A witness to history

From Jikji to Gutenberg

From Jikji to Gutenberg is a collaborative research project involving over 30 scholars living in 13 different time zones who will investigate the technological evidence related from the invention of book printing. This interdisciplinary team is made up of historians, material specialists, conservators and scientists who will apply nondestructive multispectral and XRF imaging at Stanford University’s state-of-the-art Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource to study what appears to be independent developments that lead to thriving print cultures in Eastern Asia to Western Europe.

The project will produce a catalog of scholarly essays to be published by The Legacy Press (Ann Arbor, MI) which will accompany an international exhibit to be held simultaneously in 44 research libraries, each a major cultural destination in its own right. This cooperative transnational exhibit will commemorate the 650th anniversary of the printing of Jikji in July 2027. The goal for the core interpretive element of each library’s exhibit will be a 42-line Gutenberg Bible displayed for the first time together with its complement: an earlier Korean book printed from cast-metal type. In the Chinese tradition of the Four Great Inventions (the compass, gunpowder, papermaking, and printing), each exhibit will direct attendees toward the Bibliothèque nationale de France where its beautiful copy of the 42-line Gutenberg Bible will be showcased with the venerable Jikji displayed for the first time since 1973. With UNESCO’s participation, these synchronized exhibits will acknowledge Korea’s monumental gift to civilization while celebrating the interrelated origins of printing with a firsthand look at the range of rare cultural artifacts that epitomize the global historic foundations of book printing.