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Make-believe: The secret library of M. Prud’homme -- a rare collection of fakes!

Published by Rebecca Dowson

We are very excited to announce the launch of The Prud’homme Library, a physical and digital exhibition of artworks and artefacts recently discovered in the attic of a Saskatchewan farmhouse. The exhibition is a remarkable collection of fakes and forgeries, ranging from rare vases to space exploration logs, false obituaries to oil paintings. It is believed that an anonymous donor left a small wooden crate on the porch of the Bishop of Prince Albert Diocese, Msgr. Joseph Henri Prud’homme’s Palace in the late 1920s. Objects originally left by the donor include forged sheets of music, dubious botanical findings, and a falsely fabricated two-handled bronze gui vessel, characteristic of the Western Zhou (1045-771 BC) style.

Swindle (1917) – the only extant copy of a Modernist  journal found by students in the 1930s.

Swindle (1917) – the only extant copy of a Modernist  journal found by students in the 1930s.

The Prud’homme Library is curated by scholars and writers Claire Battershilland Heather Jessup. The DHIL has been proud to collaborate on the creation of the digital exhibit, www.prudhommelibrary.ca, which allows off-site participants to browse images of the remarkable objects along with their accompanying descriptions. 

Aegerium – early crude thermometer found in France in 1650 by Adelaide de Saint-Étienne.

Aegerium – early crude thermometer found in France in 1650 by Adelaide de Saint-Étienne.

The exquisite counterfeits include:

• A log book from Yuri Korshunov, the first human to endure the longest single space flight

• A 2920-piece collection of The Self-Portraits of Florence Baldisseri, completed in just eight years, from 16 to her death at just 24.

• A 19th century oil painting of “The Sacred Heart of Jesus”/“Le Sacré Coeur de Jesus” by Soeur Marguerite-Marie, which is thought to be a pseudonym for Sara Riel.

• A set of false obituaries that ran in The Washington Post in 1965.

• Quincunx, a limited-edition poetry book from Unni Magnuson, part of the infamous sex Club 57 but an otherwise unknown author.

• The Jun Ya gui: a two-handled bronze vessel dated (1045-771 B.C.)

• An aegerium, a type of crude “thermometer” used until the 13th century, rediscovered by a nurse in 1650.

• A Further History of Uncommon Birds by Phillip S. Fairmount, ornithological monograph.

The Self-Portraits of Florence Baldisseri – daily self portraits c.1974-1982

The Self-Portraits of Florence Baldisseri – daily self portraits c.1974-1982.

The curators do not known whether the anonymous first donor to the Prud’homme Library knew of the objects’ dubious origins, or if he or she believed them to be real historical objects of financial and historical worth.

Täydellinen Laulu (c.1945-1984) – musical composition  and jar of buttons belonging to Nemo Sibelius

Täydellinen Laulu (c.1945-1984) – musical composition mand jar of buttons belonging to Nemo Sibelius.

The physical exhibit will be on display in select cities across Canada from March 6 - August 20, 2019. See below for a full list of exhibit dates for each city. Entry is free.


Halifax: March 6 – 29

Opening Reception: Wednesday, March 6, 7-9pm

The Chase Gallery, 6016 University Avenue, Halifax


Toronto: May 3 – 20

Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 7-9pm (Upper Library)

The Robertson Davies Rare Book Library, Massey College, University of Toronto


Saskatoon: May 28 – June 27

Opening Reception: Thursday, May 30, 7-9pm

The Gallery at the Frances Morrison Central Library, 311-23rd Street East Saskatoon


Vancouver: July 5 – August 20

Opening Reception and Literary Reading: Wednesday July 10

Teen-Only Opening Gala: Thursday July 11

Opening Reception for Kids and Families: Saturday July 13

Vancouver Public Library Central Branch - Upper Ninth Floor Gallery, 350 W Georgia Street


For a full schedule of events, including workshops, visit www.prudhommelibrary.ca.

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