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The Scarith of Scornello: A Tale of Renaissance Forgery Paperback – November 15, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0226730370 ISBN-10: 0226730379

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226730379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226730370
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,180,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The characters jump off the page through portraits incised with a skewer. Seasoned with Rowland's witty, empathetic understanding of the period, The Scarith of Scornello glides the reader into every historical situation so that understanding it requires little effort and no previous experience. It is not easy to find scholars with the expertise adequate to examine the philosophical and social implications of literary forgery--and with an intact sense of humor and fun. Rowland has it in spades."--Walter Stephens, author of Demon Lovers

(Stephens, Walter)

"Rowland's sparkling tale of forgery delivers entertainment of the highest order, regaling us with sly humor, limpid prose, delightful research, and acute historical observation. I read this book in a sitting."--Lauro Martines, author of April Blood: Florence and the Plot against the Medici

(Lauro Martines)

"A fascinating, erudite book."—Spectator
(Sarah Bradford Spectator 2004-11-20)

"[An] entertaining account."--Chronicle of Higher Education

(Nina Ayoub Chronicle of Higher Education 2004-12-17)

"[A] dazzling piece of scholarship . . ."--Garry Wills, New York Times Book Review

(Garry Wills New York Times Book Review 2005-01-16)

"Rowland skillfully weaves her way through this long-forgotten controversy, framing it within the cultural and political struggles between Rome and Tuscany, and the larger intellectual debates of the period. At every turn she provides fascinating detail about the workings of the scholarly world . . . In a mere 150 pages . . .she summons up a world and an age."—William Grimes, New York Times
(William Grimes New York Times 2005-01-05)

"Rowland reconstructs the whole story with flair and zest."--Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

(Merle Rubin Los Angeles Times Book Review 2005-01-16)

"Accessible to anyone who enjoys history . . . [a] small gem."--Library Journal, Starred Review
(Library Journal 2005-02-15)

"[A] well-written and well-researched . . . diverting little book."--The Washington TImes
(Eric Wargo Washington Times 2005-01-23)

"[A] remarkable book . . . Rowland's account . . .has the verve of a good detective story."--New York Review of Books
(Joseph Connors New York Review of Books 2005-02-24)

"With consummate skill and learning, Rowland has used this sometimes hilarious but always engrossing story to anatomise a fascinating period in Italian cultural politics. Her lucid and accessible narrative also shows how the animated discussion of the contents of Inghirami's scarith helped to stimulate the genuine investigation of Etruscan civilisation that is still in progress today. For anyone with Etruscan or seventeenth-century Tuscan interests, reading this elegant book should have the beneficial effect of drinking a glass of the best Chianti."--Times Higher Education Supplement
(Times Higher Education Supplement 2005-07-22)

Honorable Mention, Scaglione Prize for Italian Literary Studies, Modern Language Association

(Modern Language Association Scaglione Prize for Italian Literary Studies)

"Ingrid Rowland clearly shares Curzio's delight as she disentangles his web of forgeries, for this was an elegant and highly complex hoax -- and, in the era of the Inquisition, a brave one too. This is a fascinating and fresh perspective on Renaissance politics and society."--Stephen Butler, Daily Telegraph
(Stephen Butler Daily Telegraph 2006-01-21)

"[Rowland] immerses the reader in a delightful concoction of 17th-centurt antiquarian controversy and bibliographic intrigue. . . . A treasure for bibliophiles."
(College & Research Libraries News)

"Rowland tells this story magnificently. This reviewer enjoyed her book more than any other he read in 2004."
(William J. Connell Renaissance Quarterly)

"The Scarith of Scornello reads like an encyclopedia of Curzio's time. . . . Not only does Curzio's story come to life, but the world in which these events unfold, does so as well."
(Adriana Grimaldi Quaderni d'Italianistica)

"Congratulations to Ingrid D. Rowland for her riveting book. . . . It is a real page-turner, a fantastic tale well told. . . . Rowland has performed a valuable service to anyone interested not just in the past, but in how people use the past to suit their own purposes and fulfill their desire for a significant, noble, or glorious history. As such, Rowland's book should be in the libraries of scientists, historians, and, in fact, anyone interested in science or history."
(Kenneth L. Feder Journal of Modern History)

About the Author

Ingrid D. Rowland has taught at the University of Chicago and at the American Academy in Rome. She is a contributor to the New York Review of Books and the author of several books, including The Culture of the High Renaissance: Ancients and Moderns in Sixteenth-Century Rome and The Ecstatic Journey: Athanasius Kircher in Baroque Rome.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 4, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
THE SCARITH OF SCORNELLO, by Ingrid Rowland, is the story of a seventeenth-century hoax, perpetrated in Tuscany. The story makes me wonder whether and how various twentieth-century hoaxes will be remembered three centuries from now - such matters as Clifford Irving's authorized biography of Howard Hughes or the "Hitler Diaries" that "Das Stern" published. My guess is that most of them will have faded into utter oblivion, unless and until a future Rowland comes along to restore them to historical consciousness for a generation or so.

"Scarith" was the word given to small capsules of mud and hair first found in 1634 by 19-year-old Curzio Inghirami on his family's estate near the town of Volterra in a part of the Duchy of Tuscany that two millennia before had been an Etruscan stronghold. Inside the scarith (the same form of word is used for both the singular and plural) were pieces of linen rag paper bearing writings in both Etruscan and Latin from, purportedly, an Etruscan priest named Prospero of Fiesole who secreted them for posterity just before succumbing to vindictive Roman imperialism around 62 B.C. Taken cumulatively, the papers of the scarith revealed a more glorious, sophisticated, and noble Etruria than previously was commonly accepted. They also were startlingly prophetic about several matters, including the coming of the Messiah "after whom the years shall be numbered".

As some immediately suspected, it was all a hoax, something that soon became clear to all with eyes to see, unblinkered by some ancillary agenda.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Marcella Slabosky on August 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have no particular interest in archaeology, but this true account of a 17th century Etruscan archaeology forgery kept me completely engaged until I finished it. The author makes it quite clear almost from the first chapter that the the find is forgery, so there's little mystery to the book. But the controversy and politics surrounding the forgery, involving church leaders, nobility, and intellectuals across Europe make it clear that the concern about the genluineness of the archaeology find was secondary to everyone's concern about their own careers, reputations, and public images.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As right-thinking citizens, we all abhor crime. We think that the guy who forges a signature on someone else's check is a contemptible scoundrel. But forgers who do such things as paint masterpieces wonderfully well in the style of someone else, or forgers who write diaries of, say, Howard Hughes or Hitler, those we may find to be attractive scoundrels. They pull a prank and get away with it, or away enough with it that experts are fooled until other experts force the truth upon them. In _The Scarith of Scornello: A Tale of Renaissance Forgery_ (University of Chicago Press), Ingrid D. Rowland has written about a very peculiar forgery of the seventeenth century. It is a tiny piece of history, long overlooked, but the forger had his fun, and had a bit of influence for his times. Rowland's work is a serious piece of erudite scholarship, but the scoundrelism and the reactions to it make for fascinating reading.

In November 1634, Curzio Inghirami, nineteen years old, near his family's villa Scornello found a scarith, a capsule of mud containing peculiar documents written on paper in Latin and in Etruscan, the ancient language of the region that had yet to be deciphered. He eventually found over 200 of these, purporting to be documents from 64 BCE, which among other things, put a Tuscan spin on the Catline revolt against Rome, showed that Noah had founded the nearby ancient city of Volterra, and predicted the arrival of the Messiah. Curzio's book _Ethruscarum Antiquitatum Fragmenta_ appeared in 1636. Curzio's family ensured that the book was simply gorgeous, full of woodcuts and copperplate engravings on good quality paper. The book was designed to convince anyone who merely glimpsed at it of the truth of its contents.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on May 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
... is nothing new. It isn't an invention of today's disingenuous deniers of anthropogenic climate change. It was widespread and tremendously significant in the early centuries of Christianity, both in the 'interpretations' copyists intruded into the four canonic gospels and in outright forgeries like the influential writings of the Pseudo-Dionysius. But the boundaries between malicious fraud, purposeful fiction, and practical joke have never been absolute, and in Renaissance Italy, such boundaries were non-existent. The remarkable forgery reported in this study, committed by a clever teenager in 17th C Tuscany, had elements of all three, beginning perhaps as a 'beffa' - a satirical jest - flavored with chauvinistic purpose, and escaping the perpetrator's control to become a significant cultural conflict.

"Scornello" is a place, the seat of a powerful Tuscan family, the Inghirami. "Scarith" is the word invented by Curzio Inghirami to designate the "time capsules" containing the messages to the future of the fictitious Etruscan priest Prospero, which Curzio and his sister planted around Scornello and then later claimed to 'discover' by accident. Their forgery wasn't very well executed, but the techniques of forensic archaeology were not very well developed in Renaissance Italy either. Skeptics leaped on Curzio's claims almost immediately, relying chiefly on textual clues in the young Volterran's Latin syntax. From our lofty knowledge of the detective's craft, it seems almost comical that none of the skeptics thought to compare Curzio's handwriting to Prospero's purported script.
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