“Jikji Simche Yojeol,” the world’s oldest surviving book printed with movable metal type, will be put on public display in France for the first time in 50 years.
According to the website of the National Library of France on Feb. 16, the book will be shown as part of the library’s exhibition “Print! Gutenberg’s Europe” (unofficial translation) set to run from April 12 to July 16.
Introducing the exhibition, the library said it “will trace the historical development of printing and the key to its success,” adding, “Jikji, the oldest book in the world printed with metal type (invented in Korea in 1377) will be on display.”
The full name of “Jikji” is “Baegun Hwasang Chorok Buljo Jikji Simche Yojeol.”
According to the Cheongju Early Printing Museum’s Jikji global website, it was reportedly first displayed for public viewing at the Korean Pavilion of the 1900 Paris Expo.
Following that, it was only displayed at the exhibition “Treasure of the East” (unofficial translation) held at the library in 1973.
According to the National Heritage Portal of the Cultural Heritage Administration and Cheongju Early Printing Museum, “Jikji” was published using metal type in the third year (1377) of the reign of Goreyo Dynasty King Woo at Heungdeoksa Temple in Cheongju, Chungcheongbuk-do Province.
The book is known to consist of two volumes. Just one copy of the second volume is housed at the French library.
“Jikji,” a cultural heritage showing the excellence of Korean printing technology, is the world’s oldest book printed with movable metal type, preceding the Gutenberg Bible published in 1455 by 78 years.
The book was listed as a UNESCO Memory of the World in 2001.
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Jikji is the abbreviated title of a Korean Buddhist document whose title can be translated to “Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests’ Zen Teachings”. Jikji Simche means, “If you look at a person’s heart correctly through the Zen meditation, you will realize that the nature of the heart is the heart of Buddha.” Printed during the Goryeo Dynasty in 1377, it is the world’s oldest extant book printed with movable metal type. UNESCO confirmed Jikji as the world’s oldest metalloid type in September 2001 and includes it in the Memory of the World Programme.
Jikji was published in Heungdeok Temple in 1377, 78 years prior to Johannes Gutenberg’s acclaimed “42-Line Bible” printed during the years 1452–1455. The greater part of the Jikji is now lost, and today only the last volume survives, and is kept at the Manuscrits Orientaux division of the National Library of France (BnF). The BnF has hosted a digital copy online.