The Korean Collections at the New York Public Library: A Survey

By Hee-Gwone Yoo, Librarian, General Research Division
May 17, 2022
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Two Korean ironclads [Turtle Ships]

The New York Public Library holds a sumptuous array of rare Korean prints and manuscripts ranging from the 14th century to the early 20th century. We've created a LibGuide which provides a survey of these items in hopes of increasing awareness of these collections to scholars, artists, and students. This survey of rare Korean artifacts will serve as a benefit to researchers and scholars in this field, as the provenance of many of these rare Korean prints and manuscripts is still unknown due to an absence of their documentation. In addition to prints and manuscripts, this guide will also highlight collections of photographs, maps and other printed texts. If you have any questions on Korean Collections, please contact the General Research  Division.

Prints & Printed Texts

Bird's eye view of the city of PyongYang

The Library houses several rare Korean prints, which have seldom been used by scholars and infrequently displayed to the public. Among the prints housed by the Print CollectionBird’s eye view of the city of PyongYang, for example, consists of eight color panels and depicts a panoramic view of 16th century PyongYang City, which is now the capital of North Korea. The prints highlight specific areas of the forbidden city that scholars have never seen before. 

Manuscripts and Archives

"CheonHaDo”

Some of the rare Korean materials housed in the Manuscripts and Archives Division provide invaluable insights of early 20th century Korean history. Beginning in the late 19th century, powerful countries, including America and Japan, forced the Korean government (Yi Dynasty at the time) to participate in open door trading policies. The Horace Newton Allen Papers is one account that describes the relationship between America and Korea, which was under the influence of Japanese intervention in the early 20th century.

Maps, Photographs & Digital Collections

Map of the 19th Century Korean Peninsula.

The New York Public Library holds many Korean maps, as well as photographs which were taken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A few of them have been digitized and are accessible via our Digital Collections portal. Turning to the 21st century, contemporary scholarship on Korea (or scholars of Korea) is increasingly interested in researching and documenting rare photographs and maps which have rarely survived the Korean War (1950-1953). Through purchases and generous donations of these unique photographs, NYPL is able to make them freely accessible to scholars and students. 

RESEARCH GUIDE

To learn more, please see the Research Guide: The Korean Collections at the New York Public Library: A Survey.