Hardcover. Very good. Green cloth photograph album (12.5" x 10.5") containing 144 photographs, mostly gelatin silver prints (a few albumen, three cyanotypes), in a wide range of sizes, with the majority in the range of 2" x 3" to 4" x 6". Approximately two-thirds of the images are captioned. A relatively small number (perhaps 10%) appear professional, while the rest were probably taken by several different amateur photographers, but are generally quite clear and well composed. The latest date noted in the album is 1912; several captions include dates from 1903-1906. The compiler is unidentified, but it is clear from the captions that he or she was associated with the Korea Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which sent its first missionary to Korea in 1885.
About half of the images show scenes related to the Mission--including images of both American and Korean missionaries, local churches and congregations, the mission compounds in Seoul and Songdo (now the North Korean city of Kaesong), Bible study classes, and mission schools and schoolchildren. Several of the photos of missionaries identify individuals, and several show so-called "Bible Women" -- female evangelists who played a significant role in the door-to-door spread of Protestant Christianity in Korea because they could access parts of the home that male missionaries were forbidden to enter.
The images not directly related to missions are a mixture of architecture/monuments and street and villages scenes showing local people going about their daily lives (women doing laundry in a riverbed, men hauling heavy loads, a shopkeeper and her wares, street vendors, funeral processions, etc.). There are also several quite captivating portraits, but most are either uncaptioned or have a generic or unhelpful caption such as "a grandfather," '''Chang' the Carpenter," and "veiled women of Seoul." Among the images that appear professional are two lovely, full-length studio portraits of women--one captioned "An Actress in Seoul," and the other "A Bible Woman in Seoul." The architectural images are mainly from Seoul (Temple of Heaven, City Hall, South Gate, Marble Pagoda, Gate to Korean Barracks, Water Mark Bridge, Independence Gate, City Bell) and Songdo (West Gate, "Bridge where a Prime Minister was Assassinated in 1392," North Ward Church, "Pagoda near Sangdo," and several graves/funeral monuments of historic dignitaries).There are also a few images from Pyongyang, and images of the interior and exterior of a Buddhist temple of unknown location.
Because Korea remained nearly closed foreign contact until the late 19th century, and because of widespread suspicion of photography among much of the population, substantial collections of photographs of Korea prior to 1920 are quite rare. This fascinating album offers important documentation of work of pioneer missionaries--who had a lasting influence on Korean culture--and of the lives of ordinary Koreans during the early years of Japanese occupation.