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234 × 156 × 27 mm
256 pages
30 illustrations
01 May 2014
  • £20.00

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The Encyclopaedia of Liars and Deceivers Roelf Bolt

No one likes to be taken in, but stories of deception concerning others are compelling. It can be startling to learn of the credulousness of those who fall for schemes or untruths spun out by liars, cheats, fraudsters, fakers, even unfaithful lovers . . .  But deceit should not always be condemned: think of items counterfeited in jest, or satires that expose pretentiousness, or the necessity for forged identity papers in occupied Europe under the Nazis, or ingenious tricks by the Allies to wrongfoot German forces.

To collect these stories of deceit Roelf Bolt has ranged widely, from ancient times to the present day, documenting a huge assortment of legerdemain: infamous quacks, fraudulent scientists, crooks who committed ‘pseudocide’ by faking their own deaths, forgers of paintings and drawings, decorative arts, archaeological finds and documents of every sort. From counterfeit medicines and banknotes to bogus perpetual wonder-working machines and sports memorabilia, Bolt reveals that almost everything has been forged or faked by someone at some point in history. He offers biographies and general observations on specific categories of deceit, and the book includes a number of well-known figures – Einstein, Ernest Hemingway and President François Mitterand among them – as well as the many individuals who would have remained anonymous had their duplicity not come to light. All take their rightful place in the bizarre catalogue of comedy, crime and occasional genius that is The Encyclopaedia of Liars and Deceivers, the perfect gift for all those who enjoy a good story – and those people who like to tell them.

‘A cornucopia of curiosities, Bolts A to Z of 150 case studies is a raconteurs dream. Brimming with tales of forgeries, fakers, the faithless and the facile, it pays homage to the weird and sometimes wonderful, from criminal milkmen in 21st-century China, Ptolemys plagiarism in AD 150, Clever Hans, the horse that appeared to master arithmetic, and Hitlers diaries . . . deception is endemic in society. Bolt, as ringmaster of this menagerie of malcontents and mischiefs, allows us to glimpse outside the confines of the everyday. It is utterly diverting.’ — The Field

‘Another intriguing title from a smart and intriguing publisher (London-based Reaktion), Bolts is a book to inspire both pleasure and paranoia . . . assuming this is a genuine compilation of genuine (so to speak) fakes, con men and deluded lunatics and not Reaktions contribution to a psychological experiment the Encyclopaedia is a marvel.’ — Macleans Magazine, Canada

‘An easy and fun volume to browse . . . In a time when getting to the truth can involve ill-informed conjecture or a maze of grey areas, this encyclopedia provides a useful countermeasure with its treatment of verifiable falsehoods, fibbers, and facts found fictitious. Recommended’ — Choice

‘Strangely addictive. A reader is apt to feel repelled by a hoaxsters audacity and heartlessness yet intensely curious about how and why the deed was done.’ — The Boston Globe

‘Taken as a whole, there is something distinctly Borgesian about Bolts encyclopaedia, from its posthumous publication to its introductory ode to Room 46 of the Victoria and Albert Museum, whose collection of fake artefacts evidently set the project in motion . . . it gloriously succeeds as a catalogue of minutiae, a book to be dipped into and enjoyed at random. In the rogues gallery of quacks, forgers, con men, impostors, and plagiarists who populate its pages, we encounter an engaging sliver of the hundred thousand lies invoked by Montaigne.’ — Journal of Historical Geography

‘While this is a book about deception, dont let the title fool you. Its a collection of tales well-told, not a dry reference work. Bolts wry humor shines through, as does his passion for his subjects and their devious ways. Its an engrossing, addictive read. Take my word for it.’ — Dean Jobb, author of Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation

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A legal scholar and philosopher, Roelf Bolt (1970–2012) taught at university level. A lover of the weird and wonderful, his bookshelves were full of works on medical oddities and other curiosa, deluded visionaries and pseudoscientists.


An A to Z of 150 Case Studies

References and Sources

Photo Acknowledgements