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French audience marvels at the Jikji

Posted April. 13, 2023 08:04,   

Updated April. 13, 2023 08:04


“The culture of Korea has started to unfold in France,” said Pierre Dubois of the French Institute, standing in awe of “Jikjisimcheyojeol,” or “Jikji,” the world’s oldest book printed in movable metal type, on display at the National Library of France (The Bibliotheque Nationale de France, BnF). “I already know that Jikji is the world’s oldest book printed in movable metal type, which far precedes the Gutenberg Bible, but many Europeans don’t know this,” Mr. Dubois said.

BnF held the VIP and press exhibition one day before the “Print! Gutenberg’s Europe” exhibition scheduled to take place from April 12 to July 16. One hundred invitees, including college professors and researchers, lined up outside the building despite heavy rain, getting excited to see firsthand the Jikji. It is the first in 50 years that BnF discloses the second part of the Jikji, which it has been stored in storage to the public since 1973 in the “Treasure from the East” exhibition.

Although visitors were more interested in the Gutenberg Bible, which the Europeans would feel more familiar with, they also had a high level of understanding of the Jikji from the East. Remy Gimenez, a professor at the University of Tours in France, who was waiting to get inside the exhibition hall, showed excitement over the Jikji.

“I have read a book related to the history of printing and learned that the Jikji is the world’s oldest book printed in movable metal type,” Mr. Gimenez said. "This is the first time I get to see the Jikji firsthand. I have been wondering what the Jikji would look like. The Jikji marks a significant milestone in the history of printing."

“This exhibition introduces that printing history began not in Europe but in Asia," said Laurence Engel, President of the National Library of France. "We are honored to take part in the efforts to preserve the universal heritage of Jikji since 1952.”

Eun-A Cho achim@donga.com