Mao Zedong’s handwritten notes smash estimate

Nine pages of notes from Chinese dictator Mao Zedong (1893-1976) achieved a staggering result at Sotheby’s July 11 sale in London.

The lot made £704,750 ($907,859), almost 10 times its £80,000 ($103,056) valuation.

Mao Zedong notes

Chairman Mao led China from 1949 until his death in 1976

The piece dates to the mid-1970s and relates to Mao's study of classical Chinese poetry – which he undertook with a professor at Peking University.

In his old age Mao began to lose his voice and resorted to writing to be understood.

As a lifelong poetry lover (and sometime poet), his notes are insightful and well informed. They offer a rare glimpse into the inner life of an enigmatic and towering figure.

To those of us who have been following recent sales of Mao memorabilia, this result was no surprise.

In 2015, a typed letter to British Labour party leader Clement Attlee realised £605,000 ($771,980), four times over its estimate.

Mao cast a long shadow over China.

The consequences of his rule, the cruelty of the Cultural Revolution and the failure of the Great Leap Forward – as well as his successes in enfranchising poorer people, have shaped the modern state.

As such, demand for the few autograph manuscripts on the market is very high.   

We can attribute the strength of these results to growing wealth in China. 

A handwritten letter by Jane Austen written as a parody of a pulpy author named Rachel Hunter realised £162,500 ($208,796).

It’s addressed to her niece Anna, who was also a fan of Hunter’s schlocky prose.

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