Talk:False document

Page contents not supported in other languages.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
WikiProject iconCrime and Criminal Biography C‑class Low‑importance
WikiProject iconThis article is within the scope of WikiProject Crime and Criminal Biography, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Crime and Criminal Biography articles on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
CThis article has been rated as C-class on Wikipedia's content assessment scale.
 Low This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject iconLiterature C‑class Low‑importance
WikiProject iconThis article is within the scope of WikiProject Literature, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Literature on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
CThis article has been rated as C-class on Wikipedia's content assessment scale.
 Low This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.

Straying from the Definition[edit]

It seems to me that many of the examples listed aren't really false documents, but just fictional books mentioned within fictional books. In a false document, the author should make some attempt to convince people that the story is actually true, such as "The Seven Per-cent Solution" where Nicholas Meyers gives a false provenance showing that the story was written by Dr. Watson. Things like "The Hitchhiker's Guide tot he Galaxy" and "The Encyclopedia of Tlon" are plot devices to advance the story or convey information to the reader. Seantrinityohara (talk) 15:21, 17 October 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

House of Leaves[edit]

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski appears to be a prime candidate for inclusion. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:52, 19 March 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Not entirely accurate. Danielewski makes no effort to imply that the book itself is a false document. As an epistolary novel, it is however composed of elements presented as real-world documents that do not really exist outside the book, such as Johnny Truant's diary and the documentary film that Truant is ostensibly writing about. These might be considered false documents, but not the novel itself. Canonblack (talk) 15:06, 4 May 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]


(I'm adding this above title now for obvious reasons --Ludvikus (talk) 00:03, 20 April 2008 (UTC))Reply[reply]

Trimalchio put:

in the "False Documents in Art" section, and I can't remember any false documents in Watchmen (although it's been quite a while since I read it). Please explain, if you're going to move it back.

There are numerous "Newspaper articles" and framing information included in the Watchmen story that fill in some of the background (and in some cases provide vital clues as to what's really going on). But otherwise I can't really see how it fits here. -- DrBob

And various other fake "sources" (memos, sections of autobiography), I don't know if that qualifies as False document since, to be honest, I found the article hard to follow.

Well, this is where fluidity comes into play for literary technique... I suppose maybe there should be at least two lists for the art.
Art that IS a false document by its nature. Art that USES false documents to create an effect.
This is true for a lot of literary tricks and conceits, and I guess there is no easy answer to it. The Watchmen falls more under the second category... and clearly so. But I wonder about adding the second category because it leads to a kind of endless equivocation. What I meant by just one category is that these are works of art that find false documents to be central to the way they tell their tale. All kinds of other things use false documents, but in many cases only in small ways. Does Laura Palmer's Diary make Twin Peaks fall into this list? I don't think so... though the diary itself might fit. Anyway, I felt that Watchmen used false documents in a centrally important way, especially because verisimiltude in general was so important as it worked in opposition to the cartoonish origins of the material. So, while the work is not entirely composed of false documents, the documents that are used have a central thematic and technical role in the drama... especially Rorshach's psychiatric history and the Pirate Comic that plays as counterpoint to the larger narrative (and is the product of one of the kidnapped artists). The whole book, in a way, is about levels of authenticity. Is Roshsach the real masked hero because of his intense personal conviction, or is it Night Owl because of the level of energy and money that he dedicated to more and more elaborate toys and masks? The book is all about props and masks and a general investigation of "realness" and "perfection." It tries to inspect the depth and literality of an Ubermensch in a naturlistic setting. There is a kind of arms race of realness going on in the evolution of super heros as described by the book, starting with a masked wrestler, then a masked cop, then techno-dilletantes and madmen and vigalantes, finally culminating in Doctor Manhattan--the hero that is so "real" that he not only makes superheroes obsolete, he makes all of mankind irrelevant. For all of these reasons I felt that this book centrally exployed the kind of issues of authenticity that false documents are all about.
By contrast, From Hell may use documentary evidence, but in no way does it explore these kinds of issues or make an issue of whether something is false or not. I only mention it to show that there is something outside of my working definition of a false document. However, the criticism is well put and graciously taken. I wonder what you guys think. --trimalchio

Excellent answer, trimalchio -- thanks!

Say what? How could Currency of the American Confederacy qualify as a False document? Or am I not getting a ref?

Quite right. Hadn't thought that one through. As a northerner, I typically think of the southern seccession as politically ambiguous. So Confederate Currency is equated in my mind with the currency printed by Japan in WWII that they intended to use in captured territory, including new US Dollars... a kind of artificial statement of victory before the fact. But, upon reflection, I can see a whole galaxy of NPOV issues there. So, I have moved the material here for discussion.
False Documents in History
  • Currency of the American Confederacy

I don't buy this one at all either. Confederate currency was the legitimate, useful currency of a sovereign country. Soldiers were paid with it, and they bought food with it, and farmers traded with it. It only became wallpaper after the surrender. Calling it "fake" is like calling Webvan stock certificates "fake" just because they aren't worth anything anymore either. They were, nonetheless, legitimately traded when they were. --Lee Daniel Crocker

I agree that it doesn't belong on the page because the issues surrounding are too thorny, but the reason that Confederate Currency comes up as an issue when talking about false documents is because of the Authenticity problem. That is, if US Dollars are "real" and Monopoly Dollars are "fake" on this spectrum of Documentary Authenticity, what do we do with all of the stuff in between? This is Weschler's central issue in BOGGS. What makes something authentic, and another thing a forgery? Is Sealand money as real as US Dollars? Is Sealand money more real than Monopoly Money? Is it more or less real than confederate currency? In the end, the currency becomes a focal point of discussion because Confederate Currency exists in a kind of Schrodinger's Cat type-situation, existing forever between states, on the cusp of being real, but not quite. It's like Weimar Republic currency, or even, arguably, (from some points of view) US currency after stepping off the gold standard. It is not so much a false document as it is a case example of how all documents are one step away from becoming false. The only thing, from a certain point of view, that is real, is the transaction itself. Documents become arbitrary artifacts in a ritual of culture and faith. But, you are right, for all practical purposes the currency was real. --t

See the Pragmatists, Logical Positivists, and Wittgenstein (and for that matter, Philip K. Dick). Something is "real" in the senses we can use it. Monopoly money is "real" for playing Monopoly. U.S currency is "real" for buying things in the USA.

This is very interesting article!

"False document" is the usual technical term for the technique? --LMS

Well, it is only now being studied, and the terms haven't entirely settled down. I am relying on the version of this theory as put forth (in a sort of unofficial way) by Charles Baxter and Eileen Pollack at the University of Michigan, with whom I have done my own exploration. It's difficult to translate academics in motion to an encyclopedia... especially because I am a "staff member" of sorts and not an academic per se. --trimalchio
More to the point, I know of no established alternative term. Like I said, it is to my knowledge an unexplored (or underexplored) part of the discipline. The graduate seminar that Professor Pollack organized with my help was, at best, a university curiosity.

Aha. Well, all this should be stated very clearly in the article, I should think. Wikipedia isn't the place to publish new research, but since it's probably not entirely now, it's fine. Still, I think we should have details about the study of false documents, if that's the term used most by Baxter and Pollack and others, particularly that the theory behind it is all very new. --LMS

It appears that the wikipedian internal link to "Ova Prima" on the "False Document" article is BROKEN. Otherwise quite enjoyable, an interesting meme. -Flobie

Tolkien as purportedly nonfiction[edit]

I don't see how the Lord of the Rings employs a false document. I realize that Tolkien wrote languages, poetry, etc. that complement his novels, but where does he try to convince the reader that his mythology is true? The poems and snippets of languages found in LOTR are merely part of the fantasy. If all it takes for a work to be considered a false document is some made-up aspect of life or culture, than most, if not all, novels fit in the category. I could add Robinson Crusoe, A Tale of Two Cities, Wuthering Heights, Don Quixote; indeed, every novel which is by definition fictional is one of our "false documents."

"The Lord of the Rings", "The Hobbit" and "The Silmarillion" are all supposedly based on Bilbo's work, "The Red Book of Westmarch". It consists of Bilbo's diary and commentaries, and additions from Frodo. -- Zoe
Wouldn't that put them more into the realm of the epistolary novel than the false document? I just don't see Tolkien's works passing the definition in the first paragraph of this article; while I may feel that it's a well-constructed fiction, I never have occasion to doubt that the parts that present it as fact are themselves fiction. --Brion VIBBER
I agree. There are few novels that begin, "this is just fiction"; virtually all portray their events as factual.
The Book of Westmarch is portrayed in the Appendicies as being a real historical document. All of Tolkien's fiction from Middle Earth is claimed to be translations from the original books written in historical time. His notes about translation are clear, there was a real Common Tongue and the family trees identify real persons who existed; the names have been altered to fit better into his English 'translation.' oneismany 11:26, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
Perhaps Lord of the rings has an epistolary aspect to it, in the Appendicies, but it is not largely composed of journal entries or newspaper articles. The story of the book is supposed to be a reconstruction of what really happened, based on historical documents. oneismany 11:29, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

On that note, I've removed the following portion of the text. The parts that somebody thinks are actually legitimate can be restored:


This has left open a very troubling debate. The divisions between the creation of authenticity through documents and actual authenticity in documentary evidence is unclear. The distinction between an "official" document and a forgery is sometimes only as clear as the prevailing political winds. Confederate Currency from the American Civil War and the Japanese Dollars printed by Japan in WWII in anticipation of taking American lands both illustrate the ambiguity of even the most officially produced documents. The work of Mr. Boggs further complicates the issue.

What divides an artistic endeavor from a political one or an economic one rests, almost entirely, on the ephemeral issue of intent.

False Documents in Art[edit]


The bit about Confederate & Japanese occupation dollars is 100% bull (they're not official United States currency, but they were backed by some authority at the time -- even Monopoly money is legitimate for playing Monopoly!), and a whooole lot of that list is just ordinary fiction, some of it in epistolary form. --Brion VIBBER 00:41 Aug 7, 2002 (PDT)

The dollars produced by the Japanese government in WW2 are often cause for confusion in the US. The fact is that they were not US dollars, they were Malayan dollars issued by the occupation authorities in Malaya and used as currency there. The Japanese government also issued banknotes denominated in guilders for use in the Dutch East Indies, and in pounds for various island chains in the SW Pacific. Collectively they are referred to in note-collecting circles as "JIM" - Japanese Invasion Money. Arwel 14:46 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC)

I've restored a few of these entries within a narrower context, see mainpage Nixdorf 10:47, 10 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Is the Zimmermann Telegram a real document or was it faked by British intelligence? -- Zoe

It was real, see [1] for example. The Brits did use it cleverly to play it out on the Americans to prevent it from being seen as a false document in stead.

Blair Witch Project?[edit]

Is Blair Witch Project an example?

Osias, unregistred -- 12:15, 22 Aug 2004 (UTC)

False documents in religion?[edit]

Such as The True Furqan - a Palestinian Christian's attempt to copy the style of the Qu'ran?

Asimov's Thiotimeline Series?[edit]

I'm not sure about the second or third, but I'm pretty certain the original Endochronic Properties of Thiotimeline was a false document purporting to be a paper on a substance that could travel through time.

--Alazoral 01:31, 14 Feb 2005 (UTC)

This was always intended as a work of fiction, never any kind of a hoax. Unlike the Sokal paper, it was never published in a reputable academic journal. The joke depends on the format, borrowed from real academic papers, and probably qualifies the story as a "false document" to the same degree, and in the same way, as Gulliver's Travels.

Astro jpc 17:43, 2 April 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Paris in the Twentieth Century[edit]

Paris in the Twentieth Century is claimed to be a real found manuscript by Jules Verne. Should it be mentioned here somehow? --Error 00:23, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Science fiction?[edit]

In my opinion, the definition and examples in this article should only include works that a reader could easily interpret--as per the author's intent--as being true, and that therefore any documents referenced in the work must also exist. Works which are clearly science fiction should not be on the list--no one who reads The Man in the High Castle is going to think that The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a real book. The same is true of The Foundation series, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Watchmen.

Maybe I'm wrong on this, though. I'd like to know what others think.


I reverted the re-adding of Watchmen to the literary examples, based on my above argument, but I would like to discuss this, please. --Mumblingmynah 10:26, 7 September 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Fiction in Fiction and other alternative conceptions[edit]

Suggestion, how about discerning among the conceptual status of different fictions? For example, The Necronomicon and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are both fictional and taken to be fiction by any reader of Lovecraft or Douglas Adams, respectively. Both of these examples appear in fictional stories that take these documents to be true. But, they are actually references with imaginary antecedents. I.e. there was no "Necronomicon" until Lovecraft quoted 'excerpts' from it, nor any "Hitchhiker's Guide" until Adams's characters consulted 'entries' from it. Their only previous existence was in the minds of their authors. The excerpts that exist comprise the entire extant Necronomicon and Hitchhiker's Guide, notwithstanding real books with the same titles that might purport to be the same books. They are not meant to be taken as true in reality, they are only true within their respective fictions. Of course such examples beg the question of truth, but it is common to regard the truth of a work of fiction to be contextual, that is, consistency with the other suppositions of the fiction.

The truth status of a fictional document that claims to be true but only in another fiction, is undecidable from the perspective of the fiction that it appears in. Consult the Wiki articles on Godel, and his inconsistency and incompleteness theorems. Briefly, a countable set of consistent axioms can't prove or refute a contradiction among themselves, or prove their own consistency. How this applies to 'false documents' is that although you and I know (or at least their creators knew) that such books as the Necronomicon and the Hitchhiker's Guide are not true in our world, the characters who read them in the stories that they appear in do not know that. Although a quote from these books could in theory be correctible in the story, the stories themselves assume the books to be true, so proving them false would prove the fiction false and hence prove the book within the book true!

Both of these examples are fiction, but true in their context. Other possibilities exist that might be termed 'false documents.' Fiction that is supposed to be fiction within the fiction that it appears in. Nonfiction that appears in fiction and is supposed to be nonfiction in the fiction. Nonfiction that is supposed to be fiction in the fiction. Any of the above might be satirical, or partially satirical and partially serious. Then there is parody, which might be composed of fiction and nonfiction, neither of which is to be taken seriously. Of course it all depends on context.

This encyclopedia entry could be divided into sections with examples of each kind of 'false document.' The term 'False document' may not apply to some examples and could be changed, or some of the examples could be included in another entry. Other possibilities exist. Opinions?

oneismany 11:13, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

Hoax/Forgery example[edit]

Protocols of the Elders of Zion Jaysbro 23:58, 10 November 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Modern literary example[edit]

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events Jaysbro 23:58, 10 November 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

But the author has asserted in interviews his contention that the story is actually true, though the identities of the individuals have been changed to protect their privacy and for comic or literary effect. Nuttyskin (talk) 17:34, 27 February 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Journal of Irreproducible Results[edit]

The article lists Journal of Irreproducible Results as a hoax. Is it really a hoax, the purpose is not to deceive? --Bubba73 (talk), 03:35, 23 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Mystery solved with POV![edit]

Wow, it says here the DaVinci Code is undoubtedly based on false documents! Then what is all the controversy about, when you can just say it's all forged right here! (It even says Dan Brown helped making the documents up! Who knew!)

OF COURSE it's not certain if the many documents the novel talks about are fake or not, so as long as nobody is sure about that, then there is no reason for it to be here! Kreachure 17:43, 28 May 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What's not certain? The whole thing about the Priory of Sion has been proven to be a hoax. The people who perpetrated the hoax admitted to this in open court. I'm re-adding The Da Vinci Code back to the list, based on this. -- 16:37, 22 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

In Fiction: Crichton's Airframe?[edit]

Would not Michael Crichton's Airframe qualify? The page for the book specifically links and mentions false documents, but this page does not include the book. --Cipherswarm 16:05, 21 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think the matter here is trying to be useful, but not exhaustive. We could add every instance of a false document, but it would be a bit much. —Cliffb 19:43, 16 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Indian Politics[edit]

I'm not sure what the Indian Politics section conveys, let alone if it should be in this article. I'm tagging the paragraph with {{fact}} and unless discussion to the contrary I'll delete it in five days. —Cliffb 19:43, 16 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Life of Pi?[edit]

Shouldn't Life of Pi by Yann Martel be included here?

Texas Chainsaw, Last House on the Left[edit]

I would not count Texas Chainsaw as a false document, since the narration only claims that it was "an account"-an account of something only means a narrative or scenario of events, not necessarily that the events are true. However, The Last House on the Left's introduction claimed the events depicted were true, so that is a blatant false document.

Enda80 22:54, 31 January 2007 (UTC)Enda80Reply[reply]

The List In The "False Documents In Fiction" Section - Is It Necessary Or Useful, Really?[edit]

The device is so common that any attempt to list the works that use it can only be woefully incomplete and inadequate to the task; it would seem to be one of the very oldest and most widespread literary devices ever created. The list as it is now, in spite of the fact that it contains only a minute fraction of all possible works that could be included, takes up rather a large part of the entire article. I would think that the best thing to do would be to simply delete the entire list and replace it with a statement that is a common device, and perhaps put in one or two of the earliest examples; that would suffice, I think. Hi There 09:28, 20 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This list clearly has value even if it can never hope to be exhaustive. Equally though it's out of place in this article and detracts from it. Should it not be moved to a separate 'list of' article with a few of the more notable examples (Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe?) retained for illustrative purposes and a link to the larger list for those who are interested. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:45, 23 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I would argue that "false documents" is in of itself another word for Epistolary writing, a device used to draw the reader in by formatting the novel in the form of letters, faxes, emails and other typees of communication that suggest what is happening is real.

My suggestion would be to add all the novels mentioned here into Epistolary Novels category:

[User:Pakaal|Pakaal]], 7:03 pm, 28 August, 2010 (Hawaiian Time) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Pakaal (talkcontribs) 05:04, 29 August 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]


To be honest I found the article slightly confusing so I can't tell for sure, but shouldn't Ossian be one of the most important examples? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 22:30, 9 May 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]

Alternative Terms[edit]

Are there other terms used in literary criticism for "false documents?" --jenlight 23:24, 4 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The common term is Epistolary writing.

--Pakaal 7:07pm, 28 August 2010 (Hawaiian Time) —Preceding undated comment added 05:08, 29 August 2010 (UTC).Reply[reply]


should operation mincemeat be included? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:39, 30 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What gives?[edit]


I noticed this:

"The moral and legal implications of false document art are, by necessity, complex and perhaps insoluble. The difference between a great artistic achievement and a stunning forgery is slim."

Has anyone ever actually been punished for breaking the law with a work of art they made like this? If so, should there be a mention? (Although I doubt it's happened as if the issues are too complex to solve no judge on Earth could ever rule one way or another on it!) mike4ty4 (talk) 05:52, 9 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

False Documents in Theory[edit]

I'm enjoying this article, trying to relate it to things I know. Maybe 63% understanding it, which is not bad for me reading an article of this degree of abstraction.

But the section "False Documents in Theory" stumps me. What does that mean? (I confess to not having read any of the three examples given.) But where are you going with this section? Please can the text give some indication?

The story "The Naval Treaty", included in "Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes", includes a letter to Dr. Watson from his old schoolfellow, Percy Phelps.

To clarify your concept of "false document", does this make the letter a false document, or does it make the story a false document? I'm guessing the former, but I don't think the article makes this clear.

In the Holmes story "The Five Orange Pips" there is a "quotation" from the American Encyclopedia, read aloud by Holmes. In "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" (both are in the book "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"), Holmes reads a newspaper clipping about a jewel robbery. I expect these are both false documents. If this is so, then many if not most of the Holmes stories contain false documents.

A fascinating idea. Thanks. Wanderer57 (talk) 00:38, 14 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

PS I see the suggestion above to remove all examples from the article. Don't do that (IMHO). Some examples are essential to make the concept clear. Wanderer57 (talk) 00:43, 14 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Wouldn't every Sherlock Holmes story be an example of this, since they are all told through Watson's diary? (talk) 21:56, 8 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Frustrating Article[edit]

This article is interesting but very frustrating.

  • So many diverse things have been brought in as examples of false documents that the concept now seems to me generalized almost to the point of being meaningless and useless.
  • The last time a comment or question asked in the talk page was given a response was August 2006.

Does anyone (except me) have this article on their watchlist? Some feedback would be appreciated.

Thanks, Wanderer57 (talk) 19:05, 9 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Dictionary meaning(s)[edit]

  • I just want it noted here that my CD Merriam-Webster dictionary has no entry for "false document"? Accordingly, how would one defend a charge this we have by this article a neologism? --Ludvikus (talk) 23:56, 19 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

RFC: Scope of FALSE DOCUMENT article[edit]

The initial scope of this article was a "false document" as a literary device. Has the article become a catchall and lost its focus and value? Wanderer57 (talk) 16:55, 20 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Well, more specifically Rama 2. There is a small ammount of documentation in it, regarding the intelligence, social skills, and likelihood to get along with each other based on tests (it's been about a year or two since I read it last, you'll have to forgive my poor memory) but that there are fictional tests means that the documents from them would be false documents.. - NemFX (talk) 04:24, 28 May 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

But it's Art...[edit]


I saw this:

"I noticed this:

"The moral and legal implications of false document art are, by necessity, complex and perhaps insoluble. The difference between a great artistic achievement and a stunning forgery is slim."

But it's art, so if it's explicitly marked as such (art), then why is there a problem? Also, have the courts ever ruled on this (dobutful since the issues are possibly "insoluble", meaning no court on Earth would be able to untangle them.)? mike4ty4 (talk) 01:37, 2 July 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

False document, or forgery?[edit]

What is the difference between a "false document" and a "forged document"?

Also, I cannot believe that "One of the earliest examples of the technique is the 16th century chivalric romance Amadis of Gaul (1508, Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo)." There must have been false documents around in biblical times.

--Austrian (talk) 23:38, 29 October 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Re: Protocols of the Elders of Zion[edit]

It's a small point, and quite peripheral, but worth pointing out. Since it is difficult to imagine a typesetter working without a manuscript, we must assume that one existed. The contemporaries and enemies of Restif de la Bretonne have both attested to the author actually composing directly onto the page form of a printing press with moveable type. Despite writing in the 18th Century, this must make him the first author to write using the idea if not the actual artefact of a typewriter - or indeed, a wordprocessor. Nuttyskin (talk) 17:43, 27 February 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

More documents[edit]

Would the "insertions" in the files at The National Archives (as mentioned on that WP page), and the Report from Iron Mountain be false documents? Jackiespeel (talk) 19:29, 9 November 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Tanaka memorial[edit]

What about the Tanaka memorial of the late 1930s?-- (talk) 03:34, 27 November 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Very confusing article[edit]

I am reading the article for the first time and for me it´s not possible to understand the meaning of "false document" from the text as it is. The first paragraph is not clear and does not resolve if it is a technique from literature, or an intended fraud. The spirit of the paragraph though makes to think that it aims to cheat on the receiver of the document. But the examples named below are in complete contradiction with that (nobody is expected to believe in Tlon, or Uqbar from Borges text, but it is shown as an example though).

English is not my first language so i am not sure wich meaning is correct. I originally searched for the article with the intention of knowing it — Preceding unsigned comment added by Titopte (talkcontribs) 00:19, 10 January 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I suggest breaking the large list in this article into at least five and perhaps more separate lists. Distinguishing at least the following:

  1. Works where the "false document" element is merely marketing, e.g. "Fargo" falsely claimed to be a true story.
  2. Works which claim internally to be something they are not (e.g. Goldman's "The Princess Bride" has footnotes and interjections which keep up the pretence that it is an abridgement of an existing story by a fictional person)
  3. Fictional works that merely refer to other works that do not exist (this is arguably no different from referring to people or places that don't exist)
  4. Apparently factual works that were discovered to be in part or in whole fiction (fake diaries, that sort of thing)
  5. Fragmentary works created as part of a larger fiction, where the "entire" work never existed. e.g. the "Black Freighter" comics in Watchmen, or the introductions to non-existent books in Stanisław Lem's "Imaginary Magnitude") (talk) 13:17, 14 January 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

We have to distinguish false documents (which are made with the intent to deceive) from fictional documents (which are cited in order to create verisimilitude). DS (talk) 15:24, 31 December 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

False documents and false documentation[edit]

Should the article False documentation become a subsection of this page - or is there a fundamental difference between the two? Alternatively, is there 'a natural divide' so material can be partitioned between the two pages? Jackiespeel (talk) 10:30, 3 May 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The graduate-level seminar 'happened recently' - dates anyone? Jackiespeel (talk) 22:36, 11 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

the Barsoom tradition[edit]

In the entry for Edgar Rice Burroughs, is it worth mentioning that imitators such as Lin Carter (Jandar of Callisto) use the same framing device? —Tamfang (talk) 23:19, 17 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]


It looks like some people have mentioned this before, but it seems like this article should be split into 2, and a disambiguation page made for the term "false document"? — Preceding unsigned comment added by CeraWithaC (talkcontribs) 20:49, 2 August 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Removal of db/hijack material[edit]

I just removed a chunk of text from the article. A template had been in place since August 2017 regarding the insertion of information that appeared to be an attempt to turn the article into an invalid kind of db page. The inserted material in the lede gave a separate meaning for "false document", and an opening section apparently added at the same time confused "false document" with "falsified or forged contracts and credentials". None of the material I removed was supported by sources. Before attempting to re-add this information, please consider that this article is about false documents as defined in the lede, and not about real-world business swindles and fake credentials. There is other material still in the article that should probably also be removed.

From other comments on this page, it seems that this article is becoming subject to the same kinds of misunderstanding as the article Unseen character.

There is a specific definition for a false document: it is a literary device, as stated in the lede, and has nothing to do with real-world forgeries, swindles, and propaganda. Someone suggested merging this with False documentation; while there is right now some overlap between the two, there should be none. A false document is a literary device used to make the fiction seem more "real"; it does not include works of propaganda created to drive an audience to action by misleading or misinforming them, it does not include falsified information intended to commit a real-world crime.

A legitimate example of a false document is Lovecraft's Necronomicon, which he encouraged his colleagues to mention in their works, giving the fictional book "a life of its own" and thus lending verisimilitude to any work of fiction that also mentioned it.

A real-world book is only a false document if it is presented as something it is not; William Goldman's The Princess Bride was purported by the author to be a translation of a lost manuscript when it was in fact an original creation by Goldman. Jay Anson's The Amityville Horror is a novel, but it was marketed initially as an account of a true story, incorporating the names of real people for some of the characters to make it seem to have a basis in reality (the fact that some of these real people were actually attempting fraud to escape a mortgage or engaging in embellishment to further their real-world careers does not make the book a false document; the claim that it is a journalistic account does).

Despite what someone commented earlier, an epistolary novel is not the same thing as a false document, but it may create false documents within the text to lend an aura of authenticity to the events of the plot; examples of this would be Dracula and House of Leaves, neither of which is a false document itself.

Adding to the confusion is the natural-language use of the phrase to refer to binding legal documents signed by parties that are intentionally misrepresenting their identities, goals or details of a legal matter. This is more properly termed an invalid document (once the fraud has been discovered), as opposed to a forgery, which is a document appearing to be legal or accurate which is intentionally otherwise. Either of these uses might more appropriately be termed a "falsified document" or false documentation. Canonblack (talk) 15:52, 4 May 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Feigned manuscript" or "Found document" in literature is nothing to do with "False document" in real life[edit]

I'm afraid that the many threads above, going back nearly 20 years now, testify to one simple fact obvious to anyone who's read a book that incorporates the feigned manuscript conceit, which is that there is no connection between this literary device and the practice of forging passports or financial documents or whatever for criminal purposes in real life. It is quite plain that many editors have had exactly this opinion: not surprising as it's, well, visibly correct and easily verified.

  • "Feigned manuscript": a supposed document that plays a role, often merely contextual, in a work of fiction.
  • "False document": a forgery, used to support a criminal activity.
  • And the "Epistolary novel" is actually a third subject that doesn't belong here either.

I suggest that we create a separate article, say "Feigned manuscript", and put all the literary material over there. The pedestrian practice of using forged documents for gain can then stay here, and we can use a hatnote if anyone thinks such a thing is necessary to distinguish the two. Chiswick Chap (talk) 16:44, 20 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I would certainly encourage a new article. The article as it stands is a mess that can’t be rescued, though several of its pieces would probably be useful elsewhere. It begins with a summary (“A false document is a technique by which an author aims to increase verisimilitude in a work of fiction…”) that explicitly makes most of the rest of the article irrelevant. But to change the summary to make it actually summarize the rest of the article, we would have to say something like “A false document is a document that is false,” because the rest of the article is an accumulation of examples of documents that are false in wildly different contexts. Chiswick Chap’s divisions would help. Instead of “Feigned manuscript,” I’d suggest “False document (literary technique),” to take in documents that are not in manuscript: the published play The King in Yellow in the Robert W. Chambers stories, for example, or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the Douglas Adams series.
Cbaile19 (talk) 17:37, 7 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]