The Yongle Emperor was the third emperor of the Ming dynasty and reigned from 1402 to 1424. He commissioned the Yongle Dadian (“Great Canon of the Yongle Reign”) in 1402. Completed in 1408, it comprised 22,877 chapters bound in 11,095 volumes. Even though printing techniques were already well developed in the Ming dynasty, the Yongle Dadian was handwritten because of its length.
The content of the Yongle Dadian covers all aspects of traditional Chinese knowledge and contains the most important texts available at that time, ranging from history and drama to farming techniques.
The first copy (1408) of the Yongle Dadian was destroyed or dispersed and is no longer extant. Nowadays, just about the 3% of the original second manuscript remain. The British Library holds 24 volumes, corresponding to 49 chapters.
You can view the volumes of this manuscript housed at the British Library on our Digitised Manuscripts site.