Korean Souvenir Books and Reprints issues of 1903-1906 (Part I: Introduction)

Old Korea Stamp Folders

By writing this article, this author is hoping that it will create interest and more information will be forthcoming from other readers of the Korea Stamp Society (KSS) website. The subject is known by different names. Very little literature has been published, at least in English, about, what Jim Kerr called, in his “Korean Kingdom and Empire Philatelic Catalog and Handbook”: “Souvenir Books” or “Presentation Albums”. Mizuhara Meiso called them: “Commemorative Souvenir Books” in his book, “Korean Postal History 1884-1905”.

To the author’s knowledge there has never been an article published in the Korean Philately (KP) that describes these books, other than a bit of auction news when they were offered for sale. Almost all of the previously published information in English on these souvenir books was either in Kerr’s or Meiso’s books.

In doing research on these books, the author has found there are many differences of opinions between the collectors/experts on these souvenir books. This article will highlight some of the different conclusions written about these souvenir books.

Figure 1: Cover of 1905/1909 Souvenir Books.

It will be confusing as we discuss these souvenir books. It was believed in older previously written literature on these souvenir books, that they were first issued by the Japanese in July of 1905, after Japan took over control of the Korean postal system. They contain some actual early stamps of Korea, pasted into the books, as well as some images, and other materials. See Figure 1 for an example of the cover of one of these books. Most of the early versions have the same cover.

Figure 2: First Issue Sepia Colour Printed Stamps inside Souvenir Book.

It was originally believed that a second edition was issued in January, 1906. See Figures 2 and 3, for examples of the first two pages after the title page of images/actual stamps in one of these early souvenir books. In more recent discussions, some Korean blogs have indicated that the first edition was published in 1906 and a second edition published in 1909. Although this later information for the publishing dates appears to conflict with almost all of the earlier published research on the souvenir books, there is some strong evidence to support that a version was published in 1909 and the first edition may have been distributed in 1906. 

Figure 3: Actual Stamps Pasted inside Souvenir Sheet.

A discussion including some of the translation of the material on the blogs will follow later in the article.

Meiso wrote that the first souvenir books were presented to the members of the Royal family, nobility, dignitaries, and diplomats. These were issued after the Japanese “amalgamation” of the Korean postal service. He reported that the first edition was published by the Ministry of Communications.

Figure 4: Japanese Commemorative Issue for Amalgamation of Korean Postal System, July 1, 1905.

In addition to the Korean stamps inside the souvenir books, many of these books contain, on the next to last page, Scott’s Japan number 110, 3 s rose, the actual Japanese commemorative stamp to “honour” the taking over of the Korean postal service by the Japanese on July 1, 1905. See Figure 4 for an example of this commemorative Japanese stamp. See Figure 5 for an example of this Japanese commemorative on the last page from a souvenir book into which the stamp is pasted. Notice that in this example in Figure 5, there are no smaller characters on the left side of the page. This note about the characters will be discussed later in the article. Some of souvenir books only have an image of the Japanese commemorative issue, not the actual stamp.

Meiso believed that a second souvenir book was published in January, 1906 by the Residency-General Communications Management Bureau, and it was nearly identical to the first book, with the first edition having different characters or script on the lower left side of the title page, compared to the script in the second edition. He stated he could not tell the difference between the two editions as he has not seen them side-by-side.

Figure 5: Japanese Amalgamation Commemorative Pasted on Last Page of Souvenir Book.

In Kerr’s book, he wrote that the first edition has 8 characters on the lower left side of the title page, and that the second edition has 10 characters on the lower left side of the title page. He also wrote that sometimes the second edition did not have any characters on the title page. This author believes Kerr may have been mistaken, as a souvenir book in his collection has 8 characters on the lower left side of the title page and believes this was probably the second edition. See Figure 6 for the title page with the small eight characters on the title page. See Figure 6a for the title page of another souvenir book with has no small characters on the lower left side of the title page. However, this same souvenir book does have the printer’s small characters on the same page 11 with the Japanese amalgamation commemorative stamp. This may be the first edition. See Figure 6b.

Figure 6: Example of Title Page for the 2nd Issued Souvenir Book in with Eight Small Characters Issued in 1906 or 1909.

So, we have examples of a souvenir book with no small characters on title page, but small characters are on page 11 of these books. And, we have examples of a souvenir book with 8 small characters on the title page of the souvenir book, but with no small characters on page 11. The author cannot find any examples of Kerr’s noting of 10 characters on the title page.

Figure 6a: Souvenir Book without Characters on Lower Left of Title Page (First Edition?).

Meiso wrote that the second book was given to executives of the Ministry of Communications and the leaders of the Residency-General. Meiso states that there were 300 copies made, respectively of both books, but the source for this information is not known. Other experts agree that 300 were issued of the first edition, but do not believe it is known how many were issued of the second edition. One dealer over many years has seen about a dozen copies of both the first and second souvenir books. As noted previously, some Korean bloggers believe this second edition was not published until 1909. Following is another blog link and a translation of some of the Korean script:

This Stamp Book was known to issue to commemorate the combining of Korea-Japan Communications in 1905 (Meiji 38). I believe it is correct to classify the first issue was made by Japanese Communication Ministry (체신성 /  逓信省; Che Shin Sung) in January of 1906 while the second issue by Government-General (통감부 통신관리국 / 統監府 通信管理局; Tong Gam Bu Tong Shin Gwan Ri Guk) was made on May of 1909. Because the second stamp book was probably made with stamps left in inventory as the prohibition of the usage of any Korean Empire stamps went in effect under Government-General Order Notice #12 as of August 31, 1909. (Meiji 42).

Toward the end of the Stamp Book the printed official notice by the name of Vice Government General as of May 22, 1909 was attached.

Figure 6b: Souvenir Book Issued in 1905 or 1906 with Characters on Lower Left Side of Page 11 (First Edition).

See Figure 6c for the second to last page, where the notice is pasted into the souvenir book. It is on the right page of the two pages. It is on the fourth column from the right and on the top half. It has the date of Myung Chi (in Korean Hanji) or Meiji (in Japanese characters) 42, which is 1909, May 22.

Figure 6c: The Official Notice by the Name of the Vice Government General as of May 22, 1909.

So, are we really confused now? It appears that at least this souvenir book may have been issued in 1909. But, why was this notice placed on the back of this souvenir book? This author has not seen these notices pasted in the back of any other books. Another question is, were there more than two versions printed, perhaps three?

This seems to be little doubt that the first edition souvenir books have no small characters on the title page, but do have the characters 逓信省通信局 (Communications Office of the Ministry of the Communications), printed on the same page where the Japanese Amalgamation commemorative is pasted. Also, it appears that the second editions have the characters 総督府通信管 理局 (Communications Supervisory Bureau of the Government General; alternatively can also be translated as Telecommunications Department of the Resident-General) printed on the lower left side on the title pages. The author wonders when all of these souvenir books were actually issued.

(End of Part 1)


9 thoughts on “Korean Souvenir Books and Reprints issues of 1903-1906 (Part I: Introduction)

  1. I think:
    The version with 6 Chinese characters 遞信省通信局 should be the first version. 遞信省 was the Japanese Ministry of Communications, based in Tokyo, Japan mainland.
    And the version with 8 Chinese characters 統監府通信管理局 should be the second version. 統監府 was the Government General in Korea, based in Seoul.
    The note in the second album was an order, announced on May 22, 1909. saying the following stamps and postcards were prohibited to use since Aug 31, 1909.

  2. As an FYI, and to all concerned, Jim Kerr was the son of Presbyterian Missionaries; he was raised in Japanese Occupied Korea and was totally literate and verbally fluent in Korean (Hangul) and old-style Japanese Kanji. Words conveyed in Kanji do not translate literally into Hangul, nor do they either Hangul or Kanji translate literally into English.

    The most interesting demonstration of the difference…I should say the subtle conveyance of the verbal vs visual difference between an understanding languages or how the older generations understood Chinese Hanzi (Kanji); or how, in character-writing, one could create your own words simply by taking the base Hanzi-symbol an by adding characters on to it, create a word, was when having diner in Japan with good friends: one Korean, one Japanese, one Chinese, and myself, an American.

    We would converse drawing the Chinese Hanzi character. We would speak the word as we knew the meaning; pass it around the table and each of us would add, or subtract, character(s) to the base-Hanzi character. While Neither could converse verbally, each one understood the word in writing. It was only then I understood the true subtly of how the mind translates language. In other words, Meiso and Kerr were both right and not wrong. It’s a case of usage and syntax of your own language.

    I have owned three of the “presentation” books of the early Japanese Occupation of Korea Period. I have always called them “presentation” verses “souvenir” books as this is what they were called by older Korean stamp dealers who grew-up during the Japanese Occupied Period Korea (1905-1945) and was knowledgeable on the subject.

    So, why the difference in terms? “‘Souvenir” books convey items that were sold and available to the general public. “Presentation” books convey items that were “presents”…conveyed “without sale” to government dignItaries, postal officials, local and/or foreign ministers, UPU nations, etc., etc.

    The first “1905 Presentation Book” was enclosed in a special green bamboo-cardboard jacket cover, with two-bone finger tab closures. The book was numbered, with live stamps pasted inside, presented to officials, etc., to commemorate July 1, 1905 making Korea an (unwilling) protectorate of Japan, with the turnover of the Korean Postal Service to the Japan Postal & Telegraph Office (J.P. & T. O.) Figure 4 and Figure 6b (above) commemorated the first day of issue and it is my understanding the issuance of the book was presented to officials at July 1, 1905 ceremonies held in Korea…and I’m sure some were presented in Japan.

    August 1, 1905, also officially ended the Korean Post Office and the existence Korean Empire postal system. Beginning that day the postage stamps, postal stationary, revenue stamps, etc., available for sale at Korean post offices would be the same as those available in Imperial Japanese Postal & Telegraph Offices (I. J. P. & T. O.) The domestic and international postal rates of Japan would become effective of all of Korea that date. All Korean post offices would be designated 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th class post offices, use postal devices devised by the I. J. P. & T. O. with unique combs and symbols, and operate under I. J. P. & T. O. regulations. Any remaining stocks of Empire Korean issues would be useable from 1905 to 1910…but discouraged, both verbally and later physically.

    Figure 6c was issued to commemorate the formal annexation of Korea on August 22, 1910. You should note the difference in how the books are bound. Dignitaries of high-status Officials received books bound in red silk; lower-status received plain thread. I believe only the red-silk-bound volumes had the Empire Korea issues pasted into them.

    There were 300 numbered copies of the 1905 issue was printed in Seoul, Korea. The 1910 issue was unnumbered, as I remember, and printed at the Ministry of Communications in Tokyo, Japan.

    1. Thanks Hal for your very valuable contribution. One thing I do not understand yet, were there actually three different presentation books issued between 1905-1910? The image of the one pictured in 6c, that you indicate was issued in 1910 (which certainly makes sense), was taken from a collection of one owned by a collector in Korea and is bound differently, as you mention. The one pictured 6 with the red ribbon is one of mine, it does not have the offical notice pasted on the back (nor any indication there was a notice), and it is definitely not one of the first types issued in 1905, but is it a second version, before the 1910 version? Meiso believed this one was issued in 1906. More information to come in Part 2.

  3. Thanks, Bob…

    Excellent question. I’m not positive, but I believe the basic answer is yes. It has been a while since I owned copies of these Presentation books. When I wrote my response yesterday, I actually indicated I thought there were three (3) Presentation books, however, I deleted that reference in my response (above) because I sold my books in 1981… along time ago — and memory can do strange things.

    So, here goes my response: If I’m wrong, someone please correct me, I’m surprised I even remember my name, let alone something I owned 39 years ago. (LOL). Part of my large collections of Empire Korea and Japan Occupied Korean Stamps and Postal History were sold at PHILATOKIO ’81 by a fantastic gentleman and dealer named George Alevizos in Santa Monica, CA.

    Your Figure 2 is an extract from a Presentation Book (Lot#1010) in that catalog that was described as a “1914 Presentation Album”. I thought the Lot had been misdescribed due to the date shown in the write-up and the Lot (#1010) was pulled from the Auction, at my request.

    I have always been under the impression the unnumbered Book was printed in 1920 by the Ministry of Communications in Japan, to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Korea’s annexation. The size was appx. 252mmH x 171mmW. George felt other wise since he had experience selling other copies of these books.

    The green cover, 1905 book was 213mmH x 126mmW. The 1910 book is a third size.

    One last clarification to my initial reply concerning Jim Kerr and Meiso Mizuhara as their both being correct and my stating “these are being both “Presentation” and “Souvenir” books, with the difference being syntax. I should have explained the syntax: the Presentation Books were “souvenirs commemorating the event ” of the 1905 and 1910 events.

    Yes, I have also heard the “1905 book” referred to as a “1906 book” and the 1910 book as a 1909 book. So, let’s look at those statements one-by-one, considering that the Japanese place a great emphasis on ceremony.

    1. A 1906 Presentation book: Why? The First day of issue was in April 1905 of the “Amalgamation of the Postal Systems (See your Figures 4 & 5 above) in 1905. These ceremonies also included a joint first day of issue commemorative ceremonies (note set of 10 (?) Official Ministry of Communication Imperial Commemorative Post Card Set with Special Commemorative cancellation (Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, Korea) on July 1, 1905. Why would Japan re-honor the same event a year later in 1906. To me it’s how Japan would celebrate an event of this nature. I had Book 259, 234 and parts of a third book that someone (not me) cut apart.

    A 1909 Book: I think it is just a common assumption of people who are reading the pasted-in, “…order, announced on May 22, 1909, saying the following stamps and postcards were prohibited to use since Aug 31, 1909…”, are drawing a false conclusion that this Book was issued in conjunction with the date of the inserted Order. Again, it is not logical for the Japanese to celebrate an event one year in advance of its happening, In this case, the Annexation of Korea, on August 22, 1910. And, if I remember correctly, Figure 6c was only pasted-in was in the 1910 book.

    Regarding Yi-Fu, Chen’s statement, “The note in the second album was an order, announced on May 22, 1909. saying the following stamps and postcards were prohibited to use since Aug 31, 1909” is correct. Late Empire Korea stamp and postal stationary usages were allowed to quietly slip thru the Japanese Occupied Korea Post & Telegraph Offices, as late as August 22, 1910, on international mail by visiting tourists (stamp collectors) who bought Empire Korea stamps/postal stationary from Korean stamp dealers and used on letters, postal stationary and post cards to mail home. I had several examples in my collection.

    Imagine yourself being a Korean stamp dealer in Seoul, Incheon, etc., with $$$ in inventory of Empire Korean stamps you weren’t permitted to sell (dealers were suppose to destroy their stocks of Empire KOREA stamps, etc.) Would you have destroyed your stamps & cards, or would you have sold your stock to tourists and said, “use this on your post cards to mail them…”? I think we all know the answer to that question. 🙂

    So, I hope the colors and sizes help, as well as were the paste-in was located and the other info.

    All my best,

    PS: Since only a very few of today’s active KSS members know or remember my background here is a little bit: I exhibited Empire Korea and Japan Used In Korea 1905-1945 collections through the 1970s-80, winning numerous gold medals, postal history awards at national and international shows.I am a proud past-Director of the KSS, past-Publisher of ‘Korean Philately’, and past member of the KSS Expertization Committee. As a project, I independently re-confirmed over 80% of the findings in the Kerr Catalog. I (and probably the rest of the world) considered Meiso Mizuhara the “dean and premier collector” of Empire and Japan Used In Korea postal history; I was proud to be ranked 6th behind him by Jim Kerr and others at that time.

    An idea of some the items in my collection: the Andrew B. Graham business card with Poon essay on reverse (Alevizos-Philatokio ’81- Lot#1048) you see written-up in this month’s KP Magazine was part of my collection, as well as the two red and blue small chon essays illustrated. (Lot# 1216-17) Copies of my collection/exhibit may be viewed in two hard bound volumes in the closed stacks of The American Philatelic Research Library, State College, Pa., or at The Philatelic Foundation, in New York City, N.Y.

  4. Hi Hal, some more great information. Now I am about 90% convinced that there were three presenation books published between 1905-1910. By the way, more will published in later Parts of this article about later presentation books published, such as the 1914 one you mention which is included in Dr. Kerr’s list in his empire book. As you stated, it is a larger book. The page in Figure 2, is not from the 1914 presentation book, it is from one I own and it is same as the first edition, 213mm x126mm. But it is not from the first edition I believe. What I think happened now, is that the first edition was issued on July 1, 1905 by the Communication Ministry in Tokyo of 300 edition and then the Communications group in Korea wanted them too, and printed another 300? with their characters and these were given out to their members in Korea. Then later, a third nearly identifical presenatation book was put out of unknown numbers printed with the pasted information sheet in 1910 issue. It doesn’t appear that the 1910 book has the red ribbons and it has the pasted information sheet on that back inside cover, while the one I have has the red ribbons and no pasted notice. Mine also has a real Japan Agglomeration commerative, while it appears the 1910 only had the photo of the Japanese stamp. I am really happy that you have been giving us this information. This is exactly what I was hoping would happen with the KSS website when Ivo created it. Hopefully, you and others can give us even more feed back on the upcoming additional parts to this article. Best regards, Bob

  5. Hi Bob,
    I will agree with you that there were three (3) separate Presentation books of three different sizes. My two 1905 copies, with Green bamboo board jackets, tied with red silk, had live stamps. The 1910 copy had a print copy, as I recall. I do not wish to conjecture on two printings of 300.

    Someone would have to search the archives of the Ministry of Communications in Seoul as well as Ministry of Communications in Tokyo in an attempt to learn more. However, the Ministry of Communications in Seoul was destroyed, and archives looted (by all occupying forces) during the Korean War. There was also a concerted effort, at the end of WWII, by Koreans in both the North and South to remove and destroy anything that was related to the Japanese Occupation Period.

    I don’t recall the exact title of the publication printed by the Ministry of Communications in Seoul celebrating the anniversary of the history of the Korean Postal System. It was a two (2) volume bound set in Black. Volume I was appx. 4″ thick, a full size book over 1,500+(?) pages long; the book was in printed in black ‘n ‘white, in Hangul. It was a baby hernia–it was that heavy! That publication discussed the Empire Korea Postal System and the imposition of the Imperial Japanese Postal & Telegraph System in Korea. There may be information about the Presentation books in Volume I. Volume II concerned the post-Korean War Ministry of Communications and the postal issues released.

    I look forward to your next article. Like you, I think Ivo is doing a fantastic job and while I no longer collect Korea, I am happy to chip in with what I remember.


    1. Hi Hal, once again, thanks very much for your comments. One question, why do you think there were three different sizes? I believe the first edition and second edition are of the same size, as my copy is also 213mm x126 mm. I don’t know about what was the 2010 size, as I have never seen an actual copy, other than on line.

      By the way, there is another reason to believe there are three different editions because of the existance of the light blue 6 ch reprint. I believe Part 2 is going to be published on the website on this Thursday, and it discusses the reprints used in the presentation books. I talked to a number of prominent Korea dealers who handled those presentation books in the past, and no one has ever seen a light blue 6 ch pasted in the first or second editions (like my copy). We do have an example of one pasted into the 1910 presentation book. So, it would make sense that by 1910 they had run out of the Japanese 1905 commerative and had to make photo images of that to be used in the books, and the 1910 book being published in Korea, they had also run out of the 6ch blue (6ch being one of them most used postage rates) by 1910 and had to make reprints. Anyway, that is my current thinking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.