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Sehaty Foreign Exchange

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Iranica auction yields $1.4 million

Washington, DC
May 7, 1999

London, A collection of Persian art and books collected over a third of a century by Professor Ehsan Yarshater was auctioned off at Christie's in London last month and brought in almost $1.4 million.

Dr. Yarshater is the founding editor of the Encyclopedia Iranica. He contributed his personal art collection to the auction to underwrite the continuing publication of the encyclopedia.

The auction contained 266 items, including 186 printed books of which 20 were Rubaiyats of Omar Khayyam.

Yarshater, professor emeritus of Iranian studies at Columbia University in New York, gathered his collection from 1950 to 1985 and said, "I would have wished they could have gone to one buyer and not been dispersed."

Breaking up the collection probably contributed to some of phenomenal prices achieved.

The highest price was $416,000 for an eight-volume work by Eugene-Napolen Flandin with 343 plates, plans and maps. (The illustration with this article is from this work.) The catalog valuation for these volumes was only $20,000 to $29,000. Flandin was an artist who first traveled to Iran in 1839 and produced many lithographs of the sites he visited.

The second highest price was received for a cobalt-blue glazed tile taken from a mihrab made in Kashan in the 13th century. With a catalog valuation of $64,000 to $96,000, this piece was auctioned for $214,000. (An illustration of this piece is carried in the Farsi section on page one.)

The Encyclopedia Iranica was conceived in 1973. The first third has been published thus far. Yarshater expects the total work to comprise about 25 volumes and to reach a conclusion about 2025.

The encyclopedia covers the Persian world from archeology and history to economics and sociology, from architecture to flora and fauna.


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