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Vrain-Denis Lucas was among the most audacious forgers of historic documents during the nineteenth century. With a client as spectacularly gullible as the illustrious mathematician Michel Chasles, he could afford to be. Chasles was a member of France’s prestigious Academy of Sciences, so he couldn’t have been completely stupid. Nevertheless, he snatched up virtually every fake Lucas presented to him, twenty-seven thousand in all, many of them patently absurd, and all very expensive.

The first bath of forgeries Lucas sold to Chasles was letters from French literary heroes like Molière and Racine, part of a collection the seller claimed to have inherited from his prominent forebears. Lucas produced the fakes on paper ripped out of antique books, using ink appropriate for the period. Chasles was so thoroughly duped that Lucas got a little bolder. He produced some rarer items, like a letter said to have been written by Charlemagne some one thousand years earlier. Chasles happily paid the price for such a valuable piece of French history.

The forger, apparently convinced by now that he was dealing with a complete dolt, started to produce thousands of items too outrageous to believe. There were letters from Alexander the Great to Aristotle, and Cleopatra to her “dearly beloved” Julius Caesar – all written in French! One letter, again in French, was supposedly written by Judas just before he hanged himself, and another from Pontius Pilate to the Roman emperor Tiberius expressed regret for the crucifixion of Jesus. Chasles was delighted with them all. Here’s an excerpt from a letter penned by Mary Magdalene, while on vacation in France, to her brother Lazarus (wrong Mary, by the way; Mary of Bethany was Lazarus’s sister):

My dearly beloved brother, that which you have sent me regarding Peter the apostle of our gentle Jesus gives me hope that soon he will appear here and I am prepared to receive him well, our sister Martha rejoices at the prospect also. Her health is failing badly and I fear her death, that is why I recommend her to your good prayers… It is as you say my dearly beloved brother that we are very fond of our sojourn in these provinces of Gaul, that we have no desire to leave it, just as some of our friends suggest to us. Do you not find that these Gauls, who we were told are barbarous people, are not at all that way… I will say nothing more except that I have a great desire to see you and pray our Lord to hold you in grace this tenth day of June 46.

Magdalene


Note:

Eventually Lucas failed to forge documents quickly enough to satisfy his agreement with Chasles, and Chasles sued. The fraud was exposed at the following trial, much to Chasles’ embarrassment!


Source:

Farquhar, Michael. “Fantastic Forgeries and Literary Frauds.” A Treasury of Deception: Liars, Misleaders, Hoodwinkers, and the Extraordinary True Stories of History's Greatest Hoaxes, Fakes and Frauds. Penguin, 2005. 150-51. Print.


Further Reading:

Denis Vrain-Lucas

Michel Floréal Chasles

Charlemagne / Charles the Great

Alexander III of Macedon / Alexander the Great

Aristotle

Cleopatra VII Philopator

Gaius Julius Caesar

Pontius Pilate

Tiberius Claudius Nero

Jesus Christ / Jesus of Nazareth

Saint Mary Magdalene

Lazarus of Bethany

Mary of Bethany

>[Vrain-Denis Lucas](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/Denis_Vrain-Lucas.jpg) was among the most audacious forgers of historic documents during the nineteenth century. With a client as spectacularly gullible as the illustrious mathematician [Michel Chasles](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/Michel_Chasles.jpg), he could afford to be. Chasles was a member of France’s prestigious Academy of Sciences, so he couldn’t have been completely stupid. Nevertheless, he snatched up virtually every fake Lucas presented to him, twenty-seven thousand in all, many of them patently absurd, and all very expensive. >The first bath of forgeries Lucas sold to Chasles was letters from French literary heroes like Molière and Racine, part of a collection the seller claimed to have inherited from his prominent forebears. Lucas produced the fakes on paper ripped out of antique books, using ink appropriate for the period. Chasles was so thoroughly duped that Lucas got a little bolder. He produced some rarer items, like a letter said to have been written by [Charlemagne](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fb/Charlemagne_denier_Mayence_812_814.jpg) some one thousand years earlier. Chasles happily paid the price for such a valuable piece of French history. >The forger, apparently convinced by now that he was dealing with a complete dolt, started to produce thousands of items too outrageous to believe. There were letters from [Alexander the Great](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/Alexander_the_Great_mosaic.jpg) to [Aristotle](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ae/Aristotle_Altemps_Inv8575.jpg), and [Cleopatra](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/Kleopatra-VII.-Altes-Museum-Berlin1.jpg) to her “dearly beloved” [Julius Caesar](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dc/Retrato_de_Julio_C%C3%A9sar_%2826724093101%29.jpg) – all written in *French!* One letter, again in French, was supposedly written by Judas just before he hanged himself, and another from Pontius Pilate to the Roman emperor [Tiberius](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a4/Tiberius%2C_Romisch-Germanisches_Museum%2C_Cologne_%288115606671%29.jpg) expressed regret for the crucifixion of [Jesus](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/63/Cefal%C3%B9_Pantocrator_retouched.jpg). Chasles was delighted with them all. Here’s an excerpt from a letter penned by [Mary Magdalene](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/TINTORETTO_-_Magdalena_penitente_%28Musei_Capitolini%2C_Roma%2C_1598-1602%29_-_copia.jpg), while on vacation in France, to her brother Lazarus (wrong Mary, by the way; Mary of Bethany was Lazarus’s sister): >*My dearly beloved brother, that which you have sent me regarding Peter the apostle of our gentle Jesus gives me hope that soon he will appear here and I am prepared to receive him well, our sister Martha rejoices at the prospect also. Her health is failing badly and I fear her death, that is why I recommend her to your good prayers… It is as you say my dearly beloved brother that we are very fond of our sojourn in these provinces of Gaul, that we have no desire to leave it, just as some of our friends suggest to us. Do you not find that these Gauls, who we were told are barbarous people, are not at all that way… I will say nothing more except that I have a great desire to see you and pray our Lord to hold you in grace this tenth day of June 46.* >*Magdalene* ___________________________________ **Note:** Eventually Lucas failed to forge documents quickly enough to satisfy his agreement with Chasles, and Chasles sued. The fraud was exposed at the following trial, much to Chasles’ embarrassment! ___________________________________ **Source:** Farquhar, Michael. “Fantastic Forgeries and Literary Frauds.” *A Treasury of Deception: Liars, Misleaders, Hoodwinkers, and the Extraordinary True Stories of History's Greatest Hoaxes, Fakes and Frauds*. Penguin, 2005. 150-51. Print. ____________________________________ **Further Reading:** [Denis Vrain-Lucas](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis_Vrain-Lucas) [Michel Floréal Chasles](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Chasles) [Charlemagne / Charles the Great](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlemagne) [Alexander III of Macedon / Alexander the Great](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great) [Aristotle](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle) [Cleopatra VII Philopator](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleopatra) [Gaius Julius Caesar](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Caesar) [Pontius Pilate](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontius_Pilate) [Tiberius Claudius Nero](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiberius) [Jesus Christ / Jesus of Nazareth](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus) [Saint Mary Magdalene](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Magdalene) [Lazarus of Bethany](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lazarus_of_Bethany) [Mary of Bethany](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_of_Bethany)

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