All the 187 thread-bound books in the Charmbit Series have faithfully followed the traditional thread binding method with five or four holes, by which old source books were made in old Korea. The 187 thread-bound books in the series were bound with red silk thread, which stands for respect and auspice towards information and knowledge contained in the old books, thus successfully reviving the gentility and quaintness of old books.
The Reissue Series of Charmbit Archive is the product of an effort to reproduce books of Korean classics and old texts in a way of photographic process. It is made up of 629 individual books out of 673 original sources from traditional Korea. The original documents in the Series span the whole period from the early days of Joseon Dynasty(1392~1897) when Korean people could finally be able to express themselves easily with their own letters named ‘hunminjeongeum’ or ‘hangul,’ to two generations ago from now. In a more concrete time of history, it covers more than 500 years from 1446 to 1969.
The most important and fundamental revolution during this time is the awakening of the public, or enlightenment of the people. Enlightenment, or breaking down delusion and ignorance that had stifled poignantly both emotional and cultural lives of the public, has eventually led to foundation of the Republic of Korea(1919), a nation ‘for the people,’ which succeeded to the Korean Empire(1897~1910), a nation ‘for its emperor,’ after Joseon Dynasty, a nation ‘for its king.’ The nameless people who had not realized their inherent right and vocation would not have been able to be born again as modern citizens from premodern subjects and stand tall, without public sharing of knowledge and information, and its consequent outcome of self‐awareness.
The real images of some books republished in the first and second collections of the 629 Reissue Series
In the base of this historical development might lie various kinds of social and economic reasons inherent in Korea, as well as external environment of drastic changes in world history. However, I believe that the driving force of the enlightenment had been originated from the communities’ longing and practice for teaching and learning. It is all due to teaching and learning, practicing and acting, that is, fulfilling education with all one’s strength, that the Korean people could overcome their hardships and meet actively the challenges that they had faced throughout the long tunnel of their history.
In fact, there exists a critical view of a state‐led schooling system of this country. Some say the public educational system cannot be trusted. In other words, there is a skeptical perception of the nationalistic educational system that schools have been factories churning out the people, introduced and run by the Japanese colonial invaders for a considerably long time since the colonial era(1910~1945). Behind this perception, of course, there was an underlying recognition that textbooks were no more than machine parts which effectively ran the factories. Nevertheless, it is not too much to say that it is education that has made people establish their own identity and that it is textbooks that the education was based on and realized by. Particularly, in many East Asian societies of the past, old books for juvenile education from the Thousand-Character Classic to the Confucian Analects had an idea of education. They basically sought for liberal arts and were elaborately designed to embody in pupils’ mind enlightened and civilized world, which would be created by a profound harmony between the will of heaven and the nature of humanities, as well as between the scientific truth and concrete things themselves. In this sense, old textbooks have not been different from a bible as well as a normative canon to most Koreans.
Thus, it is quite an indescribably inspiring experience to review the changes and develop‐ment of the old classical documents produced by Korean culture and history from a long‐term perspective. Here finally, with great delight, I have selected and reissued 629 books which are scarce as well as representative among those rare classics and old resources for education in our own tradition.
A comparison of printing in monochrome with that in original colors. ChoHak‐JiJi(Elementary Geography: An Introduction to World Geography, 107) in the center is the one republished as one of Charmbit Reissue Series this time, and the others are books reissued so far in the way of phototypography by others. You can see clearly the difference between the books restored with the same conditions as those of source books, reviving the sense of reality of source books, and other books reissued in the past. All the 629 books of Charmbit Series are printed in their original colors and in the same conditions as those of source books.
It is about late 2014 that this reissue project has begun in earnest. For last 20 years I have gathered and appreciated those disappearing resources for education, most of which are rare classics and old textbooks from medieval and modern Korea. I have felt keenly the necessity of making them shared among the public. That is, I knew that these materials, which most of ordinary people hardly had access to, must be rightly reproduced and widely disseminated. I believed that these classics and old textbooks of Korea were the fountainhead as well as the holy seedbed that had upreared Koreans as they are, and that they deserved to be reviewed and remembered from the academic, cultural and historical points of view. Nonetheless, I could not take the lead without hesitation.
For me, it is an enormous task, demanding huge amount of time and expertise, to select and reissue by phototypography the 629 old books covering the entire time and the entire subjects that have traces of while teachers teach and students learn, they develop together and learn and practice timely and then you will get the real meaning, which are the theme of study longed for by East Asian people including Koreans for generations in the past. The task itself of reissuing by photographic process, demanding a lot of work for each book, was a weighty burden to me, but most of all there was no proper way to raise expenses for the project.
In the meanwhile, I came to meet an unexpected opportunity. By the end of 2014, I expressed my intention that I would donate part of the old textbooks that I have collected to a museum of education, which was planned to be established by a provincial education authority. I also said that some representative textbooks would positively need to be reproduced for experience purpose when the museum would finally be inaugurated. The education office readily agreed with this suggestion, considering that the old texts are copyrighted public records, to which everyone must have a right to access. Both parties have agreed that the educational resources, which have not been easily accessible to ordinary people so far, must be widely shared by the public as well as among professional researchers.
Looking back, Korean old books have been numerously reissued by photographic process for several decades for study and public sharing including digital reproduction, and I am sure that it would be the same in most countries. Favorite of the reissuing here is mainly those designated as cultural assets by central or local governments, such as Correct Sounds for Instructing the People, Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven, Poems by Du Fu, Korean Translation. There are only a few examples of reissued educational resources.
Images before and after the revision of the page of section 4a, with an illustration regarding filial duty, in the book SamGang‐HaengSilDo (Illustrated Guide to the Three Relations, series no. 065)
As far as I know, the first project that took the lead in photoprinting old textbooks in large quantities and made them shared by the public in Korea must be ‘The Textbook Series for the Time of Enlightenment of Korea’ in 1977, a project of which initiative taken by BAEK Soonjae(?~?), a teacher and philologist, which was composed of total 20 volumes, sorting out scores of different kinds of textbooks such as Korean language, ethics, and history, including A Korean Reader for Elementary School Students(7 out of total 8 vols.) and A History of Korea(3 vols.). The books in the series were printed in monochrome and the period of time the series covers was limited to the time of Enlightenment in Korea, that is, roughly from the latter half of the 19th century to the first decade of the 20th century. Besides, the books in the series bound different kinds of books into one volume of same size with hard cover, ignoring the individual bibliographic features of the originals, most of which were not the same size and originally stitched with thick string put in 5 holes to the back of the book, and with many among them being made with each leaf folded in two, which is the typical characteristics of traditional books produced in the past East Asian countries. Thus, in terms of the format, they are quite different from what they originally were. However, notwithstanding all these limits, the series was a triumph good enough to be mentioned, considering that it was made half a century ago.
In the mid‐1980s, dozens of textbook for elementary school, all of which were compiled and published by the Japanese Government‐General of Korea during the colonial era(1910~1945), were reissued by phototypography. They covered most subjects taught at the time in government elementary schools such as Japanese, history, arithmetic, writing, natural sciences, drawing, moral self‐cultivation, agriculture, song, gymnastic, Korean, geography and so on. Each of them was printed in individual book form, adopting life size of the originals. However, it could be better in a sense that they were printed in monochrome and covered only the time of Japanese colonial era, as well as they were published by a Japanese publishing company.
Recently, a few private publishers have brought out several study series containing phototypography texts mainly on the subject of Korean language, in monochrome and bound together in the same size with soft covers used in contemporary bookbinding. Some of them were reprinted in individual book form, with their original colors restored, but their quality was not very satisfactory. In addition, there were other cases of reprinting textbooks by phototypography by public institutions including the Academy of Korean Studies, universities, foundations, organizations, libraries, museums, and so on. However, they were mostly stereo‐typed and limited to typical time or subjects and typical features of physical bibliography for individual materials were always sacrificed for conveniency in the process of reproduction, as well as the number of kinds reprinted was no more than a few, restricted to some specified documents.
I guess the most critical limits of the books published by phototypographic process until now since ‘The Textbook Series’ mentioned above is that the public readers have no means to access them online, one of the most potent and easiest ways to share knowledge and information both for the general public and professional researchers. Since a huge majority of the existing books reproduced are not available online, it is fundamentally impossible for the public to share them without constraint to time and space and make use of them as research materials.
The images of the source book and the copy reissued in the second collection, of DaeHanJiJi (Korean Geography, vol.1&2, series no. 133, 134) and BoTong GyoGwaSuSinSeo (Book of Moral Self-Cultivation for Primary Education, series no. 123)
Reproducing 629 classics and old textbooks published from the early days of the Joseon Dynasty to the end of 1960s in the form of paper book, and at the same time, providing an e‐book service of them for the public to browse each leaf of all the 629 books online…. It must be an unprecedented and groundbreaking project to reissue rare books by phototypography as exactly same as they were in their faded colors, life sizes and in the same methods of bookbinding adopted by old Korean bookmakers, including 187 stitched bindings.
The total 629 books in the Series are composed of five collections with the course of history, and they are as follows.
The category of the school system that our Series deals with covers elementary, middle and high schools according to the current school system. The subject of books included embraces all that have been taught in educational institutions at each relevant period. The Series includes not only traditional textbooks which are either hanja study books or textbooks dealing with integrated subjects for teaching hanja to children and self‐cultivation, but also textbooks for national language, calculation(mathematics), social studies, history, geography, natural science, practical courses and foreign languages. It also covers, though a few, reference books such as Explanation in Korean and Hanmun Reader for High School, self‐teaching manuals like Quick Learning of Abacus Calculation, and textbooks for social education for literacy such as First Step to Learn Hangul published by various institutions right after the national liberation(1945). As to classification of grade, most of the textbooks are for the lower grades, but those for the upper ones are also fairly included. The Series also took classification of the school system into consideration. The ratio of elementary school textbooks to middle and high school ones in accordance with the current school system is about 7 : 3, with an exception of collection no. 5 which is almost made up of texts used in elementary school.
Our Series also aimed to secure diversity of composition which is able to survey the tradition of Korean book culture, as well as representativeness of the materials. I tried to examine thoroughly changes and aspects of the whole course of education history in Korea unfold over last 500 years. Republishing 629 books, though the average pages for each are just more than 110, comprised of five collections in accordance with the course of history, must be quite demanding to both the editor and the users. However, such a huge composition of each collection and the whole series was inevitable to make the series well balanced in terms of the time of publication, subjects, grades, and schools of the texts during such a long period of more than 500 years.
The 629 books in the Series can be divided roughly into two groups. One is teaching materials of traditional education published before the age of Enlightenment in Korea. The other is ‘new’ textbooks of modern times that have been issued since the last few decades of the 19th century, especially after a series of government’s new measures initiated by the 1894 Gab‐o Reform. Many people say it is the year of 1895 when modern education with new school system was differentiated from old practice of traditional education. After establishing the Government Gyodong Elementary School, the first modern institution for primary education, in September 1894, Emperor Gojong(reign, 1863~1907) and the Education Ministry of the Korean Empire prepared a momentum for the new school system in 1895, by clarifying a new ‘public education,’ through legislating and proclaiming several imperial orders such as Decree of Nation Building through Education, Administrative Law of Hanseong Normal School, Ordinance on Primary Schools. In succession, the Ministry had started to edit new textbooks: for instance, SinJeong-SimSang‐SoHak, GanI‐SaChik(MunJe‐Jip), and JoSeon‐JiJi, of which editorial regimentation and compiling methodology were different from those of traditional textbooks. Thus collection no. 1 and no. 2 defining the boundary between the old and new textbooks must have reflected these circumstances, but here in our Series, the year of 1897 when the Korean Empire was formally established was used to divide the old and new textbooks for convenience’s sake.
The images of the source book, GukEo 1-1 (Korean 1-1, series no. 512) published in 1957(on the left) and its copy reissued in the fifth collection (on the right), page 16 and 17.
The second and the fourth collections are what I have paid special attention to. In addition, the number of volumes that they cover is the greatest. They comprise texts published in the era of Korean Empire(1897~1910) and the time from Independence(1945) to the Korean War(1950~1953) respectively. Each of the times had flied ephemerally and in vain, resulting in colonization and tragic war. However, they were the eras when the heart of Koreans had beaten most violently than any other times throughout the modern history of Korea, even though all the members of the ethnic community of Korea had to go through misfortune of the times, which were full of failures and frustrations.
The second collection includes 158 books, which were published from 1897 when the Korean Empire was established to the year 1910 when it finally collapsed. The Empire was very short‐lived, lasting for just 13 years, and it is needless to say that letterpress printing machines for mass printing, as well as new schooling system, were just introduced. Taking into account all of these, the reissued books in the second collection cannot be said to be in small quantity, even though they must be only a few of the total number of books published in the era.
As an illustration in the beginning of A Reader for Laborers’ Night School in the second collection indicates, in these textbooks is carved an aspiration to the idea of education, that is, an idea that human beings ought to learn. Overview of these texts would lead us to the aims and unspoken prayers of intellectual writers and editors in the time of Enlightenment.
As we know, modern Korea has hesitated to opening up to the outside world, with a policy that resulted in losing its initiative and thus accepting ‘new knowledge’ originated in Western countries under the heavy influence by and through the hands of the Japanese. In consequence, considerable number of textbooks in this period is either edited by the Japanese or partial second‐hand translations from Japanese books, most of which the Japanese had compiled or translated from the Western original sources especially devoted to the area of new knowledge and discoveries such as natural sciences, mathematics, grammar and social sciences. By the time when the Japanese Resident‐General of Korea was established in 1905, the Japanese who were employed by the Resident‐General took the lead in making textbooks for school. What is more, its censorship over textbook publication was severe. Sales and distribution of the so‐called ‘seditious textbooks’ were often banned. In spite of these limits to circumstances of the time, educational resources produced by Koreans themselves in this period of Enlightenment demonstrate enough strong aspiration and awareness of the intellectuals to participate in cosmopolitanism through modernization of their homeland.
Although majority of textbooks the second collection covers is about studies on Korean language and grammar, or about history and geography of Korea and the world, it is another distinctive feature of this period that there were no less textbooks of modern sciences such as arithmetic, physics and chemistry, astronomy, living organisms, physiography, physiology and hygienics. Documents in the time of Enlightenment in our Series allow us to weigh up the possibility of modernization through our own efforts, which often faces skepticism even from inside. Regarding this, I believe researchers as well as the general public could be able to make good use of these reissued textbooks in this period.
The paper quality and printing condition of those textbooks published right after the Liberation of Korea in 1945. On the left is the real image of ChoDeung GukSaGyoBon(ImSiGyoJae)(National History Textbook, provisional textbook, series no. 350), published by education department of Gyeonggi provincial government in 1946, and on the right is that of ChoDeung SemBonChamGoSeo 6-1 (A Reference Book for Elementary Calculation 6-1, series no. 439). Though they were preserved relatively well, the books have poor readability. Because they were printed with thin and coarse recycled papers, types in the books are faint and show through on the other side.
The books in the third collection are from the Japanese colonial era(1910~1945). The Japanese occupation period is a special dilemma in this project of reviving old materials, though all the other realms of historical study also have their own difficulties. That is because every here and there exist wounds of contradiction and absurdity that ones cannot express their thoughts in their own language. From the view point of the Japanese who exercised a force against Koreans, a series of acts of the state unfold in the Korean peninsula in this period, including the publication of textbooks, could be regarded as part of Japanese history and culture, as they thought the Korean peninsula was their national territory overseas at that time. According to this point of view, the textbooks published in this period belong to Japan, not Korea, no matter whether they are in Korean or in Japanese.
A point of view the other way around also arouses the same dilemma. Because in 1910, the Korean interpreter Maema Kyosaku(1868~1942) who worked for the Governor‐General stole the seal of Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Korean Empire and signed the unwilling Japan‐Korea Agreement to make it look legitimate, the annexation of Korea by Japanese imperial invaders was unjustifiable and thus the Japanese Governor‐General of Korea which had usurped power and territory of Korea was an ‘illegal’ organization by international law. In the circumstances, those texts published by the Japanese Governor‐General of Korea could be accepted as part of Korean books? It must be self‐deceptive dichotomy to say that those in Korean belong to Korea and those in Japanese belong to Japan, regardless to the subject of publication.
I decided to accept as ‘textbooks of Korea’ the whole educational materials which were used for educating Korean students either in formal or non‐formal education institutions, no matter whether they were written in either Japanese or Korean, and no matter whether they were published by either imperial organizations of Japan or civilian institutions of Korea. The so‐called protectorate treaty between Korea and Japan concluded in 1905 and its subsequent coloniza‐ tion in 1910 were not lawful, but education conducted in the Korean peninsular during this period of illegal occupation to 1945 must have been telltale part of the Korean history.
That is why I included some of Japanese textbooks published in this period by the Education Ministry of Japan or by the Japanese Government‐General of Korea in the third collection. Most of previous projects of reissuing books by phototypography have excluded those written in Japanese. It is well known that majority of the textbooks used in schools for Korean students during the era of Japanese occupation were written in Japanese. It was even more so after enforcement of the Revised Rule of Joseon Education(1938), which degraded Korean language from a regular curriculum into an optional one. In short, ‘national language’ officially became Japanese, not Korean for Korean students.
The reissued editions of Charlie and James (National Language 1-1, series no. 379), originally published in 1948. On the left is a version reissued by a publisher in 2015, while on the right is the reissued edition included in the Charmbit Reissue Series, p.22 and 23 respectively.
Language is not the only thing to be considered. For instance, National History for Primary School used as a textbook for Korean students in the era of Japanese occupation, was written not only in Japanese language but also about Japanese history, not Korean one. Without considering these facts, a reissue project that covers educational materials written only in Korean must have distorted the historical fact that Korean language at that time had been degraded to a vernacular by the Government‐General as well as by Korean betrayers who took the side of the Japanese, and misled people to know as if Korean language had been universally used in regular curriculums for Korean students. This is not the right way to remember history.
The fourth collection(1945~1953) is dealing with textbooks published in the time which lasted 8 years only from the Liberation of Korea(1945). Besides, three years of them faced confusion of civil war outbreaking in June 1950. Regular textbooks in this time were published largely by the Office of the U.S. Army Government Administration and the Ministry of Education after the establishment of Korean government(1948). Because of harsh environments of independence and the war, textbooks in this period were mostly of bad quality, with their recycled paper being coarse and badly printed.
Notwithstanding, one can find out that these textbooks had not only tried to reflect an inspiration spurred out by independence and an ideal plan of a new country, but also expressed passion and sense of duty with which our own textbooks were made by ourselves. The subjects that I paid particular attention to in the fourth collection are basic ones such as Korean history, Korean language, arithmetic and so on. The collection includes: 18 kinds of national history textbooks in this period, including Temporary Textbook of National History for Elementary School which is for the fifth and sixth grades of elementary school, published in November 1946 by the Education Department of Gyeonggi‐do province, 21 kinds of arithmetic textbooks and 50 kinds of national language textbooks. It is needless to say that considerable number of rare books is included in this collection.
Real images of folio 3a of SeJongEoJe-HunMinJeongEum(Correct Sounds for Instructing People Created by Sejong the Great with an Annotation in Medieval Korean, series no. 002). On the left is a version made by a company, and on the right is the one included in the 629 books, republished by Charmbit Archive and Korean Studies Information together. While the edition on the left was printed in monochrome with white background papers, all the reissued books, and every page of them, of Charmbit Archive were printed with their original colors. By trying to faithfully reproduce the unique colors of each source book, Charmbit Archive has done its best to revive the gentility and quaintness of old books to the fullest.
The fifth collection(1953~1969) is about textbooks published after the Korean War, and I worried myself whether this collection should belong to the Series. The textbooks for the first grade of elementary school that were published in the end of 1960s were ‘the textbooks in my mind’ given to me, the author who, 49 years ago, just entered an elementary school located in a lonely island in the distant southern sea of the Korean peninsula. They were the first and heart‐fluttering books in my life, and must have been so to those who had lived in the backwoods where books were rarely found in those days. In this sense, I could tell that the textbooks of this period have a special relationship with me.
One cannot say that the academic value of contemporary textbooks is less or low as study materials for education history of Korea. Notwithstanding this, the reason why I was concerned is that I thought they were less significant as historical documents, though they could be fully appreciated for a feast for the eyes and for materials to awaken distant memories to the mind of my generation. However, after much consideration, I decided to include these textbooks published in this period in the Series, because of their worth of experience and exhibition, rather than that of research and study.
In reproducing those old books by photographic process, I tried to stick to the method of restoring them as they stand to keep a good quality as far as possible, but I could not use the method for some documents which were preserved in a bad condition. Although occasionally there may be certain imperfections with these old texts, I feel they deserve to be made available for future generations to enjoy. The number of source books for 629 books in the series is 673 in total, and I myself am the collector who owns 80~90 percent of them. Regarding to the documents that are not owned by me, or for some missing leaves, I asked for several institutions holding original materials. Some of these documents are the one and only extant copies at home and abroad, and others are extremely rare.
Some reproduced books in our Series from the early and mid‐Joseon Dynasty, including HunMinJeongEum, GwangJu‐GanSang CheonJaMun and EoJe‐DongMongSeonSeup‐EonHae, could not have been able to be revived without cooperation of institutions and locations preserving original copies at home and abroad. They are: the National Library of Korea, the National Assembly Library, the National Hangul Museum, the Library of Seoul National University, Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies. I sincerely appreciate their cooperation and help.
It is time, for us, to have a decent photoprint edition of classical materials. From the view point of historical materials and cultural heritages, it goes without saying that the original copies are the most priceless. However, originals are not found everywhere. Even if some public institutions such as libraries and museums have original copies, people at large are not allowed to touch them or turn to the pages of them, as they are generally classified as rare or valuable books, and thus as unaccessible. If originals exist only in a storage of a museum, they are no more than dead artefacts.
Books, by definition, a traditional messenger of information and knowledge, are the most meaningful when they make contributions to letting information and knowledge in them shared with the public and widely distributed among people. That is why we need to have decent photoprint editions of classical materials to be appreciated properly for professional research, public exhibition, experimental education as well as for collection. By decent photoprint editions mentioned above, I mean the ones as same as original copies, in their full sizes, ornaments, methods of binding, shape and color of paper and types, as well as texture of paper. Only this way of reissuing by phototypography would be able to meet various demands like research, exhibition, experience and collection.
The images before and after the revision of BoTong‐HakGyo JoSeon‐Eo‐DokBon 1 (A Korean Reader for Primary School, vol.1, series no. 275), originally published by Governor-General of Korea in 1937. On the left is the scanned image of the source book, and on the right is its revised image.
To begin the reissue project in earnest, I had to select 629 books to be republished out of tens or hundreds of thousands of different versions, taking into consideration the time of publication, representativeness and the historical value of the source books, and then I also had to make up for missing leaves and to find a way of restoring impaired pages of the selected books. It was absolutely not an easy task and it took me the whole two years to select 629 books, secure their images by either taking photos or scanning of all the leaves amounting up to 80,000 pages, and get the list and bibliographic data organized. Again it took another three years to revise all the images page by page, typeset the image files together for printing and bind them in their original ways such as stitched binding, binding with a clothes band, saddle stitching, wireless binding and so on. In short, this reissue project by phototypo‐graphy took the whole five years or more for me.
Here finally and proudly, I present the Charmbit Reissue Series consisting of total 629 separate books, which contains essence of historical documents engraved in souls of Koreans for more than last five hundred years. Taking into account the fact that large amount out of reissued 629 books belongs to the Enlightenment and modern times of Korea, one can read between the lines historical upheavals and the ordeal of Korean communities. Those old texts have not only provided nourishment to Koreans who took a long journey searching for light like a knight seeking the Holy Grail, enduring the dark times, but also they undeniably have been a monument of Korean people’s lives up to this day. Thus, I dare to say that our series is not only the mirror reflecting the past history of five hundred years but also the signpost for generations of the next five hundred years. That is why I reflect here on the meaning of the centenary year of the Republic of Korea, celebrating both March 1st Movement of 1919 and Korean Provisional Government established in April 11 of the same year, succeeding to the Korean Empire.
All I want for the Charmbit Series of 629 old and rare Korean books is that the reissued copies are widely shared and made the best use of among the public, as the king Sejong the Great(1397~1450), inventor of Hunminjeongeum in 1443, had made hangul, one of the most unique and creative characters in the world, widely spread among and utilized by illiterate common people at that time.