The key, which is 37cms (15in) long, was formerly in a private collection in the Lebanon and dated from 1179-1180. It was bought anonymously and is the second-earliest of only 58 known examples. Others are in European and Middle Eastern museums. The key was the ultimate symbol of religious power. It was engraved: "This is what was made for the servant of . . . God during the time of our lord the Iman, son of the Iman al-Muqtadi Abu Ja'far al Mustansir Abu'l-Abbas 575".
The rarity was the highlight of a week of Islamic sales in London. Christie's also took £11.8 million in an auction on Tuesday. A leaf from a 7th-century copy of the Koran on vellum, probably from Medina, took £2.4 million against an estimate of £100,000-£150,000, setting a new world auction record for any Islamic manuscript.
Source: The Times (English)