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Expensive old books, faked old books

Old book prices have been shooting upwards of late. Heilongjiang Daily reports that a Ming Dynasty block printing of the Han Dynasty poetry collection Yutai Xinyong was recently sold at auction for 140,000 yuan, nearly three times the 48,000-50,000 yuan that copies went for last year.

Similarly, a Ming Dynasty printing of the Book of the Southern Tang was considered overpriced at 60,000-70,000 yuan last year, but in February a copy went for upwards of 130,000.

Naturally this has not escaped the notice of book forgers, who are also apparently making good use of technology to cut down on costs. According to famed Beijing studio Rongbaozhai, it costs around 300 yuan to cut a wood block for one sheet, bringing the cost of a 20-sheet volume to around 6000 yuan. With prices ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 yuan per volume, this is not especially cost effective, and forgers have typically chosen to fake inscriptions and paintings instead.

However, developments in computer-controlled etching have brought costs way down, and the results are quite close to the real thing. Even more indistinguishable are faked rubbings - rather than faking stone carvings using plaster, which have a short lifespan and can introduce imperfections into the rubbing, forgers are using resins. Though the resulting rubbings don't sell for anywhere near as much as faked (or real) ancient books, they can be mass-produced and are indistinguishable (according to the Daily) from the real thing.

Just something to consider when you're out buying souvenirs. Or you could eliminate the element of risk altogether: the Yutai Xinyong pictured above is a 35-yuan reproduction whose provenance is unimpeachable - and it contains the same poems as the set that sold for 140,000.

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Comments on Expensive old books, faked old books


Am I going to have the honour to write the first comment in Danwei? Why me, if my English is so bad?

Anyway, Since I discovered this blog, half a year ago, I am a big fan... And seeing that something as good as Danwei is written in China changed my whole perspective of this country in that time.

I love the Hitler letter... It's already a classic!

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