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.

The KJB Sea to Sea


Institutions around the world have been celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, and this spring the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA, which houses substantial rare book holdings, hosted an exhibition highlighting the history, context, and ongoing influence of the KJB.

The Clark Library was the lucky recipient of a recent gift of early English books. We used many of these in the exhibition, including the Greek to Latin translation of the New Testament by Erasmus in 1516, the “Wycliffite” version (unpublished until 1731), Cranmer’s 1541 version of the Great Bible, and the large folio edition of the Geneva Bible, printed in 1583. These antecedents helped contextualize the desire to publish a new English translation of the Bible during the reign of King James I, a translation that fit the politics of seventeenth-century Protestant England. The Clark borrowed the first issue of the first edition, or the Great “He” Bible of 1611 (so called because of a typo in the Book of Ruth), which was displayed with the library’s own “corrected” edition printed in 1613.

Later versions of the KJB, including the magnificent Baskerville Bible printed in 1763 using the “Baskerville” typeface created by British printer John Baskerville, an engraved 18th-century miniature of the New Testament done completely in shorthand, and quarto and octavo editions in elaborately tooled bindings, speak to the book’s popularity. We know the initial reception of this new translation wasn’t all roses and there is a fiery essay by Hugh Broughton, a noted clergyman and contemporary of many of the translators, which sharply criticises the King James Bible. But there is no denying that the King James Bible influenced scores of writers, artists, scholars, and even composers.

On online version of the exhibition can be seen here.

Nina Schneider is a guest contributor to the Manifold Greatness blog and Head Cataloger/Interim Head Librarian at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA.

2 responses

  1. Pingback: KJB, Sea to Sea « The Clog

  2. Pingback: Dedication and Preaching Effort 400 years after the first King James Version « Christadelphian Ecclesia

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