Scientific Analysis of Jikji

The scientific analysis of Jikji is a series of research processes that attempt, through scientific scrutiny and the sharing of the findings, to explore the truths behind the use of metal type and book publishing in the Goryeo period. To this end, the City of Cheongju signed an MoU with the National Library of France (BnF), the current possessor of Jikji, and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) to form a global partnership. Through this collaboration, researchers are continuing their scientific analysis of the book’s material composition and conservation status as well as exploring ways to utilize the findings.

When first printed at Heungdeoksa Temple in Cheongju in 1377, Jikji was a two-volume book. However, only the second volume has survived and is presently housed at the Archive of Oriental Manuscripts at the BnF. Since its last public unveiling in 1973, the book has been kept behind closed doors for nearly 50 years. Against this backdrop, for the first time in 2021, a scientific study on the conservation status of Jikji was conducted to develop a deeper understanding of the book, physical proof of the world’s earliest metal type printing technology.

This joint research project is expected to promote academic discourse on Jikji, a key aspect of humanity’s heritage, as well as discussions on ways to ensure its permanent conservation and its constructive application. The results of the scientific analysis of Jikji will first be published in international academic journals and then shared with the global public through international conferences and our museum website.

Analysis Phase 1 (September 2021): Richelieu Library, BnF

This phase involved the first-ever analysis of the condition of Jikji and the quality of the paper used, in terms of the thickness of the book, the quality and thickness of each sheet of paper, the color of the ink, the current state of the stains that reflect the passage of time, the state of adhesion between printed paper and mount paper, the production method of the book’s outer covers, and the state of its binding. This study was jointly conducted by researchers from the Cheongju Early Printing Museum (CEPM), Chungbuk National University, and the Conservation Research Center at the French National Museum of Natural History (MNHN). It revealed that Jikji was created by carefully printing Korean ink on Goryeo-style hanji (traditional Korean paper) that is both thin and light.

Analysis Phase 1 (September 2021): Richelieu Library, BnF

Analysis Phase 2 (April 2022): Centre de Recherche sur la Conservation (CRC), MNHN

As in Phase 1, Phase 2 of the Analysis was conducted in a confidential manner, this time at the Conservation Research Center at the MNHN. The investigation involved a chemical composition analysis of the paper and ink used to create Jikji. This thorough and effective examination of the current state of Jikji, coupled with findings from Phase 1 of the Analysis, has produced a great deal of valuable new information about the book.

International Conference on the Scientific Findings (September 2022): CEPM, Cheongju, Korea

As part of the 2022 Jikji Festival, an academic conference of researchers and relevant experts was held at the CEPM to share their findings from the scientific analysis of Jikji. It was a significant event because, for the first time, an expert from the BnF, the book’s current conservator, joined as a panel member. The participants engaged in academic discussions on diverse topics, including their respective research findings, a case study on the analysis of hanji from the Goryeo period, a study of the processing techniques and functions of hanji in the said period, and methods to enhance the conservation of Jikji.

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