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1st print edition of Korea’s modern novel 'Heartless' disclosed

1st print edition of Korea’s modern novel 'Heartless' disclosed

Posted July. 18, 2017 07:24,   

Updated July. 18, 2017 07:42

The first print of "Heartless (pictured)," the first modern Korean novel penned by novelist Lee Gwang-soo (1892-1950), also known as his penname Chunwon, has been disclosed.

The Library of Korea University announced Monday that an alumnus and a retired teacher of the Korean language surnamed Yoo (75) has donated the first print of the Heartless to the institution, which he had received from one of his students. Of the 1,000 volumes of the first batch of the Heartless published in 1918, only one has been identified so far, which has been kept at the Museum of Korean Modern Literature. The version at the museum, however, had its cover binding missing, so the image of the original cover page had been presumed based on the 1920 reprint. The Heartless was serially published in the Maeil Daily from January 1 to June 14 in 1917, and the novel was published by Sinmoongwan on July 20, 1918.

The first print disclosed this time provides a clear glimpse into the original image of the book from 1918 with the cover, spine, and the copyright paper kept intact. “The novels published in the 1910s tended to adopt more conventional designs for the cover with colorful pictures on it, but the cover of the first printed version of Heartless does not have any picture on it; it only has neat writings containing the time of the author, the title of the book and the publisher,” explained an official from the library. Based on a stamp on the back page, the purchase point of the book was identified as a bookstore called "Dongmoongwan," which was located in Nammoontong, Daehwajeong, in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province.

Mr. Yoo also donated to Korea University an epic poem called Yongbieocheonga (Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven) from Cheongnyeon Moongo, the first paper back in Korea. “The publication of the first volume of Cheongnyeon Moongo Yongbieocheonga was presumed to have been published by Sinmoonsa in 1915, but this is the first time that an actual book has been found,” said a library official.

The new additions of Heartless and Yongbieocheonga will undergo a thorough inspection before being displayed at the library’s reading room for valuable publications in about mid-September this year.

Hyo-Lim Son aryssong@donga.com