Fake fosils of frogs, 1745.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Illustration from the second edition of 'Lithographiae Wirceburgensis' ('Wurzburg Lithography') by Joannes Bartholomaeus Beringer (d 1740) published in Frankfurt in 1767. In 1725, Beringer, a profesor at Wurzburg in Germany, was fooled by two colleagues who had fake fosils carved and planted near the town. They hated his pompous arrogance and wanted to humiliate him. Beringer believed the 'fosils' to be genuine, and published this illustrated work on them. With modern knowledge, it is easy to dismis Beringer as naive for believing that soft tisue such as skin, eyes, even spiderwebs and flowers, could be fosilised. It was only after the publication of the first edition of this work in 1726 that he discovered the hoax; some say after finding his own name amongst the stones.