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.

Archive for March, 2013

Changing Images of the Bible in Art

David Steel talks about biblical images in art at Cameron Village Regional Library

David Steel talks about biblical images in art at Cameron Village Regional Library

On March 19, the Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh, North Carolina, played host to North Carolina Museum of Art curator David Steel, who presented an illustrated lecture about masterpieces of art based on stories from the Bible.

For example, The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man (ca. 1617) was painted by two giants of the art world. Peter Paul Rubens painted the figures of Adam and Eve, and Jan Brueghel painted the animals and the nature elements. Brueghel specialized in these subjects and often collaborated with figure painters. Steel noted that in this work the tree of knowledge contains several different fruits, and that some scholars make a good case for the forbidden fruit being an orange, not an apple.

The story of David and Bathsheba is another popular subject for artists—perhaps because it’s a good excuse to put a female nude in the center of a painting. But Rembrandt’s 1654 Bathsheba at Her Bath is different from others. Bathsheba is not a great beauty, as in earlier versions. That’s because Rembrandt was using his mistress as a model. Bathsheba dominates the canvas, and possibly because Rembrandt’s personal and professional life was in a shambles at the time, she is reflective and sad. The canvas for this painting, unusually, is almost a perfect square.

Curator David Steel speaks on The Bible in Art

Curator David Steel of the North Carolin Museum of Art speaks on biblical images in art

We saw three versions of the story of Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes. The first, by Caravaggio, is Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598-99). Steel compared this dramatic version to another painting on this subject by Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, completed between 1611 and 1612. Gentileschi’s portrayal is much more violent and brutal than Caravaggio’s. Perhaps Gentileschi was expressing her anger at men after being raped by her art teacher. The third version, Judith and Holofernes, is a 2012 painting by Kehinde Wiley. In Wiley’s depiction, the model for Judith is an African American Rikers Island prison guard, attired in a Givenchy dress. The head she holds in one hand is that of a white woman.

All in all, the evening was one of both beauty and enlightenment.

Sue Scott is Arts and Literature Librarian at Cameron Village Regional Library, Raleigh, North Carolina.


A Lively Opening at Missouri Valley College

Professor David I. Roberts reading a passage from a 20th century Bible.

Professor David L. Roberts reads a passage from a 20th century Bible.

The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit opened to great fanfare March 19 at Missouri Valley College’s Murrell Memorial Library in Marshall, Missouri. David L. Roberts, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at the college, presented his slideshow, “A Best-Seller like No Other: The King James Bible and Its 400 Years of Influence.”

Students, faculty and community members attended the event and enjoyed not only the displays of historical Bibles, but also the displays of nativities, song books, and other church-related items.

Professor Roberts began his slideshow with the prose of the King James Bible. Comparing it to other and later versions of the Bible, the King James Version is poetic and sounds “pretty” when read aloud. One of the main points was that words sound better with an “eth” at the end. “Maketh,” “sayeth,” even “asseth!”

Professor Roberts presenting his slideshow.

Professor Roberts presents his slideshow.

In the slideshow, Professor Roberts also pointed out some key elements of the Manifold Greatness exhibit. The influence of the King James Bible in popular literature, movies and music spans from children’s programming (A Charlie Brown Christmas) to more adult music (The Byrds.) Also, the King James Bible reached new heights when the creation story was read by Apollo 8 astronauts as they rounded the moon.

Murrell Library is looking forward to several more speakers, fun activities, and even hosting a Last Feast reception during the Manifold Greatness exhibit.

Jae Steinkuhler is the special events coordinator at Murrell Library, Missouri Valley College.


“Three crowns in James’s charter”: An Irish poem for the new king

James I (as James VI of Scotland). Trevelyon Miscellany. 1608. Folger.

James I (as James VI of Scotland). Trevelyon Miscellany. 1608. Folger.

This Sunday is March 24, the date in 1603 when Queen Elizabeth I died, and James VI of Scotland became king of England. When James succeeded Elizabeth to the English monarchy, he also inherited the crown of Ireland.

Although a high king of Ireland was both a legal and historical reality, the concept of an Irish crown was innovative in this period. The bardic poet Fearghal Óg Mac an Bhaird may be the first to have articulated the notion of  ‘the crown of Ireland’ as part of a triple monarchy, which he did in his famous poem “Tri coróna i gcairt Shéamais” (Three crowns in James’s charter), an inaugural poem celebrating James’s accession to the triple monarchy of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

The current Folger exhibition, Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland, which I curated with Thomas Herron, Associate Professor of English at East Carolina University, includes a facsimile manuscript of Mac an Bhaird’s poem, in the original Irish language. The poem is one of several Irish-language works on display. A fundamental, and immensely interesting, part of the exhibition, these works have been a way for us to show how the Irish language itself was a powerful cultural and social force in the world of Renaissance Ireland. You can hear a spoken passage from the poem, in Irish, in this online audio stop from our exhibition audio tour (the passage from the poem begins after my spoken introduction) and see an image of the poem here as well.

James I. Miniature on vellum, ca.1620?. Folger.

James I. Miniature on vellum, ca.1620?. Folger.

The poem’s fame derives in part from its seeming curiosity: why would a Gaelic Irishman welcome a “British” king? One answer is that Gaelic intellectuals were not absolutely averse to political connection to the monarchy in London, and currying favor with the new king was simply good politics.

On a more basic level, the bardic class hoped to enjoy greater protection and rights under a Scottish king than they had under an English queen: Elizabeth may have had an interest in the Irish language, but she did next to nothing to arrest the destruction of Gaelic culture. James, by contrast, had successfully ruled Scotland for decades and had managed his Gaelic and Catholic subjects with relative tolerance. Many Irish—bards, lords, and even churchmen—held out hope that his reign would usher in better days.

Mac an Bhaird’s poem details the grounds of James’s claim for all three kingdoms. In the case of Ireland, legitimacy derived from blood (Scottish kings having been descended of Irish Gaels) rather than conquest. In traditional motif, then, Ireland was portrayed in the poem as the feminized ‘spouse’ of the rightful king, a union that would bring peace and plenty to the land.

Great hopes, however, were quickly dashed. A mere six years later, in 1609, James’s government would commence the largest and most ambitious of English/British colonial schemes in Ireland, the Plantation of Ulster, and thus the repeopling of Ireland’s northern province with English and Scottish settlers.

Brendan Kane is Associate Professor of History at the University of Connecticut, Associate Director of the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, and the curator, with Thomas Herron, of the Folger exhibition Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland, January 19 to May 19, 2013.


Tyndale, Quills, and Ink: Manifold Greatness Opens at the Tuscaloosa Public Library

Young community members make feather quills and sign their names with blackberry ink. Photo Vince Bellofatto.

Young community members make feather quills and sign their names with blackberry ink. Photos by Vince Bellofatto.

On March 8, the City of Tuscaloosa welcomed the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit to the Tuscaloosa Public Library, a highly anticipated event in a region that lies in the heart of the Bible Belt.

Five displays, which were curated by the library, are scattered throughout the building to enhance the Manifold Greatness experience. These displays offer visitors the chance to experience physical representations of the topics discussed within the Manifold Greatness exhibit, such as the history of books, papermaking, bookmaking, the literary influence of the King James Bible, and what the Bible has become today.

Dr. L. Jeffrey Weddle giving his presentation during the Manifold Greatness Opening Ceremony. Photo Vince Bellofatto

Dr. L. Jeffrey Weddle’s presentation during the Opening Ceremony.

Our family-friendly opening reception was held Sunday, March 10. Attendees were given the chance to peruse the exhibit while enjoying the classical music of Handel’s Messiah and partaking of light refreshments. The keynote speaker, Dr. L. Jeffrey Weddle, Associate Professor at the University of Alabama, introduced the history of the first English Bibles through William Tyndale’s version during his presentation, entitled “William Tyndale: How His Bible Translation Changed the Reformation and Led to the King James Version.”

As an added bonus, the Children’s Department gave patrons a guided tour through the history of bookmaking, starting with a discussion of early bookmaking and the various materials that have been used to make books, followed by a feather quill making activity. After reading the story The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane by C.M. Millen, participants saw a demonstration of making blackberry ink and were able to use their new quills to sign their names.

Members of the Tuscaloosa community view the Manifold Greatness exhibit in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Photo Vince Bellofatto

Tuscaloosa community members view the Manifold Greatness exhibit.

From there, they were offered the opportunity to hear from Christopher Davenport and Laura Rowley, students from the University of Alabama Book Arts Department, with lessons and hands-on activities on letterpress printing, bookmaking, and papermaking.

In the coming weeks, the library is looking forward to the many special groups scheduled to attend the exhibit and will be hosting two additional programs geared towards engaging our community in the history and influence that the creation of the King James Version had on the world.

Susana Goldman is Reference Librarian at the Tuscaloosa Public Library in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


Casiodoro de Reina and the Bear Bible

1569

La Biblia. Basel, 1569. Folger.

Yesterday was March 15, the anniversary of the death of Casiodoro de Reina (ca. 1520–1594). And that made us think of the Bear Bible, or Biblia del Oso, first published in 1569. The translation was largely the work of de Reina, a Spanish Reformer who began his religious life as a monk in the monastery of San Isidoro outside of Seville.

Persuaded by the writings of Martin Luther, de Reina fled Spain when he aroused the suspicions of the Inquisition. After a brief stay in Geneva, which he found uncongenial, de Reina traveled to England. In 1559 he became the pastor of the Spanish Protestant exile community in London, who worshipped at the church of St. Mary Axe, named after a neighboring tavern whose sign bore the image of an axe.

Seemingly trumped up due to the machinations of Spanish agents, accusations against de Reina included an astonishing array of crimes, among them dishonesty, embezzlement, immoral conduct with female congregants, and sodomy, as well as doctrinal and ecclesiastical errors. He fled England with his family in 1563 and devoted himself to the translation of the Bible, as well as to writings criticizing the Inquisition.

1569 Bear Bible

La Biblia. Basel, 1569. Folger.

There had been earlier Bibles in Spanish, but de Reina’s, first printed in Basel, was the most influential. The de Reina Bible was revised in 1602 by Cipriano de Valera, originally a member of the same monastic order as de Reina, who was, from 1559, a professor at the University of Cambridge.

Though it was revised again several times up to the twentieth century, this Spanish Protestant translation is still known, and still in use, as the Reina-Valera Bible. It has a status among Spanish Protestants somewhat equivalent to that of the King James Bible among English speakers. The charming printer’s mark of the bear climbing a tree for honey identifies the work of the Bern printer Mattias Apiarius, whose name (in his native German, “Biener”) means “beekeeper.”

Hannibal Hamlin, associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, was co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


A Scottish-Themed Greeting for Manifold Greatness and King James

Triangle Scottish Dancers at Manifold Greatness exhibit opening, North Carolina

Triangle Scottish Dancers at Cameron Village Regional Library exhibit opening, North Carolina

Cameron Village Regional Library

History of the harp

Because North Carolina has a strong Scottish heritage, we decided to highlight King James’s own Scottish heritage in our Manifold Greatness opening celebration at Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The afternoon began with a performance of highland dancing by the Triangle Scottish Dancers, a local group that is part of the Scottish Cultural Organization of the Triangle (SCOT). Highland dancing differs from country dancing in that the latter is performed by couples who walk around each other in patterns, much like American square dancing. Highland dancing, in contrast, is performed by individuals and involves very intricate footwork. It is similar to the Irish dancing that was popularized by the “Lord of the Dance”.

Harpist Anita Burroughs-Price with interested observers, Cameron Village Regional Library

Harpist Anita Burroughs-Price with interested observers

Most highland dance groups are made up of girls and young women, as is the case with our group. More than one attendee remarked on how nice it was to see a group of girls performing together in such an accomplished way. Even the bagpipe player is a teenage girl.

After the dance performance in the atrium, the piper played while the dancers led the crowd upstairs to the exhibit room. There refreshments were served while North Carolina Symphony harpist Anita Burroughs–Price performed music from the Jacobean era, and told attendees about the history of the harp from its beginning as an outgrowth of the hunter’s bow to the modern harp we know today.

George Birrell at the exhibit opening

George Birrell of SCOT

During the harpist’s break, SCOT member George Birrell gave a talk about kilts  and read some Scottish poetry. George and Anita then collaborated on an impromptu duet, Anita playing the harp while George recited the words to “Auld Lang Syne,” a Scottish song with words by the poet Robert Burns. An earlier version of the song has been attributed to Sir John Ayton, a scholarly advisor to King James.

Eventually, the afternoon of music, food, and dance drew to a close. One of the comments left on the white board in the exhibit room summed it up: “Great display. Absolutely spiffing!”

Sue Scott is Arts and Literature Librarian at Cameron Village Regional Library, Raleigh, North Carolina.


Manifold Videos from Manifold Greatness on Tour

Care to explore a wide variety of King James Bible-related lectures, interviews with experts, and other events and entertainments at the Manifold Greatness exhibit sites? What better place to go than our video playlist, “MG on Tour: Experts, Events, Exhibits, and Fun,” on the Manifold Greatness YouTube channel?

From the playlist: an interview, local Bibles, and Manifold Greatness at Arizona State, 11/2011

Using the MG on Tour playlist, you can browse through and view a wide variety of videos from many of the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit locations. Ranging from under a minute to an hour and a half, the videos include a fascinating variety of illustrated lectures, one-on-one interviews with experts, video tours of local exhibits and rare Bibles (like the one shown here), and much more.

The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit first went on tour in September 2011. Since then, the exhibit has appeared at 33 locations around the United States, and is still going strong! The exhibit is opening this week at three new locations: Murrell Library at Missouri Valley College, Tuscaloosa Public Library in Alabama, and Cameron Village Regional Library in North Carolina. For even more Manifold Greatness videos, go to our Manifold Greatness Channel on YouTube.


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