'World's Oldest Movable Type' Found

      September 02, 2010 10:20

      Metal Chinese characters presumed to be the oldest movable type in the world dating from the 13th-century /Courtesy of Daboseong Antique Shop

      A Korean academic said Wednesday he has found the world's oldest movable metal print, which predates what is believed to be the world's oldest book printed using movable metal type, "Jikji Simche Yojeol" from 1377. The newly found letters are possibly 138 years older.  

      Prof. Nam Kwon-heui of Kyungpook National University said, "After analyzing around 100 movable metal letters that were in the private collection of a Korean, we have confirmed that 12 of them were made in the early 13th century."

      The owner of the movable type was quoted as saying he bought them around 10 years ago and was told they were discovered during Japan's occupation of Korea and that a Japanese collector smuggled them out of Korea after World War II.

      The only other movable metal type presumed to date back to the Koryo Kingdom is in the National Museum of Korea and the Kaesong Museum of History, which have one sample each. The type used to print the "Jikji" has yet to be discovered. The "Jikji," an anthology of the teachings of the Buddha for meditation, is held by the National Library of France since the country looted them during a botched invasion in the late Chosun Dynasty.

      In order for the newly found movable type to be dated correctly, experts need to analyze composition, metal craftsmanship and how they were handed down through history. Nam is to unveil the type on Thursday.

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