Who will not be ready to pay a sum of money to acquire one of their favourite freedom fighter’s antique signed letter? But how genuine that letter might be? Is it really that old as it is claimed to be? Or is it fabricated by forgers? Artificial aging of paper is a method to imitate the paper’s natural aging process under simulated conditions to deceive someone. This study provides some basic tests and techniques to determine whether the claimed ‘aged’ document is really old or fabricated. The current study was done by analysing of the properties of the paper viz. colour, odour, texture, and examination under the microscope and Video Spectral Comparator to observe the fibre properties and influence of different light sources such as incident and transmitted UV, infrared, and monochromatic white light. This research yielded several observations that were different for artificially aged papers and naturally old papers. The results obtained thus tends to provide a document examiner with some preliminary tests to prove that the paper is naturally aged or artificially aged, and to differentiate between the two, before proceeding onto further expensive authentication methods such as PSA/DNA or JSA authentication techniques, ink analysis, and handwriting or typewriting analyses.
Keywords: Age of document; Artificial aging of paper; Paper staining; Dating of paper; Old documents
Abbreviations: VSC: Video Spectral Comparator; FTIR: Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy; PSA/DNA: In-the-presence authentication; JSA: James Spence Authentication
As Albert S. Osborn mentioned in his book Question Documents, “No matter how suspicious the circumstances surrounding a fraudulent document, or how incredible the story of how it was found, or how generally improbable the alleged act may be, it usually becomes necessary first or last to prove the fraud, if it is to be proved at all, from the document itself. One of the first of the questions that naturally arise in such an inquiry is whether it is possible to show that a fraudulent document is not as old as it purports to be. This cannot always be done, but the question should always be investigated in a thorough, systematic manner. Questions of age enter into the study of disputed documents in many ways. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been paid for spurious letters and writings of various kinds purporting to have been written by famous people. The most astonishing credulity is shown by purchasers of documents of this kind. These spurious papers are cherished with the greatest care, apparently with no suspicion that they were manufactured to be
sold like certain imitation antique furniture.” (Osborn, 1910). Several experiments and tests were established to identify the age
of documents scientifically. These methods include radiocarbon dating, FTIR spectroscopy. Other techniques can be the analysis of inks and their components to trace the time period of their origin, PSA/DNA or JSA authentication techniques, handwriting or typewriting analyses. Though there are some indirect and expensive tests available for the identification of age of a paper, there is no well-defined technique to differentiate an artificially aged document from a naturally aged document, so far. (Can we find absolute age of paper?, 2015). A proper standard will often open up an investigation that will lead to evidence of great value. Like the other studied previously researched regarding the age of the document, investigation of this matter of artificially aged document should be taken up and carried through following a definite routine in order that nothing may be overlooked, as mentioned by Osborn [1-6].
In the famous Hitler’s diary forgery case, a man named Konrad
Kujau claimed that he possessed the diary of the notorious dictator
Adolf Hitler, which he alleged to had been recovered from a crashed
plane. The diary was sold to the Sunday Times magazine for about
3.7 million dollars, and several copies were printed. But later when
subjected to forensic examination regarding the authenticity of its
age, it was proved to have been forged and stained using nothing
but tea. The paper analysis proved that it was forged between
1981-83, but was said to be written in the pre-war era in which
that quality of paper was not yet manufactured. To manifest this,
the diary sample was exposed to several complex chemical testing
techniques and also signature analyses. It took a long time to
prove the genuineness of its age, before which thousands of copies
had already been sold in the market. Could there had been a much
simpler technique to analyse the paper in order to find whether it
is really old or forged, these losses could have been saved. Another
famous case of the 1990s is of Leonore Carol “Lee” Israel,an
American author known for committing literary forgery, by faking
around 400 letters from deceased celebrities, including writers
Noel Coward, Dorothy Parker, and Lillian Hellman, and sold them
to literary dealers. Only if there was a cheaper method to be
incorporated by the small-scale antique buyers, these forgeries
could have been avoided. This study’s aim was to create artificially
aged documents using various agents on different types of papers,
to establish the general characteristics of those forged documents,
and to prove that they are artificially aged [7-15].
1. For each method of aging, several samples are created
for each paper type.
2. The agents are applied to the papers using two methods
i. Dipping in the solution
ii. Brushing the solution
3. For methods like sun drying, baking, and ironing,
appropriate procedures are used.
4. The samples are then subjected to various analysis
5. Observations are made and the results are inferred.
There is no single method that can exactly make a paper
resemble a naturally old paper. Different types of paper used has
differing results based on their reaction with different artificial
aging agents [16-24]. Each paper type and their reaction with
artificial agents, which resembles naturally old paper are plotted on pie charts Figure 2-6.
From this research study, it is confirmed that it is not possible
to age a new paper in and out exactly like the naturally aged one.
Instead, it is possible to forge a new paper exactly like a naturally
aged paper, by appearance alone [26,27]. In that context, the
differences between naturally aged and artificially aged samples
are mentioned in Table 1 above, and they can be considered as the
basic comparison factors to justify the genuineness of an acclaimed
old document. On the contrary to the popular notion that expensive
and complex techniques such as FTIR spectroscopy, radio-carbon
dating, ink analysis, etc. are necessary to differentiate artificially
and naturally aged papers. But the differentiation can be done
with a few basic scientific examinations and techniques listed in
this study. In a hypothetical situation, it is possible for someone
to frame an authentic document holder by adding artificial agents
on naturally old paper. In such cases, it is certain that these agents
do have specific effects on the naturally old papers, but very
superficially. Internally, these agents had negligible or no effect on
the old papers. And when the samples were treated with certain
simple discolouring agents such as water, vinegar, and bleach, the
effect on papers was different depending upon the paper type and
the artificial agent used on them from mild to complete whitening/
discoloration of the paper. This discoloration caused pertaining
to the falsity of the age of the document is in contrast to the
naturally aged documents in which no or negligible discolorations
is observed. This can act as yet another identification technique to
differentiate original and forged samples.
Finally, it is noted that not only the artificial aging agents are
responsible for the changes in characteristics of the paper, but
other factors such as the paper type, additional treatments like
water or hot iron, and application method of agents also had a
combined effect on the samples leading to its aged appearance.