Jikji (直指) published from moveable metal type in 1377

Jikji (直指) was printed from moveable metal type in 1377 at Heungdeoksa, a regional temple in Cheongju, Korea. The book’s original title is Baegun-hwasang-chorok-buljo-jikji-simche-yojeol (白雲和尙抄錄佛祖直指心體要節) or, The Essential Passages Pointing Directly to Mind. It was introduced to the West as Jikji-simgyeong (直指心經) in an exhibition by the National Library of France (BnF) held in honor of UNESCO’s International Book Year in 1972. Jikji was compiled by the monk Baegun (1298-1374), a student of the Chinese monk Seokok-cheonggong (石屋淸珙) and the Indian monk Jigong (指空). In 1372 (at the age of 75), Baegun wrote the two volumes of Jikji at Seongbulsa (成佛寺) in Seongbul mountain (成佛山), prior to his death in 1374 at Chwiamsa (鷲巖寺) in Yeoju. Jikji was published with the financial assistance of the Buddhist nun Myodeok (妙德) at Heungdeoksa (興德寺) in Cheongju, and printed by a team of monks led by Seokchan (釋璨) three years after Baegun (白雲) passed away.

Jikji contains Buddhist sermons from 145 families, including seven Buddhas, 28 founders of an Indian religious sect, and 110 Chinese Zen priests as well as an excerpt from the analects of the Korean monk Daeryeong who lived during the Silla Dynasty. The central content of Jikji is an examination of the famous saying “Jikji-insim-gyeonseong-seongbul (直指人心見性成佛),” which translates as, “when you see a person’s heart correctly through meditation, you realize that the nature of the heart is the mind of Buddha.” Jikji is currently held in the Oriental Literature Department of the BnF. It was collected by Collin de Plancy (1853-1922), the first French minister appointed to Korea. While de Plancy donated most of the ancient Korean books he collected to his alma mater, the National Institute of Oriental Languages ​​and Civilizations in Paris, Jikji was purchased by Henri Vever in 1911 for 180 francs at an auction house, Hôtel Drouot. In 1952, the book was donated to the National Library of France where today only the second volume survives.

Jikji (直指) published from woodblocks in 1378

A second edition of Jikji was printed from woodblocks in 1378 at Chwiamsa (鷲巖寺) in Yeoju, Korea. The woodblock edition was printed in two volumes and compiled as a single book.

The reason Jikji was reprinted from woodblocks soon after its first printing from movable metal type is that woodblocks would allow the ongoing printing of modest numbers of books, as needed. The record shows the woodblock edition was published in 1378 by disciples of the author, the monk Baegun, led by monks Beoprin (法隣) and Seokchan (釋璨), with help from Lee Saek (李穡) and Kim Gye-Saeng (金繼生). The calligraphy was executed by Minam (民巖), Seonhwa (禪和), and Myodeok, who had previously participated in printing the book from moveable metal types at Heungdeoksa. Jikji has been handed down over time in editions printed from four distinct typefaces.

Kabinja, Korean cast metal type, c. 1434

Kabinja (c. 1434) was the third oldest metal type font from the Chosǒn dynasty (1392-1910).  This piece is one of six Kabinja examples that are from of a larger collection of early Korean moveable type at the Library of Congress. The development of Kabinja was part of the golden age of Chosŏn culture under King Sejong the Great (r. 19 September 1418 – 8 April 1450). The advancement of printing techniques were integral to many cultural and scientific achievements during his reign.

This particular piece was authenticated by Dr. Lee Seung-cheol, Director, Research & Development Division, UNESCO International Centre for Documentary Heritage, Cheongju, South Korea. Dr. Lee based his assessment in part on the distinctive concave shape of the reverse side, indicative of Sejong-era fonts, Kabinja (1434) and Pyŏngjinja (1436).

— Asian Division, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.