Fake fossil crabs, 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 1726, Beringer, a professor at Wurzburg in Germany, was fooled by two colleagues who had fake fossils carved and planted near the town. They hated his pompous arrogance and wanted to humiliate him. Beringer believed the 'fossils' to be genuine, and published this illustrated work on them. 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. The hoaxers were disgraced, but Beringer evidently recovered from the embarrassment and went on to write several more books.