Summarized by Kent Larsen
Effect of Hoffman Forgeries Still Being Felt
Sydney Australia Morning Herald 12Feb00 A4
ing this list.
AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS -- An article in the Sydney, Australia Morning
Herald demonstrates the continuing effect that Mormon document forger
Mark Hoffman has on the market for historical documents. The
documents forged by the former LDS Church member are in many cases
still in circulation.
Hoffman may be best known among LDS Church members for his
"salamander letter," a letter that purported to be an account of one
of Joseph Smith's encounter's with the Angel Moroni. The account
claimed that the Angel Moroni transformed from a salamander. An LDS
Church member purchased the letter and donated it to the Church.
However, as Hoffman's forgeries and lies began to unravel, he made
pipe bombs and killed two people, and injured himself when one of the
bombs went off prematurely. He is now serving a life sentence for the
murders, but escaped the death penalty through a plea bargin, in
which he detailed all his forgeries.
No one has collected all the forged documents and removed them from
circulation, however. Several of the documents were sold at auction
in 1997 by the worldwide auctioneer Sothebys. The documents included
a signature of Daniel Boone, a "Reward of Merit" signed by American
Revolutionary Nathan Hale and a poem by Emily Dickenson.
The Morning Herald article focuses on the Dickenson poem, which was
purchased by the Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts through the
efforts of Curator of Special Collections Daniel Lombardo. While
somewhat satisfied with Sotheby's assurances that the document was
genuine, Lombardo became suspicious when he couldn't find out the
document's provenance -- the history of who owned the document and
when they owned it.
Hoffman's forgeries were themselves excellent and fooled many experts
on documents. In the case of the Dickenson poem, Lombardo used
experts from Yale and elsewhere, who found many things in the
document that made it look like something Dickenson produced.
Evenutally, Lombardo asked the experts to look closer, and find all
the evidence in the document that made it look like it wasn't
Dickenson's work. This, and the provenance that Lombardo was
eventually learned made it clear that the document was a forgery.
The poem had ended up in the collection of a Las Vegas document
dealer, who transferred it and many other documents, most of which
were legitimate, to the estate of a co-owner of his gallery after the
co-owner died, in order to buy-out the estate. The estate then
auctioned the documents through Sothebys.
The Morning Herald reporter tells the story of Lombardo's discovery
of the Dickenson forgery in much more detail, and also relates his
interview with the Las Vegas document dealer and Hoffman's letter to
Lombardo apologizing for the forgery .