Yung-le Ta Tien.
Manuscript. Beijing, 1567.
The original edition of this large work, The Great Standard of Ta Tien
or the Encyclopedia Maxima, was comprised of 917,480 pages in 11,100
bound volumes. Produced by a commission of over two thousand scholars in
1408, it purported to record all knowledge of the Confucian canon, Buddhism,
history, philosophy, astronomy, geography, medicine, and the arts. The subject
headings are written on the outer edges of the pages. Although a printed
edition was intended--indeed, the Chinese were printing block books as early
as the tenth century--in this case the multiple production of such a massive
text proved impractical. Instead, two manuscript copies were made in 1567.
In the seventeenth century, the original and one copy were lost in a fire.
The encyclopedia remained in the hands of an elite few, and was practically
forgotten until the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, when all but a few volumes
perished in an incendiary attack on the British Mission.
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