Venetia Anastasopoulou: Can a Document in Itself Reveal a Forgery?

Did Morton Smith Forge “Secret Mark”?

Back to Did Morton Smith Forge “Secret Mark”?

The controversial text that Smith discovered was a Greek manuscript written on the endpages of a 17th-century book. The apparently 18th-century handwriting recorded a copy of a previously unknown letter from Clement of Alexandria to someone named Theodore.

In the question: “can a document in itself reveal a forgery or not,” we have a lot to say.

The writing as a whole can speak to the examiner and his trained eye will catch the signals of its rhythm and spontaneity.

There are characteristics which point to a genuine or to a suspicious writing, but we should always have in mind, that these characteristics are just indications and could be present in a genuine handwriting as well. We should not forget that the method of comparison is leading us to a conclusion on genuineness or not.

In general, the genuine writing

• is natural and carelessly written

• has a good line quality

• has good pressure patterns

• is written rapidly or more precisely with continuity in motion

• is internally consistent

• has good rhythm

whereas the opposite characteristics are always suspicious indications.

More over, a suspicious writing

• appears drawn

• lack of natural variations

• has excessive perfection of details

• has poor line quality

• there are no pressure variations

• uses incorrect method of constructions

• close resemblance to a model

• has tremor (meaning that tremor is not the curve or the leaning of a line, but as Osborn says tremor of fraud shows a painstaking and unnatural care throughout that indicates an effort to follow an unfamiliar copy)

• has pen lifts in places where there is no need, where it shows the difficulty of the writer to draw a certain form

• uses unusual forms or forms written in an awkward way.

In a questioned suspicious writing we are expecting for the forgers genuine characteristic to come up as the handwritten document is getting larger and in such documents we are looking for a distortion in the writing. When a large document is consistent, we have a first indication of genuineness and this applies to the Secret Mark letter.

The Secret Mark letter, as written in detail in my analysis report, is written in a natural and spontaneous way and in my opinion, does not have such indications so to make us think of a suspicious writing. So, the only way to check whether the handwriting is genuine or not, is to compare with a known handwriting, as I have done in my earlier report. If the Secret Mark letter was written by someone with the intention to mislead people, this is something that cannot be seen in a handwriting alone.

Venetia Anastasopoulou, Athens

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