Anonymous Korean metalworkers of the 14th century were the world's first printers of movable type, predating Gutenberg's famous bible by over 70 years.
The survival of a Buddhist text dating from 1377, printed at a provincial temple in south Korea, suggests that Korean artisans had mastered the basic techniques of casting and setting metal type long before the patronage of King Sejong (reigned 1418-1450) resulted in handsome large editions such as the pages shown here. At the court of King Sejong, cast bronze types were used to print works that ministers and scholars needed for their political and ethical reform programme.
Sejong established the 'Hall of Worthies' as a kind of think-tank on the place of Confucian ideals in Korea. The 'Worthies', high-ranking scholars and officials, needed wide access to Chinese texts which could be imported from China only with difficulty. Court officials therefore persevered in improving type design and setting methods until high-quality type like the 'kabin' face shown here was achieved.
'Kabin' type displays the influence of the Chinese calligrapher Zhao Mengfu (1254 - 1322) whose elegant writing style inspired many imitators among calligraphers and printers during the 15th century.