The Institute came to the conclusion that even the most original and least controversial manuscript, that is, the Královédvorsk manuscript, is not an original, but a new text written on old parchment, from which the original text has been truncated. Over the next fifty years or so, the question of the authenticity of the documents seemed to be resolved.
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But in 2017 and 2018, another research appeared, again questioning the opinion of forensic specialists. Because he used x-ray imaging, and the x-ray images showed none of the under-layers of the scratched writing. To this day, we do not know for sure how old the manuscripts actually are. According to some indications, the author of the poems in them could be the Rákovnice writer David Crinitus Nepomucký of Hlavačov, who lived between 1531 and 1587.
The article title is actually not accurate. It cannot be said unequivocally that the manuscripts are in fact a “hoax”, that is, fraud or ambiguity. Their story is essentially the story of a multi-year disinformation war.
The manuscript of the Royal Court is generally said to have been discovered, or “discovered” (if he had stashed it there before there), on September 16, 1817, by Vaclav Hanka in the dungeon of the rectory of St. John the Baptist in Dvor Kralove.
Historian Milan Hlavaka quotes from court records in the book Falza and Frauds of Czech History from 1859 – when the court really dealt with manuscripts.
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The Zelená Hora manuscript was also supposed to have been discovered in 1817 in the Zelená Hora Castle, but the public only learned about it after an unknown person sent it to Count František Antonín Kolovrat. However, this did not happen until the following year, i.e. 1818. The anonymous sender stated that it was a gift to the newly founded National (later National) Museum.
Dean’s Church John the Baptist, where the royal court manuscript was found
And more was happening. Even before the Kralovedvor manuscript was discovered, in 1816, Josef Linda, a young poet and budding writer, allegedly found a medieval manuscript Píseň pod Vyšehradem (also called Píseň pod Vyšehradská), presumably in the plates of tenant writers.
And a year after the discovery of the Zelenohorské manuscript, that is, in 1819, the university librarian Jan V. came another medieval writing, the love song of King Wenceslas.
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In the same year, the manuscript of the Royal Court was first published and caused quite a stir, helping to popularize other extant antiquities as well. At the same time, the worm of doubt began to nibble on some Czech revivalists. Joseph Dobrovsky, who published his skepticism in 1824, was the first to question the authenticity of the Zelenohora manuscript and the Vyšehrad Song, and others soon joined in.
For many years, these disagreements occurred only at the level of an occasional press controversy, but after the failed revolution of 1848 and the establishment of Bach’s autocracy, conditions in the country changed. And the Austro-Hungarian police realized that the manuscripts were accusing Czech nationalism of sharp literary and historical repertoire, which could have an effect similar to the Nibelungen song about the Germans. And questioning them could deprive the cultural nationalists of the Czech nation of their self-confidence.
In order to discredit the manuscripts, she was not shy about using forged and false evidence. That’s when the battle of the manuscripts turned into a wonderful war of disinformation.
Writer and alleged counterfeiter Vaclav Hanka
From celebration to political process
In 1857, on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the discovery of the first manuscripts, a national celebration was held in Dvor Kralove with Vaclav Hanka as the guest of honor. According to the chief historian, the celebration went without any extravagance, but the problem arose with the fact that it was recorded by the German-speaking Prague newspaper Neue Preussische Zeitung. The author of the article, German poet Ufo Horn, described the matter as purely nationalist.
It was misinformation, but Prague Police Chief Anton Baumann found it useful. He was given an excuse to show his agility and take action against the “Czech element”.
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At the time, the controversy over the authenticity of the manuscripts seemed to have subsided. Dobrovsky’s objections were almost forgotten, Masaryk’s statement against the manuscripts was far-fetched, and when literary historian Julius Vivalik (German Moravian) mentioned one of them in his lecture with the phrase “assuming it was true”, he stirred up a storm of opposition against him, because in the 1850s the persecuted nation needed a Do not doubt the manuscripts. Give him hope as a lie of mercy…
That is why the police decided to strike the manuscripts. As an excuse, I used the suspicion that Václav Hanka appears “among all that concerns the manuscripts of Kralovydvorsky, Zelenura and other ancient Bohemian texts in their temporal vicinity, of which I am sooner or later condemned for forgery”, and where he was not himself. , is someone he knows personally (which is true, by the way, because he and Linda Hanka went to the same National Student Club and they were friends).
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This police suspicion led to a defamation campaign in the German press published in the Czech lands, targeting both Hank as a fraud and the authenticity of the manuscripts as such.
On the other hand, František Palack loudly defended its originality. The original police effort to intimidate and humiliate Czech nationalism did just the opposite. A sharp Czech-German ethnic conflict erupted and it was clear that the matter would not be resolved peacefully.
Hanka, who would probably prefer to stay out of the way, was forced by his entourage to sue the defamatory articles in this sudden political row, and the trial began.
The court said the manuscripts are original
Looking at how the cards are distributed, the result of this experiment, which took place in 1859, was very surprising. Despite the apparent interest of the Austro-Hungarian authorities in retaining the manuscripts, and with them the Hanka was blackened, the court eventually ruled in her favour. Apparently, even during the strictest Austro-Hungarian absolutism, the courts of that time were apparently significantly more independent than they were, for example, during true socialism, whose culture portrayed this period in the blackest possible colour.
What prompted the judges to decide? Perhaps it was the fact that all the witnesses who were somehow present at the discovery of the manuscripts testified in Hank’s favour, and no one even insinuated that the circumstances of the discovery were suspicious for him.
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Whether patriotic consciousness and efforts not to damage the National Monument had a bigger role in this, or the fact that the discovery wasn’t really a match (let’s not forget that recent experience didn’t completely rule out the authenticity of the manuscripts), we probably won’t know. What is certain is that Hanka left the court as a winner.
Unfortunately, it didn’t bring him much happiness or joy anyway. The whole process meant a lot of stress for him, he left a bad imprint on her, Hanka started to get depressed and died just two years after the operation. One of the injustices in history was that although he created a large-scale scientific and literary work throughout his life, he only became more prominent in the Czech consciousness as a forger.
Originally, Vaclav Hanka went to the royal court chapel in search of Hussite-era arrowheads…
The dispute over the authenticity of the manuscripts did not end with the court’s victory. Twenty-five years after Hank’s death, in March 1886, Thomas Garrigue Masaryk came out against them. He became a prominent figure in the struggle to prove their iniquity, and thus the most hated public figure in Czech society at the time (a position in which he did not find himself for the last time – he repeated again during the infamous hilsneriad., when he was practically the only one who sided with a weak Jewish youth thinking Leopold Helsner accused of ritual murder).
As an exceptionally strong figure, Masaryk withstood this enormous pressure, his opinion in manuscripts finally won, much evidence was found that confirmed it from a scientific point of view, and he also became, literally and figuratively, an example of statesmanship and integrity that were important in the formation of a state New.
It is somewhat ironic that in the end things are not entirely clear with the manuscripts, and we actually don’t know for sure if Masaryk is right. Instead, it looks like he didn’t have it. We still don’t have direct scientific evidence that Hank and Linda falsified them. There is no conclusive evidence of its authenticity. In short, searching for the truth is not easy.
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