SEOUL, April 11 (Korea Bizwire) – “Jikji,” the world’s oldest extant book printed with movable metal type, will be put on public display in France for the first time in half a century.
The National Library of France will present “Jikji” as part of its exhibition on the history of printing technology, set to run from April 12 to July 16 (French time).
It marks the first time in about 50 years that the book, currently kept at the library’s storage in Paris, is open to the public. The book was last seen in public during an exhibition at the same library in 1973.
“Jikji” is the abbreviated title of “Jikji Simche Yojeol” about teachings of great Buddhist priests printed at Heungdeok Temple in Cheongju, 112 kilometers south of Seoul, during the Goryeo Kingdom in 1377.
This was 78 years before the Gutenberg Bible, the earliest substantial book printed using metal type in Europe.
“Jikji” consists of two volumes, but only one copy of the second volume currently exists and is housed in the French library.
The book was known to have been acquired by Collin de Plancy (1853-1922), the first French minister to Korea, between the late 1880s and the early 1890s, when he served in the country.
The book later went to French collector Henri Vever when it was up for auction in Paris in 1911 and was donated to the French national library in 1952.
In 2001, it was confirmed by UNESCO as the world’s oldest book printed with movable metal type and was included in its Memory of the World Program.
The book is expected to draw heavy attention at the upcoming exhibition as it will be unveiled for the first time in half a century.
It is known to be the only Asian heritage to be displayed in the exhibition’s first section for highlighting the invention and history of printing technique.
To be shown together with the book are “Bois Protat,” the earliest surviving woodblock from the Western world, and the Gutenberg Bible, according to a booklet available on the French library’s homepage.
Describing “Jikji” as the world’s oldest surviving book printed with movable metal type, the library said it is the first time in its history that the three items are being exhibited together.
On the eve of the exhibition opening, the library unveiled the book to the media.
It was displayed unfolded inside a glass case. The pages of the book appeared faded and mottled, but the typeface remained sharp enough to discern the words.