Korean Movable Type

Korean movable type is recognized to have been developed during the Goryeo dynasty by at least the early part of the 13th century. This Korean accomplishment is generally estimated to have been invented approximately two centuries after the development of Chinese clay type and approximately two centuries before Gutenberg's invention of the hand-mold for making movable metal type.

Materials used to make Korean movable type ranged from wood to various metal alloys, with bronze metal type being the most common. The primary methods of casting metal type were lost-wax casting and green-sand casting. These type casting methods were repurposed to produce cast type from the production processes of casting statues and coins.

The technology of movable type, especially with the durability of metal type, was effective in meeting the demand for books in Korea. While publications in Korea were only circulated among a small population of a few scholars and nobles, the Civil Service Examination and multiple national institutes for higher education sustained a demand for a variety of books. The ability to print texts in Korea also allowed the country greater independence from the Chinese book industry and Chinese trade. With the establishment of a "Publication's Office " called the Sojok Won in 1392 and the Office of Type Casting called Chujaso inside the Sojok Won, the production of type and books in Korea was made into an institutional and systemized craft.

In September 2001, the book of Buddhist texts Paegun Hwasang ch'orok Pulcho chikchi simch'e yojŏl, also known Jikji, was listed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register and was recognized as the world's oldest extant example to have been printed using movable metal type. Jikji was compiled by Master Baegun in the late Goryeo Dunasty and was printed in 1377 at Heungdeoksa Temple.

References for Preliminary Research

CefiaWiki: Understanding Korea materials - Early Printing in Korea: This webpage is a part of the Understanding Korea Series that is published by The Academy of Korean Studies Press and is edited by The Center for International Affairs. This resource discusses the various methods of printing used in Korea and gives an overview of the process of casting and setting movable metal type in Korea.

JikjiWorld Timeline: This timeline presents a basic outline of significant events in the history of Korean printing. The timeline of Korean printing history is contextualized through a simple, parallel timeline of major events outside of Korea related to printing and language.

Arirang News: "Korea's printing technology": Originally aired on Arirang News, this video discusses Korean developments in the field of printing from the printing of the Tripitaka Buddhist scriptures to modern digital printing technologies. The news segment approaches the subject of Korean printing from multiple perspectives and highlights how Korea's history of printing is reflected in modern Korea.

Arirang Special: Uigwe, In Search of Our Lost History - Dr. Park Byeong-seon: This documentary portrays the story of the historian Dr. Park Byeong-seon, who is commonly known as "the mother of Jikji." Through interviews and various reenactments, the documentary presents how Dr. Park rediscovered the copy of Jikji in the France National Library and advocated for the return of all 297 volumes of the Uigwe to Korea.

Great Big Story: "Printing Books for the Ages - The Hidden History of Korea's Printing Innovation": This video story showcases the work of Han-Soo Park, who runs the Letterpress Workshop in Paju Book City, to preserve the tradition of letterpress printing in Korea. The video offers insight into the Letterpress Workshop in modern Korea and an approachable, generalization on the process of letterpress printing.

Steph Rue - "Field Notes From Korea": This online journal by Steph Rue, a Fulbright Junior Researcher (2015-2016) that was based in Seoul, details the author's experiences and visits to locations generally related to Korean book arts and printing. The journal is well supplemented with photos that document many techniques of traditional Korean crafts involved in the bookmaking process.

Research Resources

Specimen Pages of Korean Movable Types - Collected & Described by Melvin P. McGovern: This book contains a collection of type specimens that outlines nearly every font of Korean movable type through facsimiles and original examples of Korean printing. Precursory texts and supplemental materials within the book make this work an informative resource on the history of Korean printing and the development of Korean movable type.

Han'guk Ŭi Ko Hwalcha = Early Korean Typography: This book examines the various inventions and developments that contributed to development of Korean movable type and printing practices. There are Korean, English, and Japanese translations of the text with several prefatory diagrams and infographics on the subject of Korean movable type. The book also includes a section of multiple specimen pages with facsimile examples of Korean printing and information specific to each example.

Han'guk Ko Hwalcha Kaeyo = Early Movable Type in Korea: This book introduces the Korean development of movable type through a discussion of printing in China and an outline of the several Korean fonts that were cast by the Korean government. Information on various movable types and reproductions of printing examples are compiled into a list that follows the main text. The English translation and reprinted examples of printing are followed by the original Korean text.

A Chinese Printing Manual, 1776 - Translated from the Chinese with notes and introduction by Richard C. Rudolph: While this book primarily focuses on wooden type and Chinese printing, it provides useful visual depictions of the processes of making and setting type, in addition to how pages were formatted for printing. The text offers insight into the processes involved in print production in early China, including an explanation of the rotation system that was used to prevent type shortages, and is an informative supplement to information about Korean type and printing.

Templestay: 2012 Winter Vol.04 - "The Story of 'Jikji' The World's Oldest Metal-type Book": This article provides an overview of the history of Jikji and the contributions of Dr. Park Byeon-sun to the study of printing history. This discussion is followed by an interview with the master craftsman of metal type, Im In-ho, who studies the traditional process by which Korean movable metal type is cast.

"The History of Pre-Gutenberg Woodblock and Movable Type Printing in Korea": This paper highlights the significance of the Dhārani Sutra and addresses the controversies regarding its place of origin by explaining the early history of printing technologies that developed in Korea. The text also discusses other works considered significant in the study of Korean movable type and compares the respective effects of printing technologies in Europe and in China/Korea.

"Movable Metal Type Printing - Korean Books from the Early 13th Century to the Early 15th Century": This article introduces the development of manuscripts and printed books in Korea as a response to the spread of Buddhism and Confucianism. Included are descriptions of books and texts that were printed in Korea from movable metal types, discussing the significance and specifics of each work.

"Korea's Movable Metal Type: Opens the Era of Modern Civilization": This article examines the three different casting methods used by the Koreans to create movable metal type. The article offers a comparison between the movable metal type developed in Korea and the movable metal type developed by Johannes Gutenberg in Germany.

"The History and Characteristics of Traditional Korean Books and Bookbinding": This article frames the history and characteristics of Korean books and bookbinding with regards to those of Chinese books and bookbinding to not only note the presence of a Chinese cultural influence, but also to highlight the qualities unique to Korean books and bookbinding. Bookbinding structure developments are explained in relation to advances in printing techniques, manuscript production, and storage methods.

"Early Korean Printing": This article discusses the historical contexts and causes that led to the development of movable metal type in Korea. The text elaborates on the factors that contributed to the preferred use of movable metal type rather than xylography and describes the involved type-casting and mold-making processes.

Traces of Jikji and Korean Movable Metal Types - In Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary: This book is a summarized English version of an earlier Korean publication that details the significance of Jikji within the study of Korean movable metal types. Included in the book are photo-reproduction of Paegun Hwasang ch'orok Pulcho chikchi simch'e yojŏl, also known Jikji, and Chabi Toryang Ch'ampŏp Chiphae.

Early Movable Metal Types Produced by Lost-Wax Casting: This text consists of a close-examination of the characteristics of movable metal type made by lost-wax casting. The investigated type pieces were originally used to print the Wibuinja and now allow for further understanding of Korean movable metal type production methods.

"Age Determination of the World's Oldest Movable Metal Types Through Measuring the "Meog" Using AMS": This article analyzes samples of "meog" black ink from the printing surface of metal types thought to have been used to print Jeungdoga, a book that was printed in Korea to promote the spread of Buddhism. Based on the obtained graphite samples derived from the "meog," the ages of the metal types were extrapolated based on the last time that they were used to print.

MLA Works Cited

Hong, W., et al. "Age Determination of the World's Oldest Movable Metal Types through Measuring the "Meog" Using AMS." Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms, vol. 361, 15 Oct. 2015, pp. 580-585., doi:10.1016/j.nimb.2015.04.035.

Hyun, Young Ah. "Movable Metal Type Printing. Korean Books from the Early 13th Century to the Early 15th Century." Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, vol. 76, 2001, pp. 77-82.

Jin, Jian, and Richard C. Rudolph. A Chinese Printing Manual, 1776. Ward Ritchie Press, 1954.

Kim, Hong-yeong. "Korea's Movable Metal Type: Opens the Era of Modern Civilization." Koreana, vol. 19, no. 1, 2005, pp. 60-65.

Kim Wŏn-yong. Han'guk Ko Hwalcha Kaeyo. Ŭlyu Munhwa Sa, 1954.

Lee, Seungcheol. Traces of Jikji and Korean Movable Metal Types: In Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary. Edited by Sanggun Lee et al. Translated by Sanggun Lee et al., Cheongju Early Printing Museum, 2003.

McGovern, Melvin P. Specimen Pages of Korean Movable Types. Dawson's Book Shop, 1966.

Park, Hak Soo, and Eui Pak Yoon. "Early Movable Metal Types Produced by Lost-Wax Casting." Metals and Materials International Springer : The Korean Institute of Metals and Materials , vol. 15, no. 1, 2009, pp. 155-158., doi:10.1007/s12540-009-0155-z.

Park, Hye Ok. "The History of Pre-Gutenberg Woodblock and Movable Type Printing in Korea." International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, vol. 4, no. No. 9(1), July 2014, pp. 9-17.

Sohn, Pow-Key. "Early Korean Printing." Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 79, no. 2, 1959, pp. 96-103., doi:10.2307/595851.

Son, Po-gi. Han'guk Ŭi Ko Hwalcha = Early Korean Typography . Pojinjae, 1982.

Song, Minah. "The History and Characteristics of Traditional Korean Books and Bookbinding." Journal of the Institute of Conservation, vol. 32, no. 1, 2009, pp. 53-78., doi:10.1080/19455220802630743.

Yim, Yumi. "The Story of 'Jikji': The World's Oldest Metal-Type Book." Templestay, volume 04, 2012, pp. 2-21.