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Ming Dynasty encyclopedia sells for more than $9 million at auction -- 1,000 times the expected price

July 7, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Two rare volumes of an ancient Chinese encyclopedia sold for more than €8 million ($9 million) at auction Tuesday, more than 1,000 times the estimated price.

Two rare volumes of an ancient Chinese encyclopedia sold for more than €8 million ($9 million) at auction Tuesday, more than 1,000 times the estimated price.

The encyclopedia, known as the Yongle Dadian, was originally commissioned by the Yongle Emperor, the third ruler of the Ming Dynasty, who reigned from 1402 to 1424.

More than 2,000 scholars worked on the encyclopedia between 1404 and 1408, according to a press release from Beaussant Lefèvre, the Paris-based auction house that made the sale.

The Yongle Dadian is the largest encyclopedia in the world, and originally consisted of 22,877 chapters.

In 1562, the Jiajing Emperor, the 11th Ming ruler, ordered two copies of the encyclopedia to be made, but the original was lost due to the many wars, thefts and fires that occurred under the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the auction house said.

While the two volumes sold Tuesday are copies, they are extremely rare, with only 400 known volumes, or 4% of the original encyclopedia, left in existence, according to Beaussant Lefèvre.

While printing techniques had been developed at the time, the encyclopedia was written by hand due to its length.

Before the auction, they carried a price estimate of €5,000-€8,000.

The British Library has 24 volumes of the encyclopedia, equivalent to 49 chapters.

The Yongle Emperor was a strong leader who presided over the most powerful years of the Ming Dynasty.

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