It was almost an incredible piece of history. But a New Jersey museum's nearly 200-year-old letter written by the English poet Lord Byron has turned out to be a fake, the Star-Ledger reports. The National Historic Park in Morristown received the letter more than 50 years ago, but wasn't aware the letter was forged until it offered to loan the letter to Drew University as part of an exhibit on Byron. During a fact-checking process, an expert noticed a number of discrepancies: It was uncharacteristically signed "N. Byron" and used a salutation the real Byron rarely wrote.
The museum now believes the letter was written 50 years after he died. Anything Byron touched became quite valuable after his 1824 death, notes the Star-Ledger: A real, signed letter is currently listed for sale on a rare books website for nearly $12,000. With so much money to be made off a Byron document, many forgers saw an opportunity. But all is not lost for the New Jersey museum: Even authentic fakes of Byron's handwriting hold some monetary value, and an opportunity to educate. The museum is considering a exhibition of forged documents. (Read more New Jersey stories.)