Inside take on a Folger, Bodleian, and Ransom Center exhibition on the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible on the 400th anniversary of its publication.

Bob Marley

May 11, 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Bob Marley. In her book, The Book of Exodus: The Making and Meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Album of the Century, Vivien Goldman writes about Marley’s relationship with his special copy of the King James Bible:

“Bob never went anywhere without his old King James Bible. Personalized with photos of Haile Selassie, it would lie open beside him, a ribbon marking the place, as he played his guitar by candlelight in whichever city he found himself. He had a way of isolating himself with the book, withdrawing from the other laughing musicians on the tour bus to ponder a particular passage, then challenging his bred’ren to debate it as vigorously as if they were playing soccer.” (Book of Exodus)

Another Bible owned by Bob Marley is pictured above and below.  It’s a Gideon’s Bible—a special copy among the many millions of others that have been placed in hotel rooms all over the world.

The King James Bible is an important book in the Rastafari movement, and thus its language has had a profound impact on a great many reggae artists.  For comparisons of Marley’s lyrics with passages from the King James Bible, see the follow examples as presented on the website Words Of Wisdom – Biblical Quotations In Reggae Lyrics:

Small Axe
Rastaman Chant
Exodus

Steven Galbraith, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Books, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

A Gideon's Bible owned by Bob Marley. Collection of the Bob Marley Foundation. Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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