The even smaller Little Red Book: rare prototype of Mao’s quotations offered in UK auction, Feb. 29

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LONDON – A scarce prototype edition of the Quotations of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, the famous Little Red Book, will be auctioned in London later this month. It comes from one of the world’s largest and finest private collections of Cultural Revolution artifacts and will be sold by Chiswick Auctions as part of their February 29 sale of Books and Works on Paper.

Mao Tse-Tung: Quotations of Chairman Mao, [Prototype]
A scarce prototype edition of the famous Little Red Book (Quotations of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung). Estimate: £30,000-£35,000 ($37,795-$44,090)

The rare imprint of Mao’s Little Red Book was produced in August 1963, some 10 months before the official Beijing version was released in May 1964. Compiled and printed by in the Shenyang Military Region, it numbers 156 pages rather than 250 pages and lacks both the engraved portrait of the Chairman and the Communist Manifesto slogan “Workers of the world, unite!,” both of which became integral to the finished edition. It includes quotation texts of Mao Tse-Tung from as early as 1937.

No other prototype edition has ever appeared at auction. The example in Chiswick’s sale retains its original white paper wrappers and is estimated at £30,000-£35,000 ($37,795-$44,090). It is one of several rare editions of the Quotations of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung included in a collection compiled more than 25 years by the renowned New York antiquarian book dealer and children’s book specialist Justin Schiller. His home in upstate New York includes many thousands of objects related to the Cultural Revolution, many of them purchased during regular visits to China.

Schiller considers the propaganda from this period of history to be “the ultimate in fake news.” First attracted to the subject for its powerful aesthetic – he draws a parallel between the graphic art of 1960s China and children’s book illustrations – Schiller also recognized its historical importance at a time when many Chinese were keen to offload the relics of a troubled past. At the beginning of his collecting journey in the 1990s, important material was relatively easy to come by. Today he estimates that at least 80 percent of the original propaganda material produced during the time of the Cultural Revolution has now been destroyed. However, fakes and reproductions, made to appeal to the thriving collecting market, are commonplace.

An especially rare survivor entered in Chiswick’s sale is an original circa-1968 mango shrine. The cult of the mango was a short-lived phenomenon sparked by the re-gifting of fruit to worker-peasant propaganda teams after it was originally given to Mao by the nation of Pakistan. The imagery of mangoes was in vogue for about a year. The exotic fruit was even venerated in the 1968 National Day celebrations in Tiananmen Square, which featured an entire float of mangoes.

A second shrine incorporating a bisque porcelain head and shoulders bust of Chairman Mao dates to circa 1960. It is emblazoned with slogans at its base, including “Long Live the Great Teacher, Great Leader, Great Commander-in-Chief, Great Helmsman Chairman Mao” and housed in a wooden box with a surround incised “Long Live Chairman Mao.”

A series of sculptural groups in bronze, porcelain and stone include Model Hero, a monumental head and shoulders bronzed bust of Lei Feng, most likely an architectural adornment salvaged from a bridge or entrance arch; and a near-life-size plaster statue of young Mao going to AnYuan. Dating to circa 1968, this particular image is based on the 1967 icon-making painting by Liu Chun Hua, who turned Mao into a philosopher/prophet with his clenched fist representing determination, and the umbrella indicating the difficult journey. 

Among Schiller’s personal favourites in the collection is a complete set of pool balls painted with representations of “evil.” They were given to the Admiral of the Chinese Navy upon his retirement. 

This selection from the Justin Schiller collection includes books, posters, original art, tapestries, sculpture and memorabilia, and will be offered in around 300 lots. The items will remain in situ in upstate New York, with the auction staged in London.

For additional information, visit Chiswick Auctions online at

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