Friday, August 10, 2007

Fortsas Hoax Anniversary

Joyce reminds us that it's the anniversary of the famed Fortsas Auction, one of the great biblio-hoaxes of all time. The Special Collections department at the University of Delaware has a good write-up about the hoax as well as a list of resources. In short, during the summer of 1840, many European bookdealers received a printed catalogue announcing the sale of the library of the mysterious "Count Fortsas," a collector with a taste for the unique: his library "consisted entirely of books of which he held the only known copies. If the Count learned of the existence of even one other copy of a book in his collection, that title was immediately purged from his library."

When the booksellers converged on the small Belgian town of Binche for the 10 August auction, they learned that the whole thing was an elaborate ruse dreamed up by former military man and famed jokester Renier Hubert Ghislain Chalon.

Good fun.

[Update: For more, see my 2008 post, "Fortsas Lives!"