from the United States Holocaust Museum website).

(This entry was last revised on 01-17-2015.)

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1940 – 1950

The Hinman Collator 1945 – 1949

Between 1945 and 1949 Shakespeare scholar Charlton Hinman developed the Hinman Collator, a mechanical device for the visual comparison of different copies of the same printed text. By 1978, when the last machine was manufactured, around fifty-nine had been acquired by libraries, academic departments, research institutes, government agencies, and a handful of pharmaceutical companies. Though built for the study of printed texts and used primarily for the creation of critical editions of literary authors, the Hinman Collator was also employed in other projects where the close comparison of apparently identical images is required: from the study of illustrations to the examination of watermarks to the detection of forged banknotes. 

"Hinman's invention greatly increased not only the speed at which texts could be compared but also the effectiveness of such comparisons, and it made collation on a large scale possible for the first time. The most famous use of the machine was by its inventor and resulted in his Printing and Proof-reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare (1963) and the Norton facsimile of the First Folio (1968). Hinman estimated that without the aid of his machine, the research for these projects would have taken over forty years. Without the collator, as he himself recognized, his study would have been a "practical impossibility", as would have the work of the many scholars who compiled dozens of bibliographies, produced hundreds of volumes of critical editions, and undertook countless bibliographical and textual investigations on his machine over the next five decades.

"The purpose of the machine for which he was seeking a patent was straightforward and grew directly from the needs of his research. During the Renaissance, the period of his specialty, books were proofread and corrected continually during the printing process, and early uncorrected sheets were commonly bound up with corrected ones from later in the print run. Thus the printed matter in the last book sold could, and usually did, differ substantially from that of the first, as it also could and quite often did from nearly every other copy in the printing. These variations are precisely the details the collator was developed to help detect. The operation of the device Hinman would eventually build was also straightforward. The operator sets up one book turned to a particular page on a platform on one side of the machine and another copy from the same printing turned to the same page on a platform on the other. He or she then views these items, which are superimposed via a set of mirrors, through a pair of binocular optics. After making adjustments to bring the two objects into registration, the operator activates a system of lights that alternately illuminates each page. If the pages are identical, they more or less appear as one; if they are not identical, the points of difference are called to the operator's eye by appearing to dance or wiggle about" (Smith, " 'The Eternal Verities Verified': Charlton Hinman and The Roots of Mechanical Collation," Studies in Bibliography, Vol. 53 [2000] includes images of the machines). 

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1970 – 1980

Probably the First U. S. Legislation against Computer Crimes 1978

In 1978 the State of Florida passed Fla. Stat. 815.01, the "Florida Computer Crimes Act". This law, which included legislation against the unauthorized modification or deletion of data on a computer system, and against damage to computer hardware including networks, may be the earliest American statute specifically against computer crimes. The maximum penalty for a single offense classified as a Felony of the Third Degree was:

"Up to 5 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000 or any higher amount equal to double the pecuniary gain derived from the offense by the offender or double the pecuniary loss suffered by the victim."

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1980 – 1990

Australia Issues the First Polymer Banknote ($10) January 1988

The world's first polymer banknote was the $10 commemorative note issued in January 1988 to commemorate the Australian Bicentenary. It was developed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Commonwealth Scientific and Industreal Research Organisation (CSIRO), and The University of Melbourne.

Made from the polymer, biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP), these notes incorporate security features difficult to include in paper bank notes. They are also more durable, harder to tear, more resistant to folding, more resistant to soil, waterproof and washing machine proof, easier to process by machine, and are shreddable and recyclable at the end of their useful lives, which are 4-5 times longer than paper banknotes.

"The traditional printed security features applied on paper can also be applied on polymer. These features include intaglio, offset and letterpress printing, latent images, micro-printing, and intricate background patterns. Polymer notes can be different colours on the obverse and reverse sides. Like paper currency, polymer banknotes can incorporate a watermark (an optically variable 'shadow image') in the polymer substrate. Shadow images can be created by the application of Optically Variable Ink (OVI) enhancing its fidelity and colour shift characteristics. Security threads can also be embedded in the polymer note; they may be magnetic, fluorescent, phosphorescent, microprinted, clear text, as well as windowed. Like paper, the polymer can also be embossed.

"Polymer notes also enabled new security features unavailable at the time [1988] on paper, such as transparent windows, and diffraction grating. Since 2006 however the development of the paper transparent window technologies by De La Rue (Optiks) and G&D (Verify) have reduced that advantage" (Wikipedia article on polymer banknote, accessed 11-21-2011).

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The First Computer Worm to Attract Wide Attention November 2, 1988

The first computer worm to attract wide attention, the Morris worm or Internet worm, quickly infected a great number of computers on the Internet on November 2, 1988. It was written by Robert Tappan Morris, a graduate student at Cornell

"It propagated through a number of bugs in BSD Unix and its derivatives. Morris himself was convicted under the US Computer Crime and Abuse Act and received three years probation, community service and a fine in excess of $10,000."

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1990 – 2000

First Recorded Use of the Term, Phishing January 2, 1996

The first recorded use of the term "phishing" (baits used to "catch financial information and passwords) occurred on January 2, 1996 on the "alt.online-service. America-online" Usenet newsgroup after AOL introduced measures to prevent using fake, algorithmically generated credit card numbers to open accounts. To obtain legitimate credit card information AOL crackers resorted to phishing.

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Nigerian Letter Scams Move to the Internet 1999

In 1999 the Better Business Bureau warned about Nigerian spams sent by email. These letter scams had previously operated for perhaps 100 years by mail sent on paper. 

"For Immediate Release

"June 10, 1999 - The wording is very familiar to Better Business Bureaus nationwide Â…only the method of contact, and country of origin have changed:

"* 'We respectfully invite your kind attention to the transfer of U.S. $25 million into your personal/company offshore account.'

"* 'you will receive 20% of the total sum, 10% for miscellaneous expenses and the remaining 70% is for me and my colleagues.'

"* 'It is our sincere conviction that you will handle this transaction with absolute confidentiality, maturity and utmost sense of purpose.'

"* 'such transaction to commence within 10 business days.'

"These statements are typical of the lures contained in what's commonly referred to as 'Nigerian Letter Scams.' The BBB warns that these scams have recently gone high-tech and are emanating from several countries throughout Africa, as well as New Zealand, Brazil and Great Britain. Members of the BBB nationwide report that such pitches now arrive unannounced and uninvited in their fax and email boxes.

"The letters are usually signed by someone who 'represents' the relevant country's Ministry of Commerce or Finance or the Department of Petroleum Resources. The writer claims that huge funds are left over from a deliberately inflated construction contract or purchase order and he's seeking to ship the funds offshore.

" 'Now that the Nigerian letter scam has gone high-tech and is being perpetrated via fax machines and e-mails, it's more critical than ever that we educate business owners and managers to this scam,' said James L. Bast, president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc., the umbrella organization for the nation's BBBs. 'If you receive an offer from a stranger who promises a large payoff in return for assisting in transferring millions of dollars out of Nigeria or any other country, ignore it.' Some letters request copies of business letterhead; others request the name and address of the company and details about its business activities. 'Any response to this fraudulent offer will bring the con artist one step closer to being able to plunder your bank account,' Bast said" (http://www.bbb.org/alerts/article.asp?ID=41. accessed 05-08-2009).

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2000 – 2005

The First Documented Denial-of-Service Attacks February 7, 2000

A diagram of a Denial-of-Service Attack.

During the week of February 7, 2000 massive denial-of-service attacks (DoS attacks, or distributed denial of service DDoS attacks) were launched against major websites, including Yahoo!, Amazon and eBay. These attacks used computers at multiple locations to overwhelm the vendors’ computers and shut down their websites. They are the first documented massive DDoS attacks.

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Looting of the National Museum of Iraq April 6 – April 12, 2003

The National Museum of Iraq

Mushin Hasan, the deputy director of the National Museum of Iraq, sits on artifacts detroyed following the looting in April 2003

Between April 6 and April 12, 2003 The National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad lost an estimated 15,000 artifacts, including priceless relics of Mesopotamian civilization. The relics were stolen by looters in the days after Baghdad fell to U.S. forces in the Iraq War. Of the objects looted, about 5,000 were still missing in 2003, 4,000 were returned and 6,000 were recovered, according to Lawrence Rothfield, author of Antiquities Under Siege: Cultural Heritage Protection After the Iraq War (2008).

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The First U.S. Standards for Sending Commercial E-Mail December 16, 2003

President George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States

The Federal Trade Commission logo

On December 16, 2003 The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 was signed into law by President George W. Bush, establishing the United States' first national standards for the sending of commercial e-mail and requiring the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce its provisions.

"The acronym CAN-SPAM derives from the bill's full name: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003. This is also a play on the usual term for unsolicited email of this type, spam. The bill was sponsored in Congress by Senators Conrad Burns and Ron Wyden.

"The CAN-SPAM Act is commonly referred to as the "You-Can-Spam" Act because the bill explicitly legalizes most e-mail spam. In particular, it does not require e-mailers to get permission before they send marketing messages. It also prevents states from enacting stronger anti-spam protections, and prohibits individuals who receive spam from suing spammers. The Act has been largely unenforced, despite a letter to the FTC from Senator Burns, who noted that "Enforcement is key regarding the CAN-SPAM legislation." In 2004 less than 1% of spam complied with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

"The law required the FTC to report back to Congress within 24 months of the effectiveness of the act.[4] No changes were recommended. It also requires the FTC to promulgate rules to shield consumers from unwanted mobile phone spam. On December 20, 2005 the FTC reported that the volume of spam has begun to level off, and due to enhanced anti-spam technologies, less was reaching consumer inboxes. A significant decrease in sexually-explicit e-mail was also reported.

"Later modifications changed the original CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 by (1) Adding a definition of the term "person"; (2) Modifying the term "sender"; (3) Clarifying that a sender may comply with the act by including a post office box or private mailbox and (4) Clarifying that to submit a valid opt-out request, a recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her email address and opt-out preferences, or take any other steps other than sending a reply email message or visiting a single page on an Internet website" (Wikipedia article on CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, accessed 01-19-2010).

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Image Manipulation in Scientific Publications July 6, 2004

An issue of the Journal of Cell Biology

On July 6, 2004 The Journal of Cell Biology began screening digital images submitted with electronic manuscripts to determine whether these images were manipulated in ways that misrepresented experimental results. The image-screening system that checked for image manipulation took 30 minutes per paper.

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2005 – 2010

"Computer Criminal Number One" August 5, 2008 – March 26, 2010

On August 6, 2008 United States District Court, District of Massachusetts in Boston indicted Albert Gonzalez,  a/k/a cumbajohny, a/k/a cj, a/k/a UIN 20167996, a/k/a UIN 476747, a/ak/a soupnazi, a/k/a segvec, a/k/a klngchilli, a/k/a stanozololz, for masterminding a crime ring to use malware to steal and sell more than 170,000,000 credit card and ATM numbers from retail stores during 2005 to 2007. 

"On August 28, 2009, his [Gonzalez's] attorney filed papers with the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston indicating that he would plead guilty to all 19 charges in the U.S. v. Albert Gonzalez, 08-CR-10223, case (the TJ Maxx case). According to reports this plea bargain would "resolve" issues with the New York case of U.S. v. Yastremskiy, 08-CR-00160 in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (the Dave and Busters case).

"Gonzalez could serve a term of 15 years to 25 years. He would forfeit more than $1.65 million, a condominium in Miami, a blue 2006 BMW 330i automobile, IBM and Toshiba laptop computers, a Glock 27 firearm, a Nokia cell phone, a Tiffany diamond ring and three Rolex watches. "

"His sentence would run concurrent with whatever comes out of the case in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (meaning that he would serve the longest of the sentences he receives)" (Wikipedia article on Albert Gonzalez, accessed 01-18-2010).

On March 26, 2010 U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodcock sentenced Gonzalez to twenty years in prison with three twenty year sentences running concurrently.

"The sentence imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock was for Gonzalez's role in a hacking ring that broke into computer networks of Heartland Payment Systems, which processed credit and debit card transactions for Visa and American Express, Hannaford Supermarkets and 7-Eleven. The sentence is actually 20 years and one day, owing to the need to deal with peculiarities in sentencing statutes, because Woodlock had to take into account that Gonzalez was on pretrial release for an unrelated crime when he took up with the international network of hackers responsible for the security breaches. He was at the time supposed to be serving as an informant for the U.S. Secret Service, but he double-crossed the agency, supplying a co-conspirator with information obtained as part of those investigations" (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2010/03/26/urnidgns852573C400693880002576EF004839D0.DTL, accessed 03-27-2010).

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The Amazon Kindle is Hacked; eBook Digital Rights Management Cracked December 23, 2009

On December 23, 2009 it was announced that the Amazon Kindle was hacked, allowing for all purchased content to be transferred off the device via a PDF file. 

"Kindle e-books are sold as .AZW files which have DRM that stops users from transferring the purchased books to other devices that are not Kindles.

"That should no longer be a problem thanks to Israeli hacker "Labba" who has cracked the DRM. A second hacker, 'I

" 'Cabbages' did note that Amazon's DRM process was tough to crack, although ultimately Amazon's work was in vain. 'Amazon actually put a bit of effort behind the DRM obfuscation in their Kindle for PC application. And they seem to have done a reasonable job on the obfuscation. Way to go Amazon! It's good enough that I got bored unwinding it all and just got lazy with the Windows debugging APIs instead,' he said" (http://www.afterdawn.com/news/archive/20989.cfm#comments, accessed 01-02-2010).

Amusingly perhaps, or following the belief that all publicity is good publicity, Amazon.com had two advertisements for the Kindle on the web page publishing the above story.

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2010 – 2012

The Most Successful Art Forger Ever May 12 – August 22, 2010

From May 12-August 22, 2010 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, Holland, presented ‘Van Meegeren’s Fake Vermeers’— an exhibition of the famous forgeries of Han van Meegeren.

"Van Meegeren craftily exploited art historians’ desire to discover early works by Johannes Vermeer. During a famous court case in which Van Meegeren was accused of Nazi collaboration, he admitted that he had forged old master paintings, including several Vermeers. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen had acquired one of the fake Vermeers from Van Meegeren. The exhibition explores Van Meegeren’s technique, his masterpieces and his downfall. 

"The exhibition ‘Van Meegeren’s Fake Vermeers’ includes approximately ten forgeries by Han van Meegeren (1889-1947). Most are in the style of Johannes Vermeer, but the works also include forgeries of Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch and Gerard ter Borch. Van Meegeren’s life as a forger is further illuminated through a documentary film and objects from his studio. A masterpiece In 1937 the director of Museum Boymans, Dirk Hannema, purchased ‘The Supper at Emmaus’ for 540,000 guilders. There was great interest in the painting, which most experts believed to be an early masterpiece by Vermeer. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam even offered Vermeer’s ‘The Love Letter’ in exchange for the painting, but Hannema rejected the offer. Museum Boymans exhibited the work as one of the highlights of its collection and art experts praised the work’s high quality. 


"At the end of the Second World War a painting from the Netherlands was found in the collection of the Nazi minister, Hermann Göring. The painting was traced back to Han van Meegeren, who was immediately arrested on suspicion of collaboration. Van Meegeren admitted to having sold the work, but also claimed to have made the painting himself. He had sold Göring a forgery. Van Meegeren’s confession became worldwide news and he was hailed as a hero as ‘the man who swindled Göring’. Meanwhile the art world was thrown into disarray. Van Meegeren demonstrated his forgery techniques to an expert panel and during his trial his forgeries were hung in the courtroom, as can be seen in the documentary film included in the exhibition.


"Van Meegeren’s technique remains exceptional. For his masterpiece ‘The Supper at Emmaus’, Van Meegeren used a genuine seventeenth-century canvas and historical pigments. He bound the pigments with bakelite, which hardened when heated to produce a surface very similar to that of a seventeenth-century painting. This technique, combined with Van Meegeren’s choice of subject matter and composition, was an important factor in convincing so many people of the authenticity of his works. Van Meegeren created the missing link between Vermeer’s early and late works. The exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen sheds new light on Van Meegeren’s technique, resulting from new technical research undertaken by the Rijksmuseum" (http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=2∫_new=38022, accessed 05-14-2010).

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The Website of MasterCard is Hacked by Wikileaks Supporters December 8, 2010

"The website of MasterCard has been hacked and partially paralysed in apparent revenge for the international credit card's decision to cease taking donations to WikiLeaks. A group of online activists calling themselves Anonymous appear to have orchestrated a DDOS ('distributed denial of service') attack on the site, bringing its service at www.mastercard.com to a halt for many users. " 'Operation: Payback' is the latest salvo in the increasingly febrile technological war over WikiLeaks. MasterCard announced on Monday that it would no longer process donations to the whistleblowing site, claiming it was engaged in illegal activity.  

"The group, which has been linked to the influential internet messageboard 4Chan, has been targeting commercial sites which have cut their ties with WikiLeaks. The Swiss bank PostFinance has already been targeted by Anonymous after it froze payments to WikiLeaks, and the group has vowed to target Paypal, which has also ceased processing payments to the site. Other possible targets are EveryDNS.net, which suspended dealings on 3 December, Amazon, which removed WikiLeaks content from its EC2 cloud on 1 December, and Visa, which suspended its own dealings yesterday.  

"The action was confirmed on Twitter at 9.39am by user @Anon_Operation, who later tweeted: 'WE ARE GLAD TO TELL YOU THAT http://www.mastercard.com/ is DOWN AND IT'S CONFIRMED! #ddos #wikileaks Operation:Payback(is a bitch!) #PAYBACK'

"No one from MasterCard could be reached for immediate comment, but a spokesman, Chris Monteiro, has said the site suspended dealings with WikiLeaks because 'MasterCard rules prohibit customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal'.  

"DDOS attacks, which often involve flooding the target with requests so that it cannot cope with legitimate communication, are illegal" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/08/mastercard-hackers-wikileaks-revenge, accessed 12-08-2010).

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Leading British Tabloid Closed Because of Cell Phone Hacking Scandal July 7 – July 17, 2011

News Corporation announced that the English tabloid and Britain's largest circulation newspaper, News of the World, founded in 1843, would close on July 10, 2011 in the wake of an unprecedented cell phone hacking scandal. 

Among the disclosures were that News of the World paid £100,000 in bribes to certain London Metropolitan Police officers to suppress allegations, and that after the scandal broke the Metropolitan Police were sifting through 11,000 pages of documents containing the names of 4,000 people whose phones may have been hacked.  The final blows to the tabloid were revelations by investigative reporters at The Guardian newspaper that the News of the World intercepted voicemails left on a phone belonging to murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and the news that the paper targeted the phones of families of victims of the bombings in London on July 7, 2007 (7/7)

On July 7, 2011 ProPublica.org published "Our Reader's Guide to the Phone Hacking Scandal."

On July 7, 2011 Guardian.co.uk published an interactive timeline on the scandal from its origins in 2005 till the announcement of the closure today.

"How the saga unfolded – from suspicions that Prince William's messages were being listened to, to calls for a public inquiry, the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's voicemail and James Murdoch's closure of the News of the World"

Sometimes nicknamed "News of the Screws" and "Screws of the World," for its coverage of scandals, News of the World was among the world's most popular print publications. According to the Wikipedia, print sales of the tabloid, which appeared weekly on Sundays, averaged 2,812,005 copies per week in October 2010.

The July 8, 2011 issue of The New York Times published an article entitled "Move to Close Newspaper Is Greeted With Suspicion," and as the scandal reached the office of the British Prime Minister David Cameron, The New York Times published "Cameron Orders Two Inquiries Into Hacking Scandal as Former Aide Is Arrested."

On July 12, 2011 former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused the Rupert Murdock media empire, News International, of hiring known criminals to to gather personal information on his bank account, legal files and tax affairs. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/13/world/europe/13hacking.html

On July 17, 2011, as the scandal continued to spread to higher eschelons of Murdoch's empire in Britain and the U.S. The New York Times updated its timeline on the scandal at: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/09/01/magazine/05tabloid-timeline.html

On July 17, 2011 The New York Times also updated its graphic entitled Key Players in the Phone Hacking Scandal here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/07/08/world/europe/20110708-key-players-in-the-phone-hacking-scandal.html?hp

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2012 – 2016

The Anatomy of an Internet Attack by "Anonymous" 2012

In 2012 the Internet security company Imperva published "Imperva's Hacker Intelligence Summary Report. The Anatomy of an Anonymous Attack."

"During 2011, Imperva witnessed an assault by the hacktivist group ‘Anonymous’ that lasted 25 days. Our observations give insightful information on Anonymous, including a detailed analysis of hacking methods, as well as an examination of how social media provides a communications platform for recruitment and attack coordination. Hacktivism has grown dramatically in the past year and has become a priority for security organizations worldwide. Understanding Anonymous’ attack methods will help organizations prepare if they are ever a target.

"Our observation of an Anonymous campaign reveals:

"› The process used by Anonymous to pick victims as well as recruit and use needed hacking talent.

"› How Anonymous leverages social networks to recruit members and promotes hack campaigns.

"› The specific cyber reconnaissance and attack methods used by Anonymous’ hackers. We detail and sequence the steps Anonymous hackers deploy that cause data breaches and bring down websites.

"Finally, we recommend key mitigation steps that organizations need to help protect against attacks."

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Massive Thefts from the Girolamini Library in Naples; Auction Aborted April 19, 2012

On April 19, 2012 La Biblioteca de Girolamini (Biblioteca statale oratoriana del monumento nazionale dei Girolamini), the oldest library in Naples, and an Italian national treasure opened to the public in 1586, was impounded by the Italian police because of mismanagement and thefts.

"Girolamini Library’s Disappearing Books

"Two thousand intellectuals protest at director, a self-styled prince with no degree

"Would you entrust the contents of one of Italy’s – and the world’s – richest libraries to a self-styled “prince doctor” who is neither a prince nor a graduate? Yet that’s just what has happened. The “nobleman” in question is in charge, with ministerial approval, of Naples’ historic Girolamini library, where Giambattista Vico once ruminated. And when hundreds of academics raised the alarm in the press, said nobleman rushed to report the theft of a shedload of books.  

"It all started a couple of weeks ago. Florence-born Tomaso Montanari, who teaches history of modern art at Naples’ Federico II university and wrote a book called A che serve Michelangelo? [What’s the Point of Michelangelo?] advancing serious doubts on the attribution to the Renaissance genius of a crucifix purchased by the Berlusconi government for more than €3 million, wrote a piece for Il Fatto newspaper. Montanari said he had visited the Girolamini library, which holds over 150,000 ancient manuscripts and books, and found an appalling dust-layered mess with invaluable tomes lying on the floor and empty Coca-Cola cans on the ancient reading desks. Professor Montanari wrote: “The library is closed today because it has to be reorganised, says Fr Sandro Marsano, the enthusiastic, exquisitely polite Oratorian priest who welcomes visitors to the stupendous 17th-century complex. No, it’s closed because of the strange goings-on, say people who live nearby and mutter about heavily laden vehicles leaving the library courtyards late at night”.  

"The piece was a headline-grabber, not least because Montanari listed the question marks hanging over the new director, “Professor” Marino Massimo De Caro: “Whatever the case, it’s beyond belief that one of Italy’s great cultural shrines should be entrusted to a denizen of the ‘undergrowth’ described by Ferruccio Sansa and Claudio Gatti in their recently published book. De Caro is the middle man in the Venezuelan oil affair, ‘one of the most spectacular instances of convergence between Berlusconi supporters and D’Alema’s group’”. De Caro is also honorary consul for Congo, former assistant of Senator Carlo Corbinelli, former head of PR in north-eastern Italy for the public-sector pension fund INPDAP, executive vice-president from 2007 to 2010 of wind farm and solar energy firm Avelar Energia, owned by Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg, former owner of an antiquarian bookshop in Verona, and former partner in the Buenos Aires antiquarian bookshop Imago Mundi owned by Daniel Guido Pastore, himself involved in Spain in inquiries into the theft of books from the national library in Madrid and the Zaragoza library.  

"De Caro entered ministry circles thanks to Giancarlo Galan, as a note from the ministry reveals: “Dr. Marino Massimo De Caro was invited to collaborate with the ministry by Minister Giancarlo Galan on 15 April 2011 as an expert consultant on issues concerning relations with the business system in the arts and publishing sectors, and on topics relating to the implementation of regulations concerning authorisation to build and operate facilities for the production of energy from renewable sources, and their appropriate insertion into the landscape. On 15 December 2011, Minister Lorenzo Ornaghi confirmed Dr. Marino Massimo De Caro’s appointment, along with those of other advisers to Minister Galan, as an expert consultant on issues concerning relations with the business system in the arts and publishing sectors”.  

"Here is a passage from Gatti and Sansa’s book Il sottobosco [The Undergrowth] referring to a phone tap: “On 27 December 2007, De Caro complained about a Carabinieri captain from the artistic heritage unit in Monza who was ‘bothering’ him about a book purchased at a public auction in Switzerland”. He is under investigation for handling stolen goods, he says, and this has hampered his appointment as honorary consul of Congo since the foreign ministry will not grant approval. (...) On 17 July 2009, De Caro was finally able to relax when Milan deputy public prosecutor Maria Letizia Mannella ‘established that the incunabulum has not been physically recovered, despite repeated searches’, and found there was no case to answer. In other words, since the allegedly stolen goods could not be traced and the three individuals involved were accusing each other, the prosecutor decided no further action need be taken”. No further action. But among all the candidates, were there none with an unblemished record to direct a library whose ancient books had already been ransacked in past decades?

"The day after Montanari’s protest, De Caro explained to the Corriere del Mezzogiorno that he his CV was kosher: “I graduated from Siena and I taught history and technology of publishing on the master’s course at the University of Verona”. He added: “I consulted for Cardinal Mejia, the Vatican librarian, I published a book on Galileo and I was director of the library at Orvieto cathedral”. De Caro went on to explain to Il Mattino newspaper: “My grandfather’s godfather was Benedetto Croce. My family, which passed down the title of Princes of Lampedusa, merged with the famous Tomasis thus becoming di Lampedusa, something we are proud of”.  

“Goodness gracious me!” might have been the reaction of comedian Totò, who himself claimed the title His Imperial Highness Antonio Porfirogenito, descended from Costantinople’s Focas dynasty, Angelo Flavio Ducas Comneno of Byzantium, prince of Cilicia, Macedonia, Dardania, Thessaly, Pontus, Moldava, Illyria and the Peloponnese, Duke of Cyprus and Epirus, Count and Duke of Drivasto and Durazzo. “Not true” came the reply the next day, again in Il Mattino, from the real Prince Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi: “The librarian’s assertions about his descent from the princes of Lampedusa are fabrications. The title of prince of Lampedusa was granted by Charles II of Spain to Ferdinando Tomasi in 1667. The Caros therefore have no claim whatsoever to the title of prince of Lampedusa. ... Our egregious librarian should have all this at his fingertips. And I would advise the prior of the Girolamini to keep a close eye on an archivist who prefers a shared surname to supporting documentation”.  

"OK, then, but he’s still a professor. That’s what it says in a press release from Il Buongoverno, a national association established in Milan and “chaired by Senator Riccardo Villari, with Marcello Dell’Utri as honorary national chair. The secretary is Senator Salvatore Piscitelli. (...) National organising secretary is Professor Marino Masimo De Caro”. Goodness gracious me again! It’s a pity that even though official ministerial notes and statements repeatedly refer to him as “doctor”, De Caro never actually graduated from the University of Siena, where he enrolled as a law student in 1992-93 and remained a student until 2002. Nor does the computer at the University of Verona have the least record of our hero’s having taught there. //But the funniest part of the story comes last. Even before all the tweaks were applied to his self-celebratory CV, hundreds of intellectuals were signing an appeal to the minister Lorenzo Ornaghi to ask him how a library as important as the Girolamini could be entrusted to “a man bereft of even the minimum academic qualifications or professional competence to honour the role”. By yesterday evening, this devastating denunciation had attracted just under two thousand signatures, including those of Marcello De Cecco, Ennio Di Nolfo, Dario Fo, Franca Rame, Carlo Ginzburg, Salvatore Settis, Tullio Gregory, Gustavo Zagrebelsky, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, Adriano La Regina, Gian Giacomo Migone, Alessandra Mottola Molfino (president of Italia Nostra), Lamberto Maffei (president of the Accademia dei Lincei), Dacia Maraini, Stefano Parise (president of the Italian library association), Stefano Rodotà and Rosario Villari among others.  

"Well, on the very morning when these intellectuals were making their reservations public, “Doctor” “Prince” “Professor” Marino Massimo De Caro turned up at the public prosecutor’s office to present formal notification of a crime. He had just realised that one thousand five hundred books were missing from the library" (http://www.corriere.it/International/english/artic(oli/2012/04/17/girolamini.shtml)

On May 9, 2012 the book auction house Zisska & Schauer in Munich, Germany, published the following statement on their website concerning their auction to be held that day: 

"Zisska & Schauer regrets to announce that the following lots registered under ownership numbers 4 and 132 of the present Auction Sale No. 59 have been withdrawn until recently expressed ownership concerns can be satisfactorily resolved: 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 88, 89, 90, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 103, 105, 106, 107, 108, 110, 111, 112, 115, 116, 118, 119, 120, 121, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 144, 145, 147, 149, 151, 156, 157, 164, 175, 176, 178, 179, 180, 184, 185, 189, 194, 195, 196, 198, 202, 207, 210, 212, 213, 216, 217, 218, 221, 222, 224, 225, 226, 227, 232, 235, 237, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 249, 250, 251, 253, 256, 258, 261, 264, 265, 266, 270, 271, 277, 282, 283, 289, 297, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311, 316, 317, 320, 322, 325, 328, 329, 333, 336, 340, 341, 342, 346, 348, 349, 350, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 355, 356, 358, 363, 364, 366, 367, 374, 380, 382, 383, 384, 388, 393, 400, 402, 404, 407, 409, 414, 415, 416, 419, 420, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425, 428, 429, 433, 442, 443, 444, 447, 448, 449, 450, 451, 452, 453, 456, 459, 460, 462, 466, 467, 470, 471, 473, 476, 477, 479, 480, 489, 506, 507, 508, 509, 512, 513, 514, 515, 518, 525, 529, 530, 532, 533, 534, 536, 537, 539, 541, 546, 547, 548, 549, 551a, 552, 553, 556, 558, 559, 560, 561, 563, 564, 565, 566, 567, 568, 571, 572, 573, 577, 579, 580, 582, 588, 589, 591, 598, 599, 600, 601, 605, 607, 608, 619, 620, 627, 630, 636, 643, 657, 659, 660, 661, 662, 666, 667, 668, 669, 670, 671, 672, 673, 674, 675, 678, 679, 680, 681, 682, 684, 685, 686, 687, 688, 689, 693, 695, 696, 697, 699, 700, 701, 702, 703, 704, 707, 709, 710, 712, 713, 715, 716, 717, 719, 720, 721, 722, 723, 724, 725, 726, 727, 728, 730, 735, 736, 738, 741, 754, 757, 763, 794, 795, 801, 815, 816, 840, 857, 858, 860, 864, 878, 891, 896, 906, 911, 918, 919, 920, 925, 926, 927, 950, 955, 957, 959, 960, 974, 975, 976, 977, 985, 988, 989, 994, 998, 999, 1040, 1753, 1973, 1980, 2001, 2020, 2038, 2049, 2051, 2055, 2063, 2065, 2068, 2069, 2070, 2076, 2081, 2088, 2098, 2099, 2101, 2103, 2105, 2108, 2118, 2120, 2121, 2124, 2135, 2248, 2255, 2304, 2306, 2312, 2320, 2324, 2370, 2373, 2376, 2378, 2379, 2384, 2386, 2390, 2398, 2401, 2575, 2586, 2589, 2591, 2593, 2594, 2595, 2597, 2603, 2642, 2663, 2666, 2676, 2682, 2686, 2688, 2704, 2707, 2709, 2711, 2713, 2719, 2721, 2723, 2735, 2748, 2775, 2776, 2780, 2782, 2787, 2796, 2797, 2804, 2818, 2820, 2831, 2846, 2847, 2850, 2854, 2855, 2856, 2860, 2861, 2863, 2864, 2866, 2867, 2869, 2870, 2880, 2887, 2888, 2892, 2893, 2897, 2898, 2899, 2900, 2902, 2904, 2914, 2919, 2921, 2944, 2945, 2947, 2950, 2952, 2956, 2957, 2958, 2960, 2963, 2965, 2968, 2969, 2970, 2974, 2977, 2981, 2987, 2988, 2989, 2994, 2999, 3002, 3003, 3032 and 3053."

Provenance information had been removed from roughly 500 books in this auction, clumsily and in haste, to the point of defacing some of the volumes; it was believed that they had been stolen from the Girolamini Library in Naples.

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During Testimony over a Phone Hacking Scandal Rupert Murdoch Predicts the End of Print News Media April 26, 2012

"After a day of testimony at a British judicial inquiry over his ties, friendships and disputes with British politicians, Rupert Murdoch returned to the witness stand on Thursday, saying he apologized for failing to take measures to avert the hacking scandal that has convulsed his media outpost here [in Britain]."

"At times contrite and on a occasionally somewhat testy, Mr. Murdoch became more ruminative and discursive, when he was allowed to dwell at some length on the future of the printed word, pondering not only the destiny of his own newspapers but, as if addressing a seminar rather than an inquiry, also ranging over the broader issue of the future of the press in the digital era.

" 'The day would come, he said, when the news business would be 'purely electronic' in five, 10 or 20 years" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/27/world/europe/rupert-murdoch-testimony-leveson-inquiry-day-2.html?hp, accessed 04-26-2012).

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PHEME: A Social Media Lie Detector February 27, 2014

On February 27, 2014 the following post came across Willard McCarty's Humanist Discussion Group. With its reference to cutting edge social media research in the PHEME project founded in January 2014, combined with the literary quotation on gossip from the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphosesthis was one of McCarty's characteristically wise posts. It is quoted in full:

Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2014 06:38:05 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: a social media lie detector?

Two researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, are part of an EU project, PHEME, which aims automatically to detect four types of online rumours (speculation, controversy, misinformation, and disinformation) and to model their spread. "With partners from seven different countries, the project will combine big data analytics with advanced linguistic and visual methods. The results will be suitable for direct application in medical information systems and digital journalism." I note in particular the qualifying statement that,

> However, it is particularly difficult to assess whether a piece of
> information falls into one of these categories in the context of
> social media. The quality of the information here is highly dependent
> on its social context and, up to now, it has proven very challenging
> to identify and interpret this context automatically.

Indeed. Ovid would, I think, be amused:

> tota fremit vocesque refert iteratque quod audit;
> nulla quies intus nullaque silentia parte,
> nec tamen est clamor, sed parvae murmura vocis,
> qualia de pelagi, siquis procul audiat, undis
> esse solent, qualemve sonum, cum Iuppiter atras
> increpuit nubes, extrema tonitrua reddunt.
> atria turba tenet: veniunt, leve vulgus, euntque
> mixtaque cum veris passim commenta vagantur
> milia rumorum confusaque verba volutant;
> e quibus hi vacuas inplent sermonibus aures,
> hi narrata ferunt alio, mensuraque ficti
> crescit, et auditis aliquid novus adicit auctor.
> illic Credulitas, illic temerarius Error
> vanaque Laetitia est consternatique Timores
> Seditioque recens dubioque auctore Susurri;
> ipsa, quid in caelo rerum pelagoque geratur
> et tellure, videt totumque inquirit in orbem.
> The whole place is full of noises, repeats all words and doubles what
> it hears. There is no quiet, no silence anywhere within. And yet
> there is no loud clamour, but only the subdued murmur of voices, like
> the murmur of the waves of the sea if you listen afar off, or like
> the last rumblings of thunder when Jove has made the dark clouds
> crash together. Crowds fill the hall, shifting throngs come and go,
> and everywhere wander thousands of rumours, falsehoods mingled with
> the truth, and confused reports flit about. Some of these fill their
> idle ears with talk, and others go and tell elsewhere what they have
> heard; while the story grows in size, and each new teller makes
> contribution to what he has heard. Here is Credulity, here is
> heedless Error, unfounded Joy and panic Fear; here sudden Sedition
> and unauthentic Whisperings. Rumour herself beholds all that is done
> in heaven, on sea and land, and searches throughout the world for
> news.

Ovid, Met. 12.47-63 (Loeb edn)

See http://www.pheme.eu/ for more."

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Thieves of Gutenberg Bible are Sentenced in Russia June 6, 2014

On June 6, 2014 BBC.com reported that Russia sentenced three agents belonging to its Federal Security Service (FSB) for attempting to sell a Gutenberg Bible that had been stolen from Lomonosov Moscow State University. Colonel Sergei Vedischev was sentenced to more than three years in a penal colony. His two accomplices received a lighter sentence for trying to find a buyer. The thieves offered the Bible to a collector for under $1.15 million dollars, perhaps one-twentieth of its value in 2014.

Regarding the theft, Eric White commented on the Ex-Libris newsgroup on June 8, 2014:

"This is the paper copy that had been in Leipzig until the Soviet army took it in 1945; it was held secretly until just a few years ago.  No one I know has actually been able to see it."

On June 5, 2014 police-russia.info reported on the theft in Russian, and in more detail, at this link.

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