(The following is a post by Sonya Lee, Reference Specialist, Korean Collection, Asian Division.)
Even though the Library of Congress did not start collecting Korean materials earnestly until the early 20th century, now its Korean collection is the largest and most comprehensive outside of East Asia. One of its strength is its collection of works on early Christian Korean history, the bulk of which either came from James Gale’s (奇一, 1863-1937) collection or was collected by James Gale for the Library.
James Gale was the most important contributor to the Library’s classical Korean book collection. As the first Canadian missionary who went to Korea in 1888, Gale spent the next forty years there. Born on February 19, 1863, in Ontario, Gale graduated from University College, Toronto, in 1888. He was sent to Korea that same year as a lay missionary of the University College YMCA. Gale was talented in many ways, particularly in his ability to translate the Bible and Christian literature into Korean. He traveled widely in Korea, established a mission in Wonsan, a port city in today’s North Korea.
After becoming ordained in 1897, Gale served as a pastor and devoted years to education until 1927 when he left Korea. Some of his notable contributions included founding and serving as principal of two schools, the Yondong Girls’ Middle School and the Yesugyo chunghakkyo (Christian Middle School) for boys. He was also a professor of Pyongyang Theological Seminary.
Gale greatly assisted the new missionaries’ communication with the local population with two of his publications. The first was the “Korean-English dictionary,” published in 1897 and the other was the “Korean Grammatical Form,” published in 1903. His dictionary was often given to missionaries recently arrived in Korea to help make their transition easier.
Martha Huntley, author of “Caring, growing, changing: a history of the Protestant mission in Korea,” describes in her book the difficulties that Western missionaries faced:
The new missionaries were painfully aware of their helplessness in not knowing the language. The well-educated, articulated, opinionated adults, they suddenly found themselves speechless. The greatest culture shock was to discover they were illiterate. To be ignorant and mute is difficult for anyone, but these people had come to preach the Gospel.
Some of these missionaries studied with a tutor several hours a day with lessons beginning as early as 5:30 a.m., and continuing after supper because there were no language institutes, textbooks, or English-Korean dictionaries.
Yŏng-sik Yu, an author on South Korea, writes in “Ch’akhan mokcha : Keil ŭi sam kwa sŏn’gyo” (Life and mission of James S. Gale) that:
Dr. James Scarth Gale was one of the most prominent of the Protestant missionaries working in Korea at the turn of the century.
Gale exposed Koreans to Western works and brought Korea’s culture and traditions to the West. His English translations of “Folk tales (1913) and “Cloud dream of the nine” (1922) (a translation of an old Korean novel) were both well received, and his “History of the Korean People” (1927) [click here for the 1972 version] reveals an appreciation of the culture and religious background of Korea. Gale translated over fifty works, including “Early use of moveable types in Chosen” (1913), “Korea in transition” (1909), “Pilgrim’s progress” (천로역정 T’yollo yoktryong) (1895), and “Korean sketches” (1898). All of these pieces are currently part of the Library of Congress’ collections.
Gale collected many rare and valuable Korean works over the years. In his “Catalogue of Korean literature” in 1927, Gale wrote:
The books mentioned here grow more and more rare as the years go by. Only a matter of time and it would seem that the very memory of them would be forgotten, and yet they are Korea’s more noble monuments of all her part of history.
In 1927, the Library received a major portion of Gale’s personal library, with 312 volumes of books, 33 rubbing materials, and 120 volumes of Korean texts written during early Christian Korean history (specifically between 1895 and the 1920s).
Gale’s collection has helped make the Korean collection at the Library the most outstanding collection of early Christian Korean publications outside of Korea. The Gale collection spans from 1884 to 1927. The collection includes early Bibles, commentaries, catechisms, literature, and doctrines. Some of these were published earlier than previously discovered works on record. The Korean Collection houses some of these missionaries’ works that are truly invaluable academic and artistic resources, especially the earlier editions. For instance, the first Korean translation of the New Testament was completed in 1900; the Library has its first edition that was signed by H.G. Appenzeller (1858-1902), a pioneer of Methodist missionary efforts in the Korean peninsula.
In 1924, Gale helped the Library acquire a large numbers of Korean classics, including rare books from the Korean scholar Kim To-hui (To-heui) (b. 1868):
During the past year a very valuable collection of Korean books was purchased from the estate of the late Korean scholar Kim To-heui, through the good offices of his friend Dr. James Gale, of Seoul, Korea, who has during the past few years secured many rare and valuable Korean works for the Library of Congress.
The Kim To-hui collection focuses primarily on religion, literature, and history. Some of the titles include: “Mongmin simso” (牧民心書) [Admonitions on governing the people]; “Humhum sinso” (欽欽新書) [Toward a new jurisprudence]; “Taejon hoet’ong” (大典會通, Comprehensive collection of national code); “Chungsu muwollok” (增修無寃錄, Medical science), “Onhae” (諺解, Vulgate elucidations), “Choya chibyo” (朝野輯要, History of Choson Dynasty); “Haso chip” (河書集, Kim In-hu’s poems); and “T’aektang chip” (澤堂集, Yi Sik’s works).
Today, the Library’s Korean rare collection has expanded to include a number of valuable pre-19th-century publications. The Library of Congress has 522 titles (3,300 volumes) of rare Korean books printed on mulberry papers in traditional Chinese script. Similar to Japanese and Vietnamese, many of Korea’s early classics were written in traditional Chinese script. Some of the rare materials of the Korean Collection are fine examples of early printing with woodblock and metal movable type. Examples of rare woodblock-printed books include the “Tongui pogam” (東醫寶鑑, Exemplar of Korean medicine), completed in 1611 and the most important medical compendium of Korea’s Choson Dynasty, which ruled from the late 14th century to 1910 (The Library holds a 1754 edition), and “Koryosa” (高麗史, Official history of the Koryo Dynasty), printed in 1590. Several outstanding examples of Korean printing employing the metal movable type include the “Tongguk Yi Sangguk chŏnjip” (東國李相國全集, Collected works of Yi Kyu-bo), collected works of Yi Munsun (the literary name of Yi Kyu-bo, the great poet, scholar and statesman of Korea’s Koryo Dynasty, 918-1392), and “Karye chipko” (家禮集考, Exposition of family rites in Korea), printed in 1801.
In 1994, Prof. Chon Hey-bong and three other professors from the Sungkyungkwan University in Seol published “Haeoe chonjok munhwajae chosa mongnok: Mi Uihoe Tosogwan sojang Han’gukpon mongnok (海外典籍文化財調査目錄),” which listed the rare Korean materials held by the Library of Congress.