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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 world’s oldest surviving book printed with movable type is the Buddhist work Chikchi [Jikji], printed at a temple in Chŏngju in 1377 and currently in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Korean artisans had thus mastered the techniques of casting and setting metal type long before the patronage of King Sejong (reigned 1418-1450) resulted in handsome 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 [Gabin]' font shown here was achieved.
'Kabin' type, first produced in 1434, display 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.
Did you know the Diamond Sutra, the world's earliest dated printed book, is in the British Library? Discover this and other landmarks of printing in the Library's collections.