Korean Manuscripts, Printed Books and Maps

Antiquarian Korean materials arrived at the Bodleian Libraries in the latter part of the 19th century, relatively late compared to other East Asian materials. The late arrival is probably due to the fact that Choson, known in the West as Corea or Korea, was opened to Western visitors only from 1882. The Bodleian collection includes rare and important antiquarian printed books, manuscripts, imperial publications, fine portrait albums, maps, a painted scroll and official orders by King Kojong.

The first arrivals in the Bodleian in 1885 were a group of of books from the New Testament translated in the 1880s into the native Korean scripts, han’gul, by John Ross (1842-1915). Ross’s New Testament books are included on the ‘100 Hangul Heritage’ list, as they are the first books of the Bible in han’gul. Many of the other rare and important Korean books and manuscripts in the Bodleian were donated sporadically between 1896 and 1930 by Bishop Mark Napier Trollope (1862-1930).

The most recent notable acquisition is from Monsignor Richard Rutt. This gift is a large donation composed of about 2000 items, of which many titles are now out of print and difficult to obtain. An important one is the Terminations of the Verb 하다, the only known copy, worldwide. The book sets out in a systematic way the complete variety of Korean verbal endings.

Of these items, two important donations have been digitized: an unusual 18th century atlas Sahara chibang sunggae ci do chon with many maps not seen in any other atlases (Corean.d.2); and a rare example of an 18th century world map with gores Yonggo yanggye Yodong chondo - MS B1 (510).

Two further important items will soon be digitized - an 18th century painting scroll of the funeral procession of King Yongjo (1694-1776) (MS. Asiat. Misc. a.1); and a 16th century edition of the well-known Korean work Samgang haengsil (Corean 14).