SEOUL, Feb. 16 (Korea Bizwire) — “Jikji,” the world’s oldest extant book printed with movable metal type, will be displayed for the first time in half a century at an exhibition in France.
According to the homepage of the National Library of France on Thursday, “Jikji,” the abbreviated title of “Jikji Simche Yojeol,” will be shown as part of its exhibition on the history of printing technology, set to run from April 12 to July 16.
It marks the first time in about 50 years that the book, currently kept at the library in Paris, is open to the public.
The book about teachings of great Buddhist priests was 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” was first shown to the public at the 1900 Paris Exposition in France, according to the Jikji Global website run by the Cheongju Early Printing Museum to promote the Korean cultural heritage.
The book gained worldwide attention for the first time when it was displayed at an exhibition hosted by the National Library of France to mark the International Book Year in 1972.
Late Park Byeong-seon (1923-2011), who was working as a librarian in the library at that time, proved the Korean book predates the Gutenberg Bible.
But since an exhibition held at the library in 1973, the Korean book has never been seen in public.
The book is expected to be treated heavily in the upcoming exhibition as it will be unveiled for the first time in half a century.
Several museums have pushed for a plan to rent and display the book but were rejected each time.
As it has been in storage for a long time, how well the book was preserved and how it will be displayed are drawing keen attention.
The Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, affiliated with the Cultural Heritage Administration, will cooperate with the French library for the exhibit.
The foundation earlier supported a project to translate the book written in Chinese characters into French.
“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.