Wednesday, 29 October 2014

amazon steals from war hero

Have I written about the Amazon scam where dodgy publishers take books they claim are out of copyright and offer them for (expensive) sale on a print-on-demand basis. Probably. And probably someone else has written about them.

Anyway, my favourite current example is a book called Van Meegeren, Master Forger, which various imprints with curious four letter names (Nabu Press, Ulan Press) are selling, out of the goodness of their scholarly hearts, because it was originally published prior to 1923, and represents a reproduction of an important historical work, maintaining the same format as the original work. While some publishers have opted to apply OCR (optical character recognition) technology to the process, we believe this leads to sub-optimal results (frequent typographical errors, strange characters and confusing formatting) and does not adequately preserve the historical character of the original artifact. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form.

How marvellous of them! This is the long tail at work! Our records will never die.

Except I suppose that the diligent old moles at Nabu and Ulan must have missed the title page, since the forgery which the book is about wasn't uncovered until the end of WW2, so the date, in a book about fakes no less, is pretty wild of the mark.

In fact, the book was written in 1967 by John Godley, Lord Kilbracken. You may know him as the author of The Easy Way of Bird Recognition or as a racing correspondent. Or the chap who gatecrashed the Great Red Square parade in Moscow on the 40th anniversary of the October uprising, wearing a pink Leander tie and with his trousers turned inside out. Or as a Fleet Air Arm pilot who won a DSC flying Fairey Swordfish, a Liberal peer who switch to Labour in 1966 and renounced his British citizenship and medals in 1972 over Britain's policy in Northern Ireland. He sat in the Lord's and was a big speaker for the Kurds.

Also, he sold square yards of Irish bog to Americans, hunted Rommel's treasure, squired Jayne Mansfield to buy cows (he christened his best milker Jayne) and married a much younger Australian spy. His Telegraph obit is great, as you would imagine.

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