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.

From Geneva to Mobile

As part of the Mobile Public Library’s recent showing of the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition, local residents and universities lent rare Bibles that were included in the display.

Mobile resident Robert S. Edington provided a 1583 Geneva Bible, which is also known as the “Breeches Bible.”  “Breeches Bible” is a book collector’s term for the Geneva Bible, which was first printed 1560. The term derives from the reference in Genesis iii: 7 to Adam and Eve clothing themselves in “breeches” made from fig leaves.

The Geneva Bible was one of the results of the persecution under infamous Queen Mary I, popularly known as “Bloody Mary” (1553-1558). Several of the Protestant reformers had fled to Geneva, Switzerland, to escape persectuion in England.  Geneva was a free city, politically and religiously, dominated by Calvinism, the “cradle of the Reformed Faith” and a haven for religious reformists.

1583 Geneva Bible owned by Robert S. Edington. Also known as the "Breeches Bible," in reference to the Genesis iii:7 passage regarding Adam and Eve clothing themselves in "breeches" made from fig leaves. Photo courtesy of Mobile Public Library.

The Geneva Bible offered the first new English translation of the Bible in nearly 20 years. Many of the previous translations also had their inceptions  under duress, such as William Tyndale’s work producing the New Testament at a time when English translations of the Bible were prohibited. Tyndale suffered execution as a result.  For more information on the volatile history of English translations of the Bible, visit The Crown and the Bible on the Manifold Greatness website.

Spring Hill College contributed several Bibles to the exhibition, including a Gutenberg Bible facsimile that was produced in 1961. The Gutenberg Bible, known also as the Mazarin Bible and the 42-Line Bible, is a Latin edition of the Bible, printed at Mainz, Germany, sometime between 1450 and 1456. Although German bibliographers claim that it was printed by the German printer Johann Gutenberg, the edition may have been finished and perfected by Johann Fust, a wealthy financier who gained Gutenberg’s share of the business in a lawsuit; and Peter Schöffer, Gutenberg’s assistant. The book is the first volume known to have been printed with movable metal type.

1512 Vulgate Bible and 1871 Luther Bible on loan by Spring Hill College. Photo courtesy of Mobile Public Library.

The College also provided a 1512 Vulgate Bible, a 1546 Hebraica Biblica (Hebrew-Latin Bible), and a 1871 Luther Bible.  The Vulgate is a early translation of the Bible into Latin, originally undertaken in the 4th century. It remained the standard translation of the Bible for centuries, and was widely used throughout the middle ages. The Luther Bible is based on a translation by Martin Luther and was first published in 1534. Over 300 years later, his translation remained important enough for an edition to be printed in 1871.  

In addition, the University of Mobile lent several Bibles.  Local residents Clyde and Ira Jenkins displayed their 1949 New Standard Reference Bible, and Robert Hyde showed his grandmother’s 1869 American Bible Society version.

A family Bible owned by Clyde and Ira Jenkins. 1949 New Standard Reference Edition. Photo courtesy of Mobile Public Library.

Amber Guy is a public relations officer at Mobile Public Library, which hosted the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition from February 29 to March 30, 2012.

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