Having read the newspaper reports in The Times and The Jewish Chronicle over the previous weekend from his room in the Cannon Street Hotel, Shapira knew that he had to provide his side of the Moabitica scandal since it was obvious that this unfortunate incident had reared its ugly head once again. The last thing Shapira needed was for his involvement in that former fiasco to ruin any chance of a fair decision on the authenticity of his leather manuscript strips. On Monday, 6 August 1883, Moses W. Shapira crafted a letter and addressed it to Dr. Ginsburg, British Museum.
*The transcription reflects the spelling and grammar of Shapira’s note to Ginsburg. The 6 August letter is in the dossier, “Papers Relative to M. W. Shapira’s Forged MS. of Deuteronomy (A.D. 1883-1884),” Add. MS. 41294 (London: British Library).
London Cannon str Hotel
August 6th 1883.
The known article of the 4th of August, mention again the sad business of the Moabite pottery & I think it will be right to let you know dear Sir, how little I am to be blamed even if the pottery should be unquestionable forgeries –
My business with antiquities begins from the end of the year 1871. At this time I got some squezes & 2 stones with inscriptions trough the Agency of Mr. Bergheim all of which proved false –
The rest of the Moabite stone was brought to me but behold, they were besides a little piece altogether of another tipe – I than became very cautious – In April & May 1872 some small pieces of pottery were brought to me. I doubted very much their genuinness, but Capt Conder & Mr Drake thought them genuine & persuade me to buy more of them.
Then; slowly some inscribed jars came to Jerusalem. Capt Conder send copies to London & Lic Weser the German pastor copied one & sended it to Halle. Whilst the inscriptions were doubted in England the pastor got a telegram from the Governement of Berlin telling him that the inscriptions are of high interest, to try to get more of them (thinking that it was his own) & to visit if posible the places from where they should have come upon that the expence, of Governement. He reported to the Governement to whom the pottery belong & the Governement encouraged me to buy as much as only posible & to tell them my price. Of course the interest the Berlin Governement took in them caused me to pay 10 times as much, for every article than in the beginning – About the end of the year 1882 Rev Chester was in Jerusalem & has seen the pottery & reported to the Athenaeum paper, that the pottery are all genuine. When the Article became known in Jerusalem pastor Weser & the German Genr. Consul Baron von Alten urged me to make a list of them & to fix a price. I fixed a price & it was exepted by a telegram with conditions that I shall bring them over in summer time to Berlin & that I shall sell to no one the pottery I may happen to got in the mean time – I was afraid of packing them & I went to Berlin in May 1873 to be advised in that point, & went home. I packed with great care those articles they have already purchessed and those I got anew from Moab, as well as some jars belonging to the time of the Crusades, & brought them over in August to Berlin. I put them up at the Cultur Ministerium upon many tables. I did not wish to take the money untill they were examined. Cultur Minister Dr Falk himself examined them several times & after 4 weeks they baught also from me the 2nd portion urged me to go home as soon as posible, to get as many as I can & to visit as much as posible the places & caves they are to be found as, to have a clear idee for what purpose they were put there.
I have a great collection of them. Many persons whished often to buy some of me but I never will do it untill prof Schlottman shall keep his promise & publish his book about them, which may never be the case or till the Palestine Explorations Fund officers may visit thes parts of Palestine & will through new light on that question.
I have also to mention that I pointed out, when in Berlin in Aug 1873 some jars which I belived, were imitations of the others & forgeres, but no one wished to hear me.
Again, that although I had a gain in the pottery I sold at that time to Berlin I loosed much more by the articles I baught afterward & are still in my keeping – Now you will understand dear Dr why my greatest enemies (M. Ganneau & Kautzsch) could write nothing against my honestness.
Yours truely & obedient
M W Shapira
On the same day, Moses Shapira delivered an account of how he came to possess the leather strips to the authorities at the British Museum. On Wednesday, 8 August 1883, that account as well as Dr. Ginsburg’s translation of the commencement of the manuscript would appear in the columns of The Times.