Iranica auction yields $1.4 million
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
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
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.