Last updated March 19, 2013

Accounts of Korea published in Europe in the 18th and early 19th centuries

Early in the 18th century the Jesuits working in China produced rather fuller accounts and better maps of Korea

A much fuller description of Korea was published in French by Fr. Jean Baptiste du Halde on the basis of an account composed by Fr. Jean-Baptiste Regis, in Volume 4 (from p.529) of his great Description géographique, historique, chronologique, politique, et physique de l'empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie chinoise, enrichie des cartes générales et particulieres de ces pays, de la carte générale et des cartes particulieres du Thibet, & de la Corée; & ornée d'un grand nombre de figures & de vignettes gravées en tailledouce (1736)  which is followed by an abbreviated history of Korea (from page 538) translated from Chinese sources. This was translated into English as: The general history of China. Containing a geographical, historical, chronological, political and physical description of the empire of China, Chinese-Tartary, Corea, and Thibet. Including an exact and particular account of their customs, manners, ceremonies, religion, arts and sciences .. Done from the French of P. Du Halde. Volume 4, second edition corrected. London: John Watts. 1739. The account of Korea is divided between a general description and a brief history from Chinese sources.  Click here for a page devoted to Father
Jean-Baptiste Régis which includes a link to a PDF text file of the account of Korea (based on his records) found in du Halde's work.

Then the available information became encyclopedic

The accounts of Hamel (in Churchill's translation) and Du Halde / Régis were both republished in: A new general collection of voyages and travels; consisting of the most esteemed relations, which have been hitherto published in any language; comprehending everything remarkable in its kind, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.  by John Green (fl. 1730-1753) -- Compiler,  and Thomas Astley -- Author / Publisher. Vol 4 (Description of China, of Korea, eastern Tartary and Tibet. Travels through Tartary, Tibet, and Bukharia, to and from China, 1246-1698.) 1747  (Fr Regis' / Du Halde text from p319 of Vol 4 until 329, followed by Churchill's Hamel text until page 347)

The volume contains 2 maps of Korea based on that printed in Du Halde / Régis but with Quelpart added on the basis of Hamel's report (on page 12 of the New York Public Library images).
Image ID: 1261742 A map of Quan-tong or Lea-tonge; Province and the Kingdom of Kau-li or Corea. (1745-1747)
Image ID: 1261751 A map of Kitay or Empire of the Kin, adapted to the history of Jenghiz Khan. (1745-1747)

Next appeared in France :  Histoire moderne des Chinois, des Japonais, des Indiens, etc. Paris, 1754-1778, 30 vol. in-12, the 12 first volumes by
Francois Marie de Marsy the rest by Adrien Richer. The early volumes were soon published in English : The History of China, Upon the plan of Mr. Rollin's Antient history translated from the French Printed for J. and P. Knapton in Ludgate-Street. 1755. This volume contains (beginning on page 349 as Chapter 3 of its Sixth Part) an extensive account of Korea in which some initial pages derive from Du Halde but most is taken from Hamel.

A composite account of Korea derived mainly from Du Halde was included in the encyclopedic, multi-volume compilation:  The Modern Part of an Universal History, From the Earliest Account of Time, Compiled from Original Writers - Vol. VIII - The History of China. S. Richardson, London, 1759. (Wikipedia says: Contributors included George Sale, George Psalmanazar, Archibald Bower, George Shelvocke, John Campbell and John Swinton.) A separate page contains the text of this volume's account of Korea

The entire Universal History was then translated into French and published as: Histoire Universelle, Depuis Le Commencement Du Monde Jusqu'A Présent: Composée en Anglois par une Société de Gens de Lettres : Nouvellement Traduite En François Par Une Société De Gens De Lettres. Histoire Moderne ; 14 : contenant la suite de l'histoire de la Chine, celle de la Corée, et partie de celle du Japon, Paris: Moutard, 1783 (the section on Korea begins on page 387)

At about the same time, the French dramatist Jean-François de La Harpe composed a multi-volume encyclopedia Abrégé de l'histoire générale des voyages which was re-edited and in part re-written in the 19th century. In the original 1780 edition, the account of Korea begins on page 343.  In the 1820 edition, the account of Korea begins on page 76. This work was made by condensing and combining a variety of previously published accounts, unifying the style. The account of Korea (the same in both editions, in French) includes a few details quoted from Regis but is essentially a summary of Hamel's account.

The age of the great scientific explorers that began late in the 18th century brought new discoveries.

On May 22-23, 1787, the remarkable French naval officer and explorer, Jean François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse (1741-1788), sailed past Jeju Island without landing on it, the first westerner to see it since the time of Hamel. This was during his journey from Manila, via Taiwan and Japan, to eastern Russia.  From there he sailed to Australia and it was after leaving there that his ships disappeared. The site of the shipwreck etc has been identified as reefs off the island of Vanikoro, which is part of the Santa Cruz group of islands. He sent back to France reports, logs, records from Petropavlovsk on the Russian Kamchatka peninsula  and from Australia, allowing an account of his journeys to be published in France some 10 years later: Voyage de La Pérouse autour du Monde. Rédigé par M. L. A. Milet-Mureau, Général de Brigade dans le Corps du Génie, Directeur des Fortifications, Ex -Constituant, Membre de plusieurs Sociétés littéraires de Paris. Paris, Imprimerie de la République. An 5 (1797). This was in four volumes plus an atlas: Volume 1Volume 2 which contains the account of their journey past Quelpaert and Korea starting on p384 of Volume 2 continued in the opening chapter of Volume 3 (PDF file of an abbreviated French text here) Volume 4Atlas with plates, charts etc. Translations were soon made into Dutch, German, Italian and English. The first English edition was published in 1798, a second (corrected?) edition in 1799: here the account of Korea is found in Volume 2: A voyage round the world in the years 1785, 1786, 1787 and 1788, by J. F. G. de la Pérouse published conformably to the Decree of the National Assembly on the 22d April 1791, and edited by M. L. A. Milet-Mureau, Brigadier General in the Corps of Engineers, Director of Fortifications, Ex-Constitutent, and member of several literary societies at Paris. In Three Volumes. Translated from the French.  London : Printed for J. Johnson, St. Paul's Church Yard. Volume 1 of 1st editionVol 2 of the Second Edition; Volume 3 of 1st edition; Volume 3 of 2nd edition. The English edition also included an Atlas: Charts And Plates To La Perouse's Voyage. His journey between Korea and Japan etc can be traced in great detail on a map published in the atlas. The account by Lapérouse of his journey past Korea from page 351 of Volume 2 is a delightful one. He was responsible for naming Ulleung-do island 'Dagelet' after an astronomer on his ship who first spotted it.

Quelpart was surveyed in greater detail in 1797 by William Robert Broughton (a voyage published in 1804 as A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean London: T. Cadell and Ms. Daviss. 1804).  HIs laconic account is mainly a summary of the ship's log, with little vivid detail about Korea. The account of the few days his ship spent in Busan harbor in Chapter 7 leads him to conclude: "It will be observed how little opportunity we had to make any remarks upon the customs and manners of these people, from their avoiding as much as possible any intercourse with us." What he did not realize was that a report of his visit was sent to Seoul, telling the other side of the story. Henny Savenije has a page summarizing Broughton's career and including links to the original entry in the Joseon Annals as well as a translation of the text, which echoes the frustration felt by Broughton on not being able to communicate.

In February 1816, Lord Amherst set off from London for China on an embassy. There were 2 ships, H.M.S. Alceste commanded by Captain Maxwell and H.M. Brig Lyra commanded by Captain Basil Hall. Lord Amherst hoped to meet the Emperor of China to complain about problems the East India Company was having in Canton. Since he was determined not to perform any "Kowtow" he never saw the Emperor and gave up the plan. Instead, from the end of August 1816, Amherst traveled extensively throughout China and did not depart until January of 1817. He dispatched H.M.S. Alceste and H.M Brig Lyra on surveying expeditions commanded by Captain Maxwell to Korea and Okinawa (Loochoo) in late August of 1816. This done, they returned to China and set off on the return journey to England early in 1817 but the Alceste struck a rock and sank near Java. Nobody died in the wreck, and they all returned to England in August 1817, after paying a visit to Napoleon on Saint Helena on the way (they travelled by way of the Strait of Magellan). This embassy produced no less than 4 books (click here for more details and a list of the books). The longest description of their exploration of the southern islands of mainland Korea is that found in Chapter Two of a revised edition of the book by Basil Hall (1788-1844), Voyage to Loo-Choo, and other places in the eastern seas (1826). It is very vivid and often highly entertaining. (Click here to read the account as originally published in 1818.) The officers struggled in vain to communicate with the local officials in the absence of any interpreter, while the ordinary sailors and the ordinary Koreans easily understood each other without having a common language. The British had with them a Chinese man who could speak his own dialect of Chinese but had not learned to read or write the characters! The most important result of this expedition was a corrected chart of the west coast of Korea, and the discovery that maps based on that provided by Father Régis were not at all accurate. They then sailed on to Loo-Choo, the form by which the Ryukyu Islands were then known in the West (Okinawa, the name of the largest island, now being commonly but wrongly used for the whole chain). There they received an extremely warm welcome which stood in stark contrast to that found in Corea. They spent some 6 weeks studying the islands, and one member of the expedition even learned elements of the language (Published as an appendix to Basil Hall's volume) while their survey of the Corean coastal islands lasted only a week.

From 1823 until 1830, the remarkable German physician, ethnologist and natural historian Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold (1796 – 1866) lived in Japan, in the Dutch enclave at Nagasaki. During this time he was able to meet and interview shipwrecked Koreans and developed an interest in their language and culture. After returning to Germany in 1830, he began to publish his observations as Nippon: Archiv zur Beschreibung von Japan und dessen Neben- und Schutzländern Jezo mit den südlichen Kurilen, Sachalin, Korea und den Liu-Kiu-Inseln. This publication took many years, from 1832 until 1882, with a new edition prepared by his sons appearing in 1897, and although the observations about Korea are found in the final part VII, it seems that they date from much earlier. No online text of the original editions seems to exist, but the 2-volume edition prepared by his sons can be viewed online: Volume One; Volume Two. The texts about Korea begin on page 305 of Volume Two. An English translation and commentary of important parts of these by
Frits Vos  and Boudewijn Walraven provides easy access to the texts and includes many of the plates from the original edition with drawings of Korean people, boats and objects. Moreover, Siebold (almost at the same time as Julius Heinrich Klaproth (1783–1835)) compiled one of the earliest Korean word lists, as well as a chart of the Hangul alphabet.

The Protestant missionary usually known
as Charles Gutzlaff was born in Pomerania (Germany) as Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff (1803 – 1851). Arriving in Java in 1826, he learned Chinese then worked for a time as a missionary in Siam before moving on to Macao and Hong Kong, where he later (1840s) prepared a Chinese translation of the Bible. His method of evangelization relied much on the distribution of pamphlets and tracts written in Chinese which had been prepared by another missionary to China, Robert Morrison. In 1831, during a slow journey from Siam to China, he visited many ports, where he attracted visits by many people by his medical skills, and to them he tried to communicate also the Christian gospel. In 1832 he was invited to be part of an expedition on the Lord Amherst, a ship of the British East India Company, that was eager to find a place ot establish a 'counter' where they could conduct trading relations with Corea, Japan, the Loo-Choo Islands (Okinawa). He was to serve as interpreter and surgeon. They spent a few days among poverty-stricken islands off the Corean coast, where he and his companions distributed tracts and copies of Morrison's translation of the Bible, and planted what might have been Korea's first potatoes. On his return to China he wrote an account of these two journeys, which was published in New York as Journal of Two Voyages Along the Coast of China, In 1831 and 1832 : with Notices of Siam, Corea and the Loo-Choo Islands. New York: John P. Haven. 1833. His third voyage, during the fall of 1832 and spring of 1833, was along the northern Chinese coast aboard the Sylph, an opium smuggling ship. After this he published a revised version of the book, including the material from this third voyage: Journal of Three Voyages Along the Coast of China, In 1831, 1832 and 1833 : with Notices of Siam, Corea and the Loo-Choo Islands. London: Frederick Westley and A. H. Davis, Stationers' Hall Court. 1834. A second edition of the book appeared the same year (also available in Google Books). The description of their visit to some islands on the Corean coast forms Chapter 6 of the Second Voyage in all editions. They were fortunate in having an interpreter, but it made no difference to the Korean refusal to welcome them. Yet Gutzlaff sensed that many of the people they met really wanted to communicate with them and dared look forward to a day when Korea would be evangelized.
Sir Edward Belcher explored Jeju Island and the seas around the south of Korea in 1845 as part of a much larger expedition and published the results in “Narrative of the Voyage of H.M.S. Samarang” [links to volume 1; click here for volume 2]  London : Reeve, Benham, and Reeve, 1848. Belcher relates their visit to Quelpart at length in Vol. 1 pages 324 - 358, relating how they were invited to land and talk with local magistrates during their stay, but could sense that they were not in fact welcome. 
See also Arthur Adams (1820-1878)'s fine account of the natural history of Quelpart  in  Vol 2 pages 444 – 466. Adams was a natural historian and artist with a love of poetry, his account is marked by a warmth of feeling as well as quotations from Spenser's Faerie Queene. He also wrote A manual of natural history, for the use of travellers. Also serving on the Samarang as a midshipman was Frank Marryat (1826 – 1855), son of Captain Frederick Marryat, a naval officer and popular novelist. Frank was something of an artist and in 1848 he published a volume of drawings made during the journey: Borneo and the Indian Archipelago, Drawings of Costume and Scenery, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, Paternoster-Row. 1848.. . The publisher wanted an accompanying narrative, so he used his own and other shipmates' diaries for that. His account of the visit to Jeju can be compared with that by Belcher.

From page 533 of Volume 2 of Belcher, there is a section titled "A Brief Vocabulary of Languages" authored mainly by Ernest Adams. This is mainly a table of corresponding words in English, Spanish, Malay and 6 Philippino languages, to which have been added Chinese, Japanese and Korean. On page 534, Belcher indicates that the Japanese and Korean words are taken from "publications by Medhurst, 1830, and Philo Sinensis, 1835, at Batavia." He could hardly have been expected to know that "Philo Sinensis" was a nom-de-plume used by the scholarly missionary  Walter
Henry Medhurst (1796 - 1857). The 2 books referred to are his An English and Japanese, and Japanese and English vocabulary (this links to the Internet Archive source, it is also available from Play.Google) (Batavia, 1830) and the much rarer Translation of a Comparative Vocabulary of the Chinese, Corean and Japanese Languages: to which is Added the Thousand Character Classic in Chinese and Corean, the whole accompanied by copious indexes, of all the Chinese and English words occurring in the work  by Philo Sinensis (1835) which is not available online. The list of Korean words begins on page 540 of Belcher Vol. 2. It constitutes the first list of Korean vocabulary published in England. (For other works by Medhurst see the Internet Archive index or the Play Google list of works available.)

In 1851 the China Repository Vol 20 no 7 July 1851 pp 500-6 relates in some detail the expedition from Shanghai to rescue French sailors stranded on an island off Quelpart when their ship the Narwal was wrecked there. The description show how much the previous explorers would have benefitted by having someone capable of writing in Chinese characters.

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