Four random folding leaves in excellent facsimile of the Ming Yongle Dadian manuscript encyclopedia: juan 2,755:1; juan 10,458:2; juan 8,841:9; & juan 8,841:16. YONGLE DADIAN FORGERY.
Four random folding leaves in excellent facsimile of the Ming Yongle Dadian manuscript encyclopedia: juan 2,755:1; juan 10,458:2; juan 8,841:9; & juan 8,841:16.
Four random folding leaves in excellent facsimile of the Ming Yongle Dadian manuscript encyclopedia: juan 2,755:1; juan 10,458:2; juan 8,841:9; & juan 8,841:16.

Forgery

Four random folding leaves in excellent facsimile of the Ming Yongle Dadian manuscript encyclopedia: juan 2,755:1; juan 10,458:2; juan 8,841:9; & juan 8,841:16.

Folio (473 x 290 mm.), “orig.” wrappers, “orig.” title label on upper cover, stitched as issued. N.d.: n.p. [but probably somewhere in China sometime in the last century].

The Yongle Encyclopedia [Yongle Dadian], the world’s largest encyclopedia, was completed in 1408 through the efforts of 2169 scholars working in the then capital of Nanking. It consisted of 22,877 manuscript fascicles (juan) and was bound in 11,095 volumes, with a total of about 370,000,000 characters. This manuscript was later lost in unknown circumstances but not before the Jiajing emperor (1507-67; r. 1521-67) had ordered a copy of the entire original manuscript be made; it was completed in 1567.

This 16th-century copy was placed in the Hanlin Academy during the reign of Yongzheng (1678-1735; r. 1722-35). Scholars made free use of the manuscript and removed numerous volumes, so that by 1893, only ca. 600 volumes remained. In 1900, the Boxers set fire to the Hanlin Academy, and during the confusion, allied soldiers, officials, and scholars took several hundred volumes. Today, nearly half of the surviving manuscript volumes exist outside of China.

The present facsimile volume was clearly created to be represented as authentic. Indeed, under magnification, it is not easy to visually confirm that the leaves were not handwritten manuscripts. We asked a leading scholar of Chinese book history to inspect this volume. He has provided us with a report, which we would be happy to provide to prospective buyers.

Like all forgeries, our volume has a telltale flaw: “The strongest evidence that the leaves are all printed is the failure of perfect registration between red and black in the two-step printing process, resulting in a differential of circa two mm. between the black (main text) and red (commentary text, center column text, borders, dividing lines, and punctuation marks) portions of the page…I assume that the actual (photo-lithographic/photo-offset) facsimiles used to create this forgery were earlier 20th century facsimiles, perhaps printed and published informally, that do not appear in standard library catalogues” (scholar’s email of 14 February 2022).

The report concludes: “While this report is conclusive, it cannot be said to be complete or final. Therefore, I will continue to search for more complete explanations of how the forgeries were carried out.” There is more to learn!

The paper in our volume has been deliberately stained and discolored to make it appear old and distressed.

❧ For a detailed account of the Yongle Dadian, its history and importance, see Duncan Campbell’s “The Huntington Library’s Volume of the Yongle Encyclopaedia (Yongle Dadian): A Bibliographical and Historical Note” in East Asian History, No. 42 (March 2018), pp. 1-13. Endymion Wilkinson, Chinese History. A New Manual, 4th ed., pp. 958-59.

Price: $1,500.00

Item ID: 8130

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