Korean collection

Traditional Korean orchestra at the Royal Court
Detail from a Korean royal ceremonial manuscript, 1809 (Or.7458)

Our Korean language collection includes 15,000 monographs, 50 manuscripts, 500 periodicals, official publications and newspapers.

About the collection

Some highlights of the collection are:

  • Kisa chin p'yori chin ch'an ŭigwe – an illustrated commemorative manuscript recording ceremonies held in 1809 to honour Lady Hyegyŏng, widow of Crown Prince Sado and grandmother of King Sunjo
  • Manuscript maps including a court-sponsored atlas of the provinces and several versions of Kim Chŏng-ho's Taedong Yŏjido
  • 125 woodblock-printed books from the 15th to 19th centuries
  • 50 early works printed with movable type, among them Collected commentaries on the 'Spring and autumn annals' printed in 1442
  • Confucian texts, including Samgang haengsildo (Illustrations of the Three Bonds), published in the early Chosŏn period to promote Confucian values, with Korean explanations accompanying the Chinese text. They are among the earliest books printed with hangŭl script
  • 35 mid-19th-century novels printed in hangŭl
  • 100 genre scenes by the late-19th-century artist Kisan depicting traditional Korean life.

We collect material published in and about North Korea, including books, periodicals and the daily newspaper Nodong sinmun.

The Library collects Korean government publicationsmaps and sound recordings.

We also have a large amount of material relating to Korea written in English and other languages.

What is available online?

Electronic catalogues are available for the following items:

Important early Korean printed books and manuscripts from the British Library collection have been digitised and images are being made available online. This is a list with links to catalogue records and digitised versions.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

You can consult Korean printed materials and manuscripts in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. A selection of Korean reference material is available on the shelves.

Further information

The following chapters are both in Daiei Toshokan shozō Chōsenbon oyobi Nihon kosho no bunkengakuteki, gogakuteki kenkyū, ed. by Fujimoto Yukio (Toyama: Toyama University, 2007):
  • McKillop, Elizabeth, ‘Early printed books from Korea in the British Library’
  • Todd, Hamish, 'The Satow Collection of Japanese Books in the British Library: its history and significance'