Real or Repro? Read the Fine Script

My co-owner and dear hubby spotted an interesting listing on eBay:

Civil war confederate documents. Signed by Jefferson Davis and LP Walker

Description: "Was dug from the ground on property in Woodbridge VA"

One of the best arguments I've seen for continuing to teach cursive writing to schoolchildren is that without it, they won't be able to read historical documents. Surely, that must be the case here — the sad degradation of literacy — because this item is currently bid up to $305 with two days left.

In particular, it pays to read dates. Perhaps today's Civil War buffs have lost the ability to translate years into long form. Are they not teaching that in school these days? Maybe not, since my college-age kids don't know Roman numerals. If a book is copyrighted MCMXLVII, they will have no clue that it was printed in 1947.

And our current year, in long form? Two thousand nineteen. That's an easy one. How about One thousand nine hundred and sixty four?

Maybe Jefferson Davis didn't know how to write out dates in long form, either.

Or maybe he just had a brain fart and thought it was 1964 instead of 1864?

Twice? Oh wait, this one is "Nineteen hundred and sixty four."

We can laugh at this, but it chaps me, because as an eBay seller myself I care about the site's integrity and reputation. A lot of people already mistrust eBay sellers, and frauds like this don't help.

Of course you can find this sort of thing anywhere. So, be careful out there. If you're buying an historical document, verify its authenticity. We know about checking for authentic signatures, realistic condition of the paper (i.e., yellowed by time vs. chemicals and sunlight), and even if such a document exists in the historical record. I suspect it was lifted from The Jefferson Papers, Vol. 10 -- but I'm not sure.

Many times, though, all you have to do is read the thing. Caveat emptor!


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