A pair of rare Chinese encyclopedia volumes from the Ming Dynasty was sold at an auction on Tuesday for a hefty price tag of more than £7 million. The ancient Chinese artefacts unexpectedly fetched more than 1,000 times their estimated price. The pieces were originally priced at £4,000 - £7,000 at a Paris based auction house.

According to Beaussant Lefèvre, the auction house responsible for the sale, the rare find is said to have had about 2,000 scholars working on them between the years 1404 -1408. Also known as the Yongle Dadian, the scholars were working on orders from the Yongle Emperor who reigned from 1402 to 1424 to work on these big books of knowledge. At the time, he was the third ruler of the Ming Dynasty and was hailed as a strong leader who ruled during the dynasty's most powerful years.

One of the seven wonders of the medieval world is hailed as one of his greatest creations which took 17 years to build from the year 1412. The structure, otherwise called a pagoda, is known today as the famous Porcelain Tower of Nanjing. Unfortunately, it was destroyed during the 19th century but a life size replica of the tower stands today in Nanjing.

Although the two volumes sold were only copies, they are categorised as rare with only 400 known volumes in existence. It is recorded to be the largest encyclopedia in the world, consisting of 22.877 chapters. It was during the reign of 11th Ming ruler, the Jiajing emperor in 1562, when he had ordered two copies made of the scholarly collection. However, the original encyclopedia was lost during the many wars that took place under the Ming Dynasty from 1368 - 1644.

The rare volumes of this ancient Chinese compilation of facts and knowledge measure 20 inches by 12 inches and are both hand written in red and black ink. One of them spoke of China's great lakes while the other told information on ancient Chinese funeral rites.

The British library keeps 24 volumes of this encyclopedia consisting of a total of 49 chapters.

Ancient relic
The resembled a Chinese emperor -- Representational image REUTERS/Nir Elias CHINA