World's oldest Korean Bibles at Cambridge University Library

The library is home to one of the most significant collections of early Korean bibles anywhere - as well as other works by UK missionaries, including John Ross, a hero to Korean Christians.

Until May 27, 2019, the earliest Korean Bibles and English-language works about Korea will be on display at Cambridge University Library. The oldest Korean translation, the Gospel of Luke, is now permanently available to all on the Cambridge Digital Library.

In 1882, John Ross published the first Korean translations from the Bible: the Gospel of Luke, pictured, and the Gospel of John. He signed the copies he sent back to the British and Foreign Bible Society, which are now at the University Library.

Ross and his team of translators laid the foundation for subsequent bible translations with their translation of Luke, which has been digitised with the generous support of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the United Kingdom.

As well as Bibles, the free Entrance Hall exhibition also includes books that introduced Korea to the West and introduced the West to Korea.

Today, nearly 30 per cent of South Korea's 51 million population identify as Christians (either Protestant or Catholic). John Ross, the 19th century Scottish missionary who first translated the Bible into Korean, is a hero for South Korea's large Christian population.

Many regard him as the country's equivalent of Martin Luther or William Tyndale, who translated the Latin Bible into German and English respectively in the Middle Ages.

Ross's 1879 History of Corea (pictured above) is the first history book ever written about Korea in English. With this book, Ross brought Korean culture and history to an English-speaking audience for the first time.

First book on Korean language: Corean Primer (1878) by John Ross

"The first Korean Bible is important for Korean Christians but also because it was the first Western work to be translated into Korean without Chinese characters. Because of its impact on the Korean language, the translation of the Bible became important not only for Christians, but for the country as a whole.

"What's really interesting about Ross is that he spent years working on the Korean Bible, but he himself was not able to visit the country until years later."

Dr Kristin Williams, Head of Japanese and Korean Section

The exhibition also includes an 1895 edition of Pilgrim's Progress translated by missionary James Gale. The illustrations set the tale in Korea, as seen here. This was one of the first Western books, other than the scriptures, to be translated into Korean.

History of Corea (1879) by John Ross.

History of Corea (1879) by John Ross.

Pilgrim's Progress in Korean (1895).

Pilgrim's Progress in Korean (1895).

Pilgrim's Progress in Korean (1895).

Pilgrim's Progress in Korean (1895).

The exhibition was guest curated by Professor Justin Jeon of Yonsei University, a visiting fellow at Wolfson College and a visiting scientist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, his wife Ms Jina Kim, and Reverend Soon Jo Hong, pastor of the Cambridge Korean Church.