lemon juice, herbs, tea, coffee - tools of the forgery trade

Steven Avery

How to tell a fake or forgery
Map fakes, forgeries and facsimiles - how to recognize them


Ageing a reproduction
Various devices are used to give a modern reproduction at least the superficial appearance of age. Tea or coffee are popular applications. One popular (and very cheap) series of John Speed maps was as brown as chestnut and, being on crinkled paper to give the supposed appearance of vellum,

Art: Authenticity, Restoration, Forgery (2016)
David A. Scott

p. 90
Paper and parchment have been smoked in slow-huming straw and stained with tea or coffee.
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Steven Avery

Techniques for Ageing Paper ... or how to make my treasure map look old (2016)
Robin Springett

Tea / Coffee
I always shunned this technique this as being too “basic”, but the truth is that it works really (really) well. You soak your paper in tea or coffee and let it air dry for an even finish. Alternatively, use a spray bottle to lightly coat a dry sheet of paper to colour it whilst minimising warping. Other liquids you could use include (but are not limited to): Soy, dilute paint, wood stain... basically any brown liquid.

The Fine Art of Faking (2008)
The Faces and Stories of over 150 of the World's most Famous Art Fakers, Forgers and Fraudsters.

Pei-Shen Qian - 20 C. Chinese Art Forger.
He is also alleged to have “stained newer canvases with tea bags to give them the false appearance of being older than they really were”, said the indictment, which also claimed that some works were subjected to the heat of a blow dryer, while others were left outside and exposed to the elements.

Archimedes brought to light (2007)

After scraping off the oid purple-black “gall” ink - an iron-based pigment that was widely used for drawing and writing in medieval Europe - Myronas then probably used lemon juice to partly erase Archimedes’ original writings before rotating the unbound leaves by 90 degrees and writing on top of them. He then rebound these leaves to create the book we know today, which is called the Archimedes Palimpsest (from the Greek word palimpsestos for “scraped again”).
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Steven Avery

Literary Forgeries (1907)
James Anson Farrer


The manuscripts bought as genuine by the Museum are beautiful specimens of writing on vellum, and belong to any century from the tenth to the fifteenth. The other vellum documents which Sir F. Madden rejected as spurious were with some others soon afterwards sold to that great collector of manuscripts, Sir Thomas Phillipps, who amassed his huge collection of 60,000 manuscripts on the principle that it was better to buy even a forgery than to let pass a MS. that might be genuine. In the list of thirty-one documents which he bought of Simonides (and some of them for no mean sums) he distinguished in a letter to the Athenaeum (4th February, 1857) between those he thought genuine and those he thought forgeries. Some he thought had been dipped in tobacco-water to give them the semblance of age.


Detecting Forgery: Forensic Investigation of Documents (1996)
Joe Nickell

Detecting Forgery: Forensic Investigation of Documents (2014)
Joe Nickell

Some forgers go to great lengths to age their paper. According to one investigator:

Paper, parchment, and vellum can be aged artificially quite easily, and all forgers have their own special brews and techniques for doing so. A weak tea solution can render a uniform brown tint. Licorice, tobacco juice, coffee, certain leaves and nut husks, and some kinds of soil have a similar effect. These substances arc applied frequently to old maps, which fakers (and some buyers) seem to associate with browned paper and other damage—such as burns, wine stains, and candle wax—as if they have been pored over during the midnight watch by ancient mariners.
In fact, many of the “antique” maps on sale are modern reproductions given a rapid aging before being placed in a truly old or artificially aged frame. A few fly spots here and there and a bit of rough treatment can soon add a hundred years to the proposed age—and several hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to the price—of a map. Cigarette ash is one popular medium for adding in five minutes the appearance of many years’ worth of slowly accumulated grime.16

16. Haynes, Complete Collector’s Guide, 118-19.

Haynes, Colin. The Complete Collector's Guide to Fakes and Forgeries. Greensboro, N.C.: Wallace-Homestead Book Co., 1988. On detecting fake artworks, jewelry; manuscripts, ceramics.


Detecting Forgery: Forensic Investigation of Documents (2021)
Joe Nickell
Brown staining of a document suspected of having been aged with tea can be tested by a saturated solution of hydrated ferrous sulfate, which will cause tea stains to turn black. Of course, as discussed in chapter 5, other substances have been used to give the appearance of age, so a negative response to this test means little. Other examination and analyses should readily uncover a forgery of thi
s type.

Moreover, he was careless in attempting to “antique” it with tea and other

Real or Fake: Studies in Authentication
By Joe Nickell

... Nickell, a leader in forgery detection and forensic investigation, ... that it was merely a photocopy, antiqued by what appeared to be tea stains.
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Steven Avery

Lilia - - 1/15/2016 -
"darkening pages with tea, is really effective. I have used this method myself more than once. but obviously not for forgery :)

Steven Avery


"A Biographical Memoir of Constantine Simonides, Dr. Ph., of Stageira, with a Brief Defence of the Authenticity of His Manuscripts."
By Charles Stewart, 1859
Pages 60-61

“As to the time of the duration of the manuscripts, it is to be observed that parchment, as it was prepared among the ancients, was much more durable than any other writing material employed by them. In the Library of the Vatican are more than 1500 years old, and in Spain and elsewhere there exist manuscripts of as ancient a date. [Page 61] Moreover, Sir T. Phillipps publicly announced in the Athenaeum (see No. 1536, April 4th, 1857,) that he had in his posession a Latin manuscript 1200 years old, and that it was in a state of complete preservation.

A very interesting article that I had seen long ago, but had not really archived or referenced.

The Athenaeum (1857)
Simonides MSS. In the Library of Sir Thomas Phillipps, BART
Thomas Phillipps

Also here

Catalogus Librorum Manuscriptorum in Bibliotheca D. Thomæ Phillipps, Bart

Panselinos ton Zographon; or, Manual of Painters, 8vo. ch. s. xviii. or xix. cf. gilt.-This is probably a copy by Simonides himself. It seems to have been purposely dipped in tobacco-water to make it look old.

Meletius's History of Byzantine Painting, s. fol. ... 53 leaves. This may possibly be a copy by Simonides, dipped in tobacco-water and strangely used to make it look old.

You will find the Latin ms. description.
And I wonder if anyone could follow the Phillipps collection and figure it out.
And you will find tobacco-water suspicions on a manuscript.
Similar to what occurred on the 1859 Sinaiticus.



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