The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association is taking the fight to forgers after one of its members was instrumental in bringing serial forger Allan Formhals to justice.
Formhals, a former Hampshire antiques
dealer, is awaiting sentence after being found guilty of fraud at
Southampton Crown Court on October 24.
The 66-year-old, who was too ill to appear
in court, was convicted on a total of ten out of 15 charges linked
to fraud and the forging of signatures including those of Winston
Churchill, J.R.R. Tolkien, Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell, T.S.
Eliot, Marie Antoinette and Pablo Picasso.
The transactions involved tens of thousands
of pounds at least.
ABA member Peter Harrington, who worked with
the police in identifying the forgeries and bringing Formhals to
trial and was an expert witness along with manuscript expert Felix
Pryor, is planning an online guide to Formhals' forged signatures
in a bid to trace all the items he sold and prevent further
ABA president Laurence Worms, who bemoaned
the fact that the books had been permanently defaced, said that
collectors must be "bitterly disappointed".
"Formhals' activities finally came to light
when his books were offered in the mainstream book trade," he
added. "I can only urge book-buyers to think very, very, carefully
before buying expensive books from people who do not belong to a
legitimate trade association, such as the ABA. Our members are
vetted, our books guaranteed, and we have a strict code of
practice. Our priority now, as responsible booksellers, must be to
isolate and recover any forgeries that are still out there."
At his trial, Formhals had tried to argue
that he had offered the books on eBay, along with other items, as
'signed' without any guarantees as to who had actually signed
Two of the charges on which he was found
guilty related to the possession of articles for use in fraud, but
he was cleared of two counts of fraud, with the jury being unable
to reach a verdict on three further counts, which were ordered to
lie on the file.
Sentencing will take place on December 21 and Formhals has been
told to expect a custodial sentence. His assets have been frozen
and action will be taken to recover the proceeds of his crimes.