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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 May, 2004, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
'Oldest printed book' on display
Diamond Sutra
The book bears the date of 868 AD
A book thought to be the oldest surviving printed book in the world has gone on display at the British Library.

The Diamond Sutra, which bears the date 868 AD, was found in a walled-up cave in Dunhuang, north-west China, in 1907, along with other printed items.

It consists of a scroll of grey paper printed with Chinese characters, wrapped around a wooden pole.

The scroll forms part of the Library's Silk Road display, which focuses on the art and culture of the region.

It was discovered by the Hungarian born explorer Sir Marc Aurel Stein, and is thought to be part of a library which was walled up in the cave around the year 1000AD.


Although other printed items and manuscripts were discovered in the cave, the Diamond Sutra, which is a Buddhist Holy text, is the earliest printed book to bear a date.

"Sutras were copied to give merit to people and to all sentient beings in the world," said Susan Whitfield from the British Library.

"This was copied by a man called Wong Jei, in May 868 on behalf of his parents, and he notes this at the end."

The scroll was printed hundreds of years before moveable type was discovered separately in Europe.

However, paper making and printing were already well established in China at the time.

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