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The Art of Printing: Korea’s Evolving Printing Types

Organised to coincide with the London Book Fair, this exhibition at the KCC is curated by the Korean Publishers Association:

The Art of Printing: Korea’s Evolving Printing Types

Exhibition Dates: 07 April 2014 – 14 June 2014
Venue: Korean Cultural Centre UK

Printing banner

The World’s Oldest Wooden and Metal Printing Technologies – Korea’s Printing Culture presented in London

The Korean Publishers’ Association and the Korean Cultural Centre UK are to co-host “The Art of Printing: Korea’s Evolving Printing Types”, an exhibition introducing the excellence of Korea’s printing culture from the 7th April to the 14th June 2014. This exhibition has been planned in association with the London Book Fair Korea Market Focus 2014.

Approximately 50 Korean printing types from metal, wood to gourd types will be introduced through publications such as Mugujeonggwang Daedaranigyeong (ca. 8th century CE), the world’s oldest extant wood type print book, Jikjisimcheyojeol (1377 CE), the world’s oldest extant metal movable type book, and Hunminjeonggeum (1446), with the aim of illustrating the creativity of Korea’s printing culture along with its development for over 1,300 years.

Wooden and metal movable types from ancient to mediaeval times as well as modern Hangeul types will be presented, covering a long history from the Unified Silla, Goryeo to Joseon Dynasties. First, Mugujeonggwang Daedaranigyeong will be presented as a woodblock publication. Discovered in Seokgatap (Sakyamuni Pagoda) of the Bulguk Temple, this book is estimated to have been printed during the first half of the 8th century, at least two decades ahead of Japan’s oldest publication, Hyakumanto Darani (770), and at least 118 years ahead of China’s Jingang Banruo Boluomi Jing (886). This book will thus serve as an example of the high standards of Korea’s ancient printing culture.

Jikjisimcheyojeol, the world’s oldest extant metal-printed book, will demonstrate Korea’s sophisticated mediaeval printing culture. The invention of metal movable type has often been regarded as the most important of 100 historic events that have exercised the greatest influence on human history, and Jikjisimcheyojeol, or commonly Jikji, which was printed 145 years before Gutenberg’s The 42-line Bible (1455), was officially recognised as the world’s oldest existing metal print publication when it was enlisted on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2001. Moreover, a video work by Hwayeon Nam based upon the copy of Jikji which is in the possession of the National Library of France (LaBibliothèque nationale de France) in Paris will be shown as a contemporary attempt to interpret the book.


In addition to wooden and metal types, two editions of Gyeongsajipseol, one printed with gourd type, and the other with ceramic type, are presented at the exhibition. Gourd type, or “Bagajihwalja” in Korean, was made by carving on the surface of gourd, whilst ceramic type, or “Dohwalja”, was created by baking the kind of clay used to make pottery. Gourd type is of particular historical value because of its significant use in printing and distributing books at a low cost for the lower middle class.

The book Hunminjeongeum will demonstrate the originality of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, by revealing the scientific principles behind its creation as well as the logic behind the writing system. Furthermore, a variety of printed materials and documentary videos will introduce the advancement of traditional Korean culture, which published a theory book on writing system for the first time in the world.

Apart from Hunminjeongeum, Korean publications from the 20th century, including rare copies of such books as Urimalbon (“The Korean Language Book”, 1937) by Choi Hyeon-bae, Sahoesaenghwal 3 – 2 (“Social Life”, a textbook from 1955) and Ppurigipeun Namu (“The Deep-rooted Tree”, a magazine from 1979), will be presented to give an overview of Korea’s modern printing culture.

“The Art of Printing” is an exhibition that will introduce the long history and excellence of Korea’s printing culture as well as the originality and scientific quality of the Korean alphabet Hangeul. The exhibition is also expected to help expand the base of Korean culture in the UK by introducing its unique traditions.

One thought on “The Art of Printing: Korea’s Evolving Printing Types

  1. Hi _ It is quite interested your article. Can you check for printed years of Jikji ? It was 1377 before 78 years Gutenberg’s The 42-line Bible 1455.

    From Jenny

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