The Salamander Letter wasn’t the only forgery caught by Brent. He will describe a few other forgeries of Mark that he caught, including one with Abraham Lincoln’s signature. Mark wasn’t happy about being caught!
Brent: There was another time that I was in Deseret Book Rare Books with Curt Bench. Curt showed me this rare Lincoln debate book. Abraham Lincoln published only one book in his lifetime. He did it on his own and that was The Lincoln/Douglas debates. He published them in 1858. He lost those debates. He probably won that debate, but he lost the debates because he lost the election to Douglas, and just had to run for president two years later. He printed up his debates, because a lot of people wanted to read them, they thought they were excellent on the slavery issues and the states and territories that it [slavery] could be allowed to move in to and so on. They were brilliant. They’ve been studied ever since. There were about 17 or 18 copies of it, that Lincoln inscribed to close friends, and half of those inscriptions are in pencil. Now, remember, I told you about Hofmann and pencil, which I think is an important distinction that’s been missed by a lot of people.
GT: It really is [important.]
Brent: I think it’s an important thing. I’ve got a lot of those pencil ones, as well as ink ones. But none of the pencils [forgeries] were ever charged because there’s no test for pencil as such, just comparisons. I was with Curt and Curt shows me this original. The book was fine. Hofmann had no respect for history. It was a first edition or whatever of Lincoln’s Douglas debate. 1860 is when they were published during the presidential campaign. He published the 1858 debates. So, I’m looking at the handwriting. It’s inscribed by Abraham Lincoln. If there’s anybody’s handwriting that I really know very well, it’s Lincoln’s. So I’m looking at this, and it’s not Lincoln’s. I mean, it’s not even close in a lot of ways. I told Curt, “Well, this is a phony. Somebody has tried to try to sell this to you as a Lincoln and it’s not. It’s fake. I went up to Hofmann’s the following Wednesday morning. That’s one of the times he really hit the fan. “How dare you tell Curt Bench that that’s a fake? It came from….” I said, “Mark I didn’t know that came from you.”
GT: Oh, really?
Brent: Yeah, because Curt never mentioned his source to me. But I knew then where it had come from.
GT: So you caught him a few times on these forgeries.
Brent: Well, I did. I should have been a little smarter, shouldn’t I? I bought half of them, so I’m not that smart. The point was, I’m not bragging. I’m just saying that I told Curt this is fake. Don’t buy it. Hofmann was really angry at me. That was one of the four times he was angry at me. He laid into me up at his house on Marie Avenue about that. “How dare you tell Curt Bench? That hurts my reputation.” He went on and on. I said, “Well, it’s fake, Mark. I don’t know who you got it from.” That’s what I said. I had no idea he was a forger. I was still buying stuff. But, whoever you got it from, you’d better return it because it’s a fake.” He said, “How do you know it’s a fake?” I said, “Well, for one thing, Lincoln’s signature goes up. The A, as always lower than the N. Sometimes, it’s really [hard to see.] You have to look at it, because it’s very close in every case, and sometimes Lincoln’s signature gets a little sloppy. But that’s just a trait Lincoln had throughout his handwriting. The N of his signature is higher than the A.” So, I’m teaching the forger where he went wrong, on Lincoln. But, he let me have it that he was going to take it back to whoever he got it from. It’s kind of hilarious. None of those were mentioned in the Hofmann case, because they were in pencil, and that’s one of them.
Check out our conversation….