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3,467 Joseon books found in a Japanese library

Posted January. 10, 2018 08:44,   

Updated January. 10, 2018 09:24


It is found that hundreds of books written during the Joseon Dynasty are kept in the Seikado Bunko Library, a private library in Japan.

The Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation and Ok Yeong-jeong, a researcher of bibliography and a professor of ancient documents management at the Graduate School of Korean Studies at the Academy of Korean Studies, conducted an investigation from 2016 to 2017 on the collection of ancient books written in the Joseon Dynasty and owned by the Seikado Bunko Library and found 3,467 books in 639 types. It has been known that the library has 90-100 types of ancient books of Joseon Dynasty. But it turns out it had six times more than that.

The Seikado Bunko Library is a repository of bibliography research in East Asia, possessing as many as 200,000 books. It is a library established based on the collection of books owned by Yanosuke Iwasaki (1851-1908), Mitsubishi's second president, and his son, Koyata Iwasaki (1879-1945).

The investigation has also found many rare cultural assets of the Joseon Dynasty at the library. The case in point is a printed book of “Jujaeoryu,” which was bestowed by King Jungjong on Yeongeuijeong (prime minister) Roh Soo-sin (1515-1590) in 1544. Also a complete set of pharmacology books published in the 16th century “Jeungryubiyong Boncho” was found to have been kept at the library, too. A book of the set has been designated as treasure in Korea and is kept at the Gacheon Museum in Korea.

Another book found is a complete set of “Hongjaejeonseo,” a collection of poems and prose written by King Jeongjo, the 22nd king of Joseon. “One hundred books of Hongjaejeonseo kept in the Seikado Bunko Library are all recensions that used metal type printing,” said an official at the foundation. “These are very valuable assets given that recensions usually got removed after the finished version had been published.”

The Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation is planning to publish a book featuring the list of ancient books of the Joseon Dynasty kept in the Seikado Bunko library including their pictures and descriptions.

Won-Mo Yu onemore@donga.com