Early Printing in Korea - 4.2 Metal Movable Type Typesetting

이동: 둘러보기, 검색
Understanding Korea Series No.2
← Previous Early Printing in Korea Next →
1) Metal Movable Type Casting 2) Metal Movable Type Typesetting 5. The Publishing Entities of Korean Traditional Prints

Once the casting is complete, the next step in printing is typesetting. Most research on this process involves searching for records and physical samples, and analyzing them or attempting to recreate the process through experiments. A recent study has tried to classify the development of typesetting techniques of metal movable types based on when it was refined. This happened during the reign of King Sejong, to raise printing efficiency and prevent the types from moving. As the result, the movable type became square and the bottom became completely flat. Instead of beeswax, wood pieces and paper scraps were inserted between the letters to prevent shaking, to even out their height and to line them up straight. The development process for this technique, documented in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, may be outlined as follows.

ⓐ When King Taejong first established Jujaso to produce big letters, he proceeded despite opposition from his court officials. ⓑ In the beginning, the manufacturing technique was not precise enough so beeswax was always spread under the plate (板), and the letters were fixed on it in the proper order every time a print was made. ⓒ Since beeswax is soft, the letters would be skewed to one side or severely crooked after a couple printings and had to be rearranged frequently, annoying the printer. ⓓ King Sejong commanded Yi Cheon to come up with a better plate; even though he considered it a difficult task, Yi Cheon used his wisdom and manufactured exact, uniform and solid cast types. ⓔ Although no beeswax was used for typesetting, the letters did not skew, even after multiple prints were made. ⓕ There was a high demand for copper and iron because many weapons were lost in the war in the north, and hardworking blacksmiths were scattered around the country. Yet the princes asked for themanufacture of bigger letters to print books, so resources and manpower had to be withdrawn. ⓖ Yi Cheon was appointed to oversee the whole process, and Kim Don from Jiphyeonjeon (the Royal Academy for Scholars), Kim Bin, Jang Yeongsil, Yi Sehyeog, Jeong Cheok and Yi Sunji led the task. They manufactured more than 200,000 letters, using Hyosunsasil (孝順事實) and Wiseoneumjeul (爲善陰騭) stored in the Royal Library as models. ⓗ Nearly 40 prints were made each day, the calligraphy of the prints appeared clean and exact, the work became much easier, and productivity doubled compared to previous efforts. The metal movable type used was Gabinja, part of a notable leap in the technological development of typecasting, typesetting and printing which occurred at the time.

The previously discussed typesetting order, according to the printing masters, can be explained in more detail:[1]

  • ①Select the cheoluri (鐵亐里, iron casing) and cheolurichaekpan (鐵亐里冊板, iron casing book plate) according to the number of rows of letters.
  • ②Depending on the shape of cheoluri, if it is double-sided, insert a thin bamboo piece inside the edge and setup the donginchal (銅印札, border).
  • ③Read the letters out loud in the proper order so the type pieces can be located. (Changjun, 唱準)
  • ④Pick up the letters called out by Changjun from the jajang (字欌, letter storage) using a pair of bamboo chopsticks, and arrange them in order on the sosapan (小沙板, a plate without the grid). (Sujang member, 守欌諸員)
  • ⑤Move the plate with arranged letters onto the cheolurichaekpan. (Sangpan, 上板)
  • ⑥Align the gongmok (空木, quadrat) near the center of the plate, the eomi (魚尾, a fish tail shaped symbol marking the middle of a book plate used in the traditional way of printing), pansimje (版心題, title of the book marked in pansim (the center of the book plate) used in the traditional way of printing), sometimes Wooden block and/or wooden movable type (連刻活字), Gwoncha (卷次), and Jangcha (張次) movable types accordingly, and secure spaces by plugging in the gongmok.
  • ⑦Fix the height of the movable types, the spaces between the movable types and the border (銅印札) by inserting wet paper and jaganbakji (字間朴只, space wedge made of wood or bamboo) to prevent shaking. (Gyunjajang, 均字匠)
  • ⑧Secure the empty spaces by inserting quadrat.
  • ⑨After aligning the letters, make the plate even and uniform using the justifying plate.
  • ⑩Apply ink onto the completed plate and print.(Inchuljang, 印出匠)
  • ⑪Proofread the letters and inspect the print quality of the initial print. (Gamgyogwan, 監校官)
  • ⑫The gyunjajang corrects the plate and movable types with jumuk (朱墨, cinnabar stick) and by sebo (洗補, proofreading). In general, the plate goes through first, second and third readings, and the proofreader’s name is indicated.
  • ⑬Once the inspection is complete, the main printing assignment begins.
  • ⑭If another type is set while one plate is being printed, the two are printed alternately.


  1. Nam Gwonhi, “Joseonsidae geumsokhwalja jujowa jopane gwanhan yeongu (A Study on Metal Movable Typecasting and Typesetting during the Joseon Period),” Gabinjawa hangeulhwalja(Gabinja and Hangeul Movable), Cheongju Early Printing Museum, 2007.

Understanding Korea Series No.2 Early Printings in Korea

Foreword · Acknowledgments

1. Korea’s Memory of the World and Early Printing (古印刷)

2. The Origins of World Printing Culture and Korea · 2.1 The Emergence of Printing Culture and Korea · 2.2 The Development of Printing Materials

3. Woodblock Printing and Movable Type Printing · 3.1 Woodblock Printing · 3.2 Movable Type Printing · 3.3 Other Early Printing

4. The Invention and Development of Metal Movable Type Printing · 4.1 Metal Movable Type Casting · 4.2 Metal Movable Type Typesetting

5. The Publishing Entities of Korean Traditional Prints · 5.1 The Government Publications (官) · 5.2 The Private Publications

Reference · Glossary · Sources · About the Author