Today in 868, The Diamond Sutra was published in China. The copy in the British Library is “the world’s earliest complete survival of a dated printed book.” The printed scroll was one of 40,000 other books and manuscripts hidden in a cave near the city of Dunhuang. The secret library was sealed up around the year 1000, a time when this desert outpost of China was threatened by the ambitions of the Hsi-Hsia kingdom to the north. The cave is part of a holy site known as the ‘Caves of a Thousand Buddhas’ – a cliff wall honeycombed with 492 grottoes cut from the rock from the 4th century onwards and decorated with religious carvings and paintings. A monk discovered the sealed entrance to the hidden cave in 1900. Inside, the scrolls of paper and silk had been perfectly preserved by the dry desert air. The British Library’s copy of the Diamond Sutra was found by the explorer Sir Marc Aurel Stein in 1907. It is has been digitized as part of the The International Dunhuang Project, “a ground-breaking international collaboration to make information and images of all manuscripts, paintings, textiles and artefacts from Dunhuang and archaeological sites of the Eastern Silk Road freely available on the Internet and to encourage their use through educational and research programmes.”
Earliest Surviving Dated Printed Book
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