Manuscript Digest – April-May 2021 – This complimentary e-digest, now published bi-monthly, covers significant acquisitions and sales, manuscripts lost and found, rare books and ephemera, document conservation, and more.

In the News

We Hold These Truths …
CNN Business, April 28, 2021
… or a share of them anyway. A collectibles trading app is out to offer $25 shares of a rare Declaration of Independence broadside. How rare? Think, one of 20 copies in private hands.

Letters to Birmingham Jail, March 2, 2021
In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. spent eight days in Birmingham Jail. When he got mail, he signed the jail’s log sheets. Those were supposed to be destroyed. Someone didn’t listen.

• Listen to the PBS NewsHour segment

In the Cards
ESPN, April 26, 2021
Earlier this year a 1952 Mickey Mantle trading card sold for a record $5.26 million. Who could beat Mantle? No one yet, but a Le Bron James card just came in for a tie. Batter up!

• Tom Brady’s Patriots signed rookie card went for $1.32 million

• Now Brady is kicking off an NFT company called Autograph

Their Biggest Fan
New York Times, April 23, 2021
Pavarotti. Domingo. Sills. Fleming. A late Met superfan left 200,000 or so opera autographs in her apartment. How she got them and where they’re going. Hint: not to the Met.

Poetic License
The Guardian, March 25, 2021
Two unknown Sappho poems! What’s not to love? But after the dust settled, questions came to light. Was the provenance … murky? And where does the Green family fit into all of this?

What If?
New York Times, March 10, 2021
In 1883 Moses Shapira unveiled an ancient Hebrew manuscript. By 1885 it had been declared a fake — and vanished. But what if it was real after all? Enter Idan Dershowitz.

Manuscript Murder Mystery
Men’s Health, March 3, 2021
Fake manuscripts. Bombings. A victim turned suspect. A twist of fate that ended the forgeries for good. You can’t make this stuff up. Murder Among the Mormons didn’t need to.

Crime and Cover Up
El País, March 15, 2021
The copy of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius in Spain’s National Library is a fake. Right. Then things get messy. But it comes down to this: what did they know and when did they know it?

• Go inside the investigation of “the smartest and the dumbest robbery ever”

Flames in South Africa
Nature, April 19, 2021
A wildfire swept the main library at the University of Cape Town, torching the treasures in the reading room. Arson? A camp fire? No one knows. But the library has a request…

‘9 Admitted, 4 Died’
Smithsonian Magazine, March 2021
Amid the COVID crisis, a scholar turned to a young doctor’s diary from the New York yellow fever epidemic of 1795. What it tells us about the toll of suffering — and life in its aftermath.

From Our Blog

A Real Gift of Fake Documents

Kenneth Rendell and Shirley McNerney have given their Collection on the Detection of Forged Handwriting to the Grolier Club. Rendell, a past president of the Manuscript Society, has collected forgeries for decades. He’s also exposed some famous fakes. Diaries of Hitler and Mussolini. The forgeries behind Murder Among the Mormons. The list goes on. When in doubt, check it out, we’re advised. Now there’s a massive collection to check against.

Other Points of Interest

Smart Look: Virtual meeting backgrounds from Smithsonian Libraries and Archives > Download

Handy Skill: Learn to read secretary hand from Beinecke Early Modern > Read up