Q: How can I detect forgery and how can I protect myself against it?

A: The risk of having bought a modern forgery of an antiquarian book or print is rather low in comparison to other art objects such as icons, paintings or coins.

a.) Cover
To forge a cover in a way that is hard to detect, requires high material and labour costs, which almost always exceed actual value of the book. Therefore it is rare to find forged covers.

b.) Paper
Hand-made paper and vellum are rarities nowadays. It is almost impossible to replicate old paper with its normal features such as holes, tears, browning, finger stains, etc. However, a buyer should be cautious when the paper looks very new.

c.) Water marks
Since the 15th Century, paper has been branded by water marks. With the help of these water marks, it is possible to determine the age of the paper with great precision. Forging these watermarks for page used in a book is almost impossible.

d.) Print
Digital reprints are easy to recognize. Unlike books produced by an old printing machine, digital reprints leave no embossing on the paper. In addition, the paper often has an unnatural tint. Producing a complete book with a type face from the early Renaissance with an original press can only be managed by very few masters. These books are also not popular objects to forge since only very few were printed and new copies that come on the market will likely be subject to scrutiny.

e.) Colouring
The age of colours is mostly determined through oxidation traces on the backside of contemporarily or old coloured woodcuts and copper engravings. However, new colouring is not easy to detect for the untrained eye, especially when original colours have been used which have not penetrated to the backside of the page.


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