The 'Chronicle of Dalimil': Sold to the Czech Republic for nine million crowns
In a whirl of smoke and mirrors, the Czech Republic acquired its most valuable manuscript for generations on Thursday. A mystery bidder, who turned out to be working for the Czech National Library, paid nine million crowns (around four hundred thousand US dollars) to buy a unique medieval manuscript - the Chronicle of Dalimil - that relates the history of Bohemia. Rosie Johnston has been following the story, and asked Czech Radio's Jan Krelina in Paris about the sale
The centerpiece of Thursday's rare book sale in Paris was a crumbly Latin translation of the Czech 'Chronicle of Dalimil', dating from around 1340. It is thought to have been commissioned by Czech King John of Luxembourg or his son, Charles the Fourth. In more recent years, the manuscript's history has been as colourful as each one of it 24 richly illustrated pages, as Christian Galantaris, who was in charge of the sale, explains:
The chronicle of Dalimil tells the stories of King Borivoj the First, his grandson - Good King Wenceslas - and a plethora of other medieval royals aside. Czechs still learn these tales at school today. When this Latin translation of the 'Chronicle of Dalimil' first surfaced in Paris, the Czech government tried to halt its sale. They failed, and had to bid for the manuscript like everyone else. In the weeks running up to the sale, the papers were filled with talk of the ten million crowns that the Czech government had allocated in order to purchase the manuscript. But as Zdenek Uhlir from the national library tells me, this was all a ruse:
And this wasn't the only measure taken to dupe punters. The National Library also brought in a mystery blonde to do their bidding for them as Jan Krelina explains:
"Nobody knew who this lady was, she bid the final price of three hundred thousand euros. After several seconds of real drama, the director of the Czech National Library, Vlastimil Jezek told us that we had got it. And she was the secret bidder that nobody knew."
So, the manuscript is now one of the most valuable treasures in the national library's collection. We can expect a special exhibition of 'the Chronicle of Dalimil' in the next couple of months. But for the meantime, hearty congratulations must go out to the Czech National Library, for their cloak and dagger accomplishments.