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Annals of the Joseon Dynasty
Joseon Wangjo Sillok (Annals of the Joseon Dynasty) covers 472 years (1392-1863) of the history of the reigns of 25 kings, from the dynasty's founder King Taejo to King Cheoljong. In chronological order, the king's everyday affairs, court functionaries' everyday reports to the king, the king's commands, and other daily matters dealt with in the public offices are compiled in 1,893 chapters in 888 books.
To keep up the compilation of Joseon Wangjo Sillok involved many historians, historiographers, and censors, who were responsible for writing daily drafts, editing them, and printing the resulting volumes. These writers participated in every national conference and kept records of the actual details of national affairs that were decided in discussion between the king and officials. Their freedom of expression and of maintaining secrecy were constitutionally guaranteed. Their daily records were placed in the custody of the Chunchugwan Office of Annals Compilation. Except the historians, nobody was allowed to read them, not even the king. Any historian who disclosed the contents was severely punished as a felon. The regulations and ordinances governing historiography were very strict.
When a king died, a temporary office of annals compilation was set up and the annals of his reign were published posthumously and preserved in the historical archives under rigorous management. To further safeguard them, a set of the annals was deposited in each of the four archives located in four key mountainous locations nationwide: the Jeongjoksan, Taebaeksan, Jeoksangsan, and Odaesan Archives. Some were reduced to ashes during the Japanese and Qing invasions but were reconstructed and reprinted.
There are 2,077 existing volumes that were collected from the archives: 1,181 from the Jeongjoksan Archive, 848 from the Taebaeksan Archive, 27 from the Odaesan Archive, and 21 scattered copies called Sanyeopbon. They were all registered in UNESCO's Memory of the World in October 1997.
The Joseon Wangjo Sillok covers the historical and cultural aspects of the Joseon Dynasty including politics and diplomacy, military affairs, law, economics, industry, transportation, communications, social systems, customs and manners, arts and crafts and religion. These enormous historical and cultural resources, of unprecedented accuracy, serve as an encyclopedia of the Joseon society. Their beautiful font types also show the advanced printing methods of Korea from early on. Today they are indispensable materials for the study of Korean history while providing diverse resources for the study of other East Asian countries including Japan, the China, and Mongolia.