1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bertram, Charles

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BERTRAM, CHARLES (1723–1765), English literary impostor, was born in London, the son of a silk dyer. In 1747, being then teacher of English at the school for Danish naval cadets at Copenhagen, he wrote to Dr William Stukeley, the English antiquarian, that he had discovered a manuscript written by a monk named Richard of Westminster, which corrected and supplemented the Itinerary of Antoninus in Britain. He subsequently sent to Stukeley a copy of various parts of the work and a facsimile of a few lines of the manuscript. These were so cleverly executed that they quite deceived the English palaeographers of the period. Stukeley, finding that a chronicler of the fourteenth century, Richard of Cirencester, had also been an inmate of Westminster Abbey, identified him with Bertram’s Richard of Westminster, and, in 1756, read an analysis of the “discovery” before the Society of Antiquaries, which was published with a copy of Richard’s map. In 1757 Bertram published at Copenhagen a volume entitled Britannicarum Gentium Historiae Antiquae Scriptores Tres. This contained the works of Gildas and Nennius and the full text of Bertram’s forgery, and though Bertram’s map did not correspond with that of Richard, Stukeley discarded the latter and adopted Bertram’s concoction in his Itinerarium Curiosum published in 1776. Although Thomas Reynolds in his Iter Britanniarum (1799), an edition of the British portion of Antoninus’ Itinerary, was distinctly sceptical as to the value of Bertram’s manuscript, its authenticity was generally accepted until the middle of the 19th century. No original of the manuscript could then be found at Copenhagen, and B. B. Woodward, librarian of Windsor Castle, proved conclusively, by a series of articles in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1866 and 1867, that the supposed facsimile of calligraphy produced by Bertram was a blend of the style of various periods, while the greater portion of the idiomatic Latin in the book was a mere translation of 18th century English phraseology. Nevertheless, as late as 1872, a translation of Bertram’s forgery was included in Bohn’s Antiquarian Library as one of the Six English Chronicles, and there is no doubt that the work had a wide and misleading influence upon many antiquarian writers. Bertram died in 1765.