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Korean Collections: History and Scope

The first Korean manuscript to enter the collections of the British Museum was a transcription of the Lord's Prayer into the Korean script, Hangul, acquired in 1843. Missionaries and other Western travellers were an important source of materials throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, until Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910 abruptly reduced the scope of British interests on the Korean peninsula.

The Jade Stream Club

The Jade Stream Club, a page from the Okkyesa, an eighteenth-century, Korean illustrated manuscript album of poetry. Or. 11356. Copyright © The British Library Board

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After a period of little activity in the years between the two World Wars, the Korean collection began to grow slowly in the 1960s, and has since that time been curated on a part-time basis by a member of staff with specialist knowledge of Korean language, history and bibliography.

Significant figures in the growth of the Korean collection include Sir Ernest Satow, whose book-collecting in Japan ranged broadly enough to include numerous Korean printed editions which are now among the Library's archive of historic examples of the history of world printing. In 1984, a fine group of moveable-type editions from the library of the bibliographer and historian Fang Chao-ying was acquired, and the Library continues to build up the collection of rare and early works through selective purchases and by gift.

Contact

Asian and African Studies enquiries
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7873
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7641

E-mail: Ask the Reference Team

Hamish Todd, Lead Curator, Japanese and Korean
Asian and African Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7662
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7641

E-mail: hamish.todd@bl.uk