National Library of Korea publishes catalogue of Bryn Mawr’s Korean books

Illustration from the Shurangama Sutra

Illustration from the Shurangama Sutra, printed in 1547

The National Library of Korea recently published an illustrated catalogue of the 42 Korean books held in the Special Collections Department of the Bryn Mawr College Library.  The catalogue, The Helen Chapin Korean Book Collection in the Bryn Mawr College Library (Seoul: National Library of Korea, 2017), consists of notes and illustrations for each book.   Even though the collection is a small one, it includes numerous important early Korean printed books, including a 16th century Buddhist text and a significant number of 17th, 18th, and early 19th century books.

The work was edited by Hye-Eun Lee, Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at Sookmyung Women’s University and Jihee Han, Curator of the National Library of Korea, based on their work with the collection at Bryn Mawr College in 2011.  Also included is an essay on the collection and its collector, Helen Burwell Chapin, Bryn Mawr College class of 1915, by Eric Pumroy, Seymour Adelman Director of Special Collections at the Bryn Mawr College Library.   The catalogue is primarily in Korean.

Photo of Chapin with her bicycle in China, ca.1930

Helen Chapin in China, ca.1930

Helen Chapin donated the collection to Bryn Mawr in 1950, shortly before her death, along with many other books, scrolls, and artifacts from Korea, China and Japan that she collected during her years of working in those countries as an independent scholar, beginning in the 1920s.   She collected most of the Korean books after World War II when she worked for the United States Army in Korea surveying cultural monuments.

Among the highlights of the collection, as noted by Curator Jihee Han, are the Shurangama Sutra, a Buddhist text published in 1547, and a collection of literary texts published at the military camp at Hunryondogam in 1610 using wooden movable type.  The catalogue can be viewed online in Scholarship, Research and Creative Work at Bryn Mawr College: