Korea, France to collaborate in scientific analysis of 'Jikji' - Korea Times
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Korea, France to collaborate in scientific analysis of 'Jikji'

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The cover of the second volume of
The cover of the second volume of "Jikji," currently kept at the National Library of France / Courtesy of Cheongju Jikji Korea Organization

By Park Han-sol

Cheongju city government in North Chungcheong Province and two of France's national institutions will launch a joint scientific project to analyze "Jikji Simche Yojeol," better known as "Jikji" ― the world's oldest surviving book printed with movable metal type.

The city signed a memorandum of understanding, Friday, with the National Library of France, where the only extant original copy of "Jikji" is kept, and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).

The analysis of the book's materials and its state of preservation will be carried out by the Cheongju Early Printing Museum, Chungbuk National University's paper-based artifacts preservation center and CNRS's conservation and analysis center. The research findings will be announced via international academic journals and conferences.

Through this collaborative research, Cheongju will push ahead with its project to produce some 60 faithful copies of "Jikji" that can reflect the condition of its original paper material and printing method. Although the city mulled over the project back in 2007, it then failed to come to fruition due to the lack of technology necessary for detailed analysis of the pages without damaging the original.

The Buddhist text was published late during the 918-1392 Goryeo Kingdom in 1377, at Cheongju's Heungdeok Temple ― 78 years before the Gutenberg Bible, which was widely known as one of the earliest books printed using mass-produced metal type in Europe.

The artifact was enlisted on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 2001.

The book was first acquired by Collin de Plancy, a French consul in Seoul, in the late 19th century. Later, it went into the hands of collector Henri Vever, whose death prompted its donation to the National Library of France in 1952. The original metal type print had two volumes, but only the second has survived.

박한솔 hansolp@koreatimes.co.kr

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