Talk to describe conserving centuries-old Chinese encyclopedia

Emperor Zhu Di (known by his imperial name Yongle) was famous for building the architectural marvel of the Forbidden City in Beijing in the early 15th century, and also ordered the erection of an ink and paper monument: a handwritten encyclopedia of all forms of Chinese knowledge , from Confucian philosophy to medicine.

Known as Yongle Dadian Consisting of 11,095 volumes bound in gold silk, the original corpus was lost over the centuries and only 420 volumes of manuscript copies made in 1567 survive today in a handful of museums and libraries around the world.

On September 27 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., the Cornell community and the general public can gain insight into the Library of Congress’ efforts to preserve and digitize 41 Yongle Dadian volumes in its collection a lecture by his senior book conservator, Dan Paterson in room 2B48 of the Carl A. Kroch Library. The presentation is and will remain sponsored by Cornell University Library Conservation Live stream on Zoom.

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During his presentation, Paterson will discuss the Yongle Dadian’s unique construction, its conservation challenges, and the benefits of digitization.

Paterson’s talk is part of a two-day workshop on East Asian bookbinding and book conservation, also sponsored by the library’s Conservation Department, which involves its staff along with book conservation students from New York University and the University of Delaware.

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“We have the opportunity to have our conservators and technicians trained by Dan,” said Trina Parks, the library’s conservator of rare and distinctive collections. “And it’s a professional service for us to share Cornell’s resources and educate the next generation of book conservators.”

The lecture and workshop will also support the library’s efforts to preserve and make accessible its important collections of rare Chinese, Japanese and Korean books Asia Collections of the Kroch Librarysaid Parks.

Highlights from Cornell’s collection include five volumes of the Yongle Dadian housed in the Division of rare and manuscript collections.

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Three volumes came out Charles W WasonClass of 1876 who bequeathed his library to found the East Asia Collectionand two were donated by Alfred Sao-ke SzeClass of 1901, who later became a Chinese diplomat in the United States, said Liren Zheng, curator of the Charles W. Wason collection on East Asia.

Yongle Dadian’s volumes can be read on site on request.

The participants of the public lecture are expected to follow Cornell Health and Safety Policy. Seating at the venue is limited and Zoom attendees must register beforehand.

Jose Beduya is a staff writer, editor, and social media coordinator for Cornell University Library.

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