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Old Korean books collected by French scholar discovered en masse

2012-10-17 14:33

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     SEOUL, Oct. 17 (Yonhap) -- Hundreds of old Korean books collected by a prominent French scholar of oriental studies have been discovered en masse, South Korea's national library said Wednesday.

   The National Library of Korea said it has found 254 Korean books formerly possessed by Maurice Courant (1865-1935) at the College de France in Paris, in the course of digitalizing old Korean books abroad.

   Courant was a pioneer of Korean studies and wrote 21 titles related to Korea based on the books he collected while working as a French diplomat in Korea at the end of the 19th century.

   They include "Korean Bibliography (Bibliographie Coreenne)," which is still considered an essential material for Korean studies as it lists 3,821 old Korean books chronologically, together with bibliographical notes.

   Little had been known about what happened to Courant's books except that two or three of them went to the French college.

   It now appears the college purchased the 254 books from Courant's family on two occasions in 1936, one year after his death, according to the library.

   Most of the books are about history and published in the 19th and 20th centuries and include a rare copy of "Haedongjegukgi," a Chinese-language Korean history book on Japan written by scholar and politician Shin Suk-ju during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

   Also among the texts was a hand-written copy of an ancient Korean atlas called "Cheonhajegukdo," which includes a rare map of historic value, from the latter part of the dynasty, according to the library.

   Including the titles collected by Courant, the French college currently has 421 old Korean books in its possession.

   The library has published a report on the findings both in Korean and French languages.

   The bibliographic directory and original texts of the books will also become available from next month on a Website (http://www.nl.go.kr/korcis) run by the library, it added.


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