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.

Author Archive

Fine Press Books and the King James Bible

Song of Solomon. Chapman and Hall, 1897. Cary Collection, RIT.

Song of Solomon. Chapman and Hall, 1897. Cary Collection, RIT.

The 40-location Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit is in the midst of its grand finale at the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library of the Rockdale-Conyers Library System in Conyers, Georgia; the Conyers exhibit runs through July 12, the final day of the 40-site tour. Several months from now, the recently retired panels will be on view in Rochester, New York, as explained by Manifold Greatness co-curator Steven Galbraith:

A few weeks ago one of the four sets of the traveling Manifold Greatness exhibition arrived at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where they will be on display one last time this coming fall. Although that’s still several months away, I couldn’t resist putting up a few of the panels. It reminded me of my second post to the Manifold Greatness blog, The Exhibition Panels Have Arrived, back on April 15, 2011 (see photo below). I felt like I was being reacquainted with old friends, to whom I want to introduce new friends at RIT.

The focus of the RIT’s Cary Collection differs quite a lot from that of my previous home at the Folger Shakespeare Library. The Cary Collection documents the history of graphic communication, with an emphasis on the history of printing. One of the strongest collections here is of fine press books; that is, books that exhibit exceptional quality in design, materials, and execution. With this in mind, the Cary Collection’s version of Manifold Greatness will present the history of the King James Bible alongside 19th and 20th-century fine press editions of the Bible, most of which use the King James translation as their text.

Bible, Doves Press. 1903-05. Cary Collection, RIT.

Bible, Doves Press. 1903-05. Cary Collection, RIT.

For example, the edition of the King James Bible printed by The Doves Press is a typographical masterpiece (Hammersmith, England, 1903-1905). Designed to reflect 15th-century Venetian printing, this Bible has little ornamentation, letting the text speak for itself through an elegant typeface. The type’s designer and founder of the Doves Press, T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, is as famous for his type design as he is for what he eventually did with his type. In 1916 he threw his type and the punches and matrices used to make it into the River Thames. A dramatic end to the Doves Press.

The edition of The Song of Solomon published by Chapman and Hall in 1897 features beautiful Pre-Raphaelite-inspired plates designed by H. Granville Fell, but what makes the Cary Collection copy so outstanding is the book’s vellucent binding by Cedric Chivers (1853-1929) from Bath, England. In preparing a vellucent binding, a painting on paper is set beneath a translucent layer of vellum, so that the image can be seen through it. Any tooling, like the good tooling used in this design, was applied to the outside of the binding.  Not only does this technique create a striking binding, but it also ensures that the painting won’t be damaged when the book is handled or shelved between other books.

April 15, 2011: The day the panels arrived! Folger exhibition team. L to R, curator Hannibal Hamlin, exhibitions manager Caryn Lazzuri, curator Steve Galbraith

April 15, 2011: The day the panels arrived! Folger exhibition team. L to R, curator Hannibal Hamlin, exhibitions manager Caryn Lazzuri, curator Steve Galbraith

One last example from the Cary Collection demonstrates that illustrations found in fine press editions of the King James Bible can be as remarkable as the type and the bindings. One of the most famous printmakers and type designers of the early twentieth century is Eric Gill (1882–1940). If you have used the typeface Gill Sans, then you are familiar with Gill’s work. Gill created 50 illustrations for The Golden Cockerel Press edition of The Four Gospels (1931). Look through these pages to see the Deposition of Christ as told in the Gospel of Mark, and notice how Gill incorporates the word “And” into the design. Joseph of Arimathea actually stands on the letter N, while a figure, perhaps Mary, the mother of Jesus, climbs a ladder that scales the side of the letter A. Mary Magdalene holds Jesus at the base of the cross.

These are just a few of the fine press editions of the King James Bible that will be on display at the Cary Collection this coming fall when we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James Bible. I guess it will officially be the 402nd anniversary, but who’s counting?

Steven Galbraith, Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology, was co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


Thomas P. Meyer Prisoner of war

Inscription. New Testament. New York: American Bible Society, 1863.

With each new post I write for the Manifold Greatness blog, I am struck anew by the long reach of the King James Bible and how much history was covered by just our one exhibition. Take, for example, the 1863 King James New Testament loaned by the American Bible Society for the Folger exhibition. When images of the Bible first arrived at the Folger, we were all struck by the book’s inscription:

Presented by the Sanitary
Commission, through
the rebel authorities at
Richmond, Feb. – 1864
Belle Island
Richmond, Va.
Thomas P. Meyer
Prisoner of war

This extraordinary copy dates back to the American Civil War, when it was given to a Union prisoner of war named Meyer “through the rebel authorities” by the United States Sanitary Commission, an organization that provided relief to Union soldiers. Wanting to learn more, I began reading about the prison on Belle Isle and ended up on a website that had a transcription of the diary of Zelotes A. Musgrave, a Union prisoner of war from Ohio, who spent about five months in the prison. Spare, though compelling, daily entries such as “Belle Island. The body lice are fat.” provide a captivating glimpse of the harsh conditions at Belle Isle. At one point Musgrave receives a blanket from “our government, as rather the Christian Commission,” a moment of comfort reminiscent of the Sanitary Commission’s gift of the New Testament to Thomas P. Meyer.

Reading through Musgrave’s diary also brought back memories of what I had learned about the Civil War history of my own hometown. I grew up in Elmira, New York, which was the site of a rather brutal Union prison. I thought about how the words of the King James translation have brought relief to many in need. A Confederate prisoner of war in Elmira likely read the same Biblical passages as a Union prisoner of war at Belle Isle (see Hannibal Hamlin’s earlier post on the Civil War)—just as a young man sailing “beyond the seas” sought comfort in the Psalms and Martin Luther King inspired millions with verses such as Amos 5:24.

In the planning stages of the Manifold Greatness exhibition, Hannibal and I agreed that we wanted to show the human side of the history of the King James Bible. Meyer’s Civil War New Testament is a powerful example and we are thankful to the American Bible Society for allowing it to be a part of our exhibition.

Steven Galbraith, Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library, open through Monday, January 16.


Red-Letter Days

King James Bible. 1611. Folger.

My two favorite categories of English language idioms are those derived from printing and those derived from baseball. I can find no excuse for discussing baseball terms and phrases in a blog devoted to the King James Bible, so I’ll simply provide you with this link to Wikipedia and move on to printing.

One of the happy byproducts of the history of bookmaking is the bits of language that have traveled out of the printing house and into our common English parlance. Calling letters upper and lower case, for example, comes from the physical arrangement of the two type cases that held majuscule (capital or upper case) letters and minuscule (lower case) letters. For a visual aid, check out these photos from the Bodleian Library.

Other common idioms that may have bibliographic roots are “out of sorts” and “mind your p’s and q’s.” I have small children, so I often find myself talking like I’m in a printing house. The truth is, however, that the jury is out on these origins of these phrase, but The Happy Dragons’ Press is on the case (please note that “on the case” is not a printer’s term).

Another common bibliographic idiom travels back centuries to early manuscript Bibles. Today the term “red-letter day” is often used to donate special days of any sort, but it has its origins in liturgical calendars found in manuscript and printed Bibles. While most of the days of the calendar were written or printed in black ink, the more special days were emphasized by being written or printed in red ink. These red-letter days typically included saint’s days and other festivals.

King James Bible. 1611. Folger. (Detail)

Like most Bibles that came before it, the King James Bible includes a calendar. The page from the 1611 King James Bible shown above in full (with a close-up view here) is for the month of December, which happens to contain a number of red-letter days—including, of course, Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

Steven Galbraith, Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

NOTE: For audio comments from Steven Galbraith on how the printer used black and red inks on this calendar page (and for a closer look at the page itself), go to Read the Book on the Manifold Greatness website; select “December calendar” from the Choose a Page menu. Read the Book is also available at a computer station within the Manifold Greatness exhibition, on view at the Folger Shakespeare Library through January 16.


I Swear It’s Not Too Late

The Byrds. Turn, Turn, Turn! LP cover.

Forty-six years ago today, the Byrds released their second album, Turn! Turn! Turn! The album’s title track is a folk rock interpretation of a song Pete Seeger had written in 1956 based on Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1 as translated in the King James Bible. Seeger’s adaptation was popular among the artists of the early 60s folk scene, but when the Byrds applied their groundbreaking folk rock sound to the song, it soared to #1 on the charts in the U.S.

Over the decades, the popularity of the Byrds’ version has not only continued but the recording has become a powerful cultural landmark. The opening jangle of Roger McGuinn’s 12-string Rickenbacker is a sound that immediately evokes the turbulent times of the 1960s. The song’s concluding appeal for peace, “I swear it’s not too late” (Seeger’s original contribution to the lyrics), will be forever linked with the Vietnam War. Yet the song and its message remain somehow timeless, an unlikely collaboration spanning the centuries between the King James Bible translators, Seeger, and McGuinn.

Steven Galbraith, Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


The Bible in Old English Verse

MS. Junius 11. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

I really wish that I had been there when Bodleian Library MS. Junius 11 arrived at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Dating from around 1000 CE, this manuscript contains Old English verse adaptations of Genesis, Exodus, and Daniel. These biblical poems were originally thought to have been authored by the seventh-century poet Cædmon. Thus the manuscript is often referred to as the “The Cædmon Manuscript,” though the true author or authors remain unknown.

The page that is being highlighted in the Folger’s Manifold Greatness exhibition (first image, at left) presents the creation of Eve. On the right side of the drawing God takes a rib out of Adam’s side. On the left, God holds the hand of newly born Eve.

MS. Junius 11. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

The image from MS. Junius that I personally find captivating is the depiction of Noah’s ark as a kind of Viking ship (the second image in this post, at right). At first glance you might not realize that you are looking at Noah’s ark, but if you take a good look in the small space in the center of the ship—click on the image to see it a little larger—you can see what appears to be two peacocks and two deer standing two-by-two. Noah is at the back of the ship holding the rudder.

A world of thanks is owed to the Bodleian Library for their willingness to loan this amazing artifact to the Folger. It really is a privilege to have such an incredible piece of history on view in the United States.

To examine the Bodleian Library’s MS. Junius 11 online, visit Early Manuscripts at Oxford University.

Steven Galbraith, Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


A Visit to Azusa Pacific University

On Monday, Azusa Pacific University commenced its month-long celebration of the anniversary of the King James Bible. I had the privilege of traveling to APU to take part in a rich day of events that began with a stirring trumpet herald and ended with an unforgettable, hypnotic performance by the Men’s Chorale. Twice I visited the university’s art gallery to take in Makoto Fujimura’s The Four Holy Gospels, a stunning abstract rendering of the scriptures, which I mentioned some months ago in this blog post about the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) King James Bible exhibition.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this I delivered two talks based on the Folger’s Manifold Greatness exhibition. As a curator, delivering a PowerPoint presentation is never quite as satisfying as showing real artifacts. As good fortune would have it, the University’s Special Collections had put together an fine exhibition called “Creation and Illumination: The 400th Anniversary Celebration of the King James Bible.” The books and manuscripts they had on display augmented my talks perfectly. My hosts took me for a tour through their library’s vaults, where we pored over an assortment of wonderful books. I felt very much at home.

For a complete listing of KJV-related events at APU, visit:  www.apu.edu/kingjamesbible/

Steven Galbraith, curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


A royal copy of the King James Bible

Prince Henry Bible. Washington National Cathedral. Photo: Julie Ainsworth.

When planning an exhibition a curator expects to find a few discoveries and surprises. In earlier posts I’ve written about discoveries such as the Isham Bible and the surprise of finding a “Judas Bible” in the Folger collection. But there is one artifact in the Manifold Greatness exhibition that we would never have imagined: a copy of the 1611 “He” Bible that was bound for King James’s son Henry Frederick, prince of Wales. This treasure is undoubtedly one of the most exciting surviving editions of the King James Bible and, as good luck would have it, it was residing just a few miles from the Folger Shakespeare Library at the Washington National Cathedral.

As you can see from the photograph, this book is bound beautifully in red Morocco leather with intricate ornamental gilt tooling that provides clues identifying both the owner and binder. Prince Henry’s arms are stamped onto the front and back boards, along with royal symbols such as the crowned thistles on the corners of the binding and Tudor roses sprinkled around the border.

If you look closely at the detail below, you’ll see two little squirrels perched on each side of the crown found on Henry’s arms.  There was only one binder during this period who decorated his bindings with such squirrels. We do not know the binder’s name, but modern scholars have taken to calling him the “Squirrel Binder.” Active from c.1610 to 1635, the “Squirrel Binder” appears to have worked for many English nobles and several members of the royal court, including James I, Charles I, and Prince Henry.

Detail, Prince Henry Bible. Washington National Cathedral. Photo: Julie Ainsworth.

The book’s engraved title page held another surprise. The signature of the engraver, Cornelis Boel, usually appears engraved at the bottom left center “C. Boel fecit [he made it]”  On the title page to Prince Henry’s copy, Boel’s name is not engraved, but signed!

This extraordinary copy of the “He” Bible is the greatest treasure of the Washington National Cathedral’s impressive rare book library.  I know that I speak for Hannibal and the rest of the Manifold Greatness team when I say how grateful we are to our friends at the Cathedral for loaning us this remarkable book.

Steven Galbraith, Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


Discovering a “Judas Bible”

Bible. English. Authorized. 1613. Folger.

Although I’ve been involved with my share of exhibitions, I’m always somehow surprised by how much work goes into them, from the planning stages through to the installation and de-installation.  Indeed, as I write this blog entry, I’m reminded that my colleagues at the Folger are hard at work with the installation, which happens to be one of the most intense parts of the process.  Hannibal Hamlin and I are deeply grateful for all of their efforts.

I think the most exciting part of the exhibition planning process is searching for artifacts to illustrate the exhibition’s narrative. Once there is an exhibition outline, it’s time to search the library catalog and hunt through the library vaults. The process is always one of discovery, through which you find amazing items that you may never have known about. Finding such incredible artifacts is always a thrilling moment.

Hannibal and I had a memorable “Ah-Ha!” moment while researching the so-called “Judas Bible.”  We had read that some copies of the 1613 folio edition of the King James Bible had a misprint in which “Jesus” was mistakenly set as “Judas” in Matthew 26:36. This misprint read: “Then commeth Judas with them unto a place called Gethsemane.” Substituting Judas for Jesus at this moment in the New Testament was clearly a significant mistake, though considering the similarity in the spelling of their names, one can understand how such a mistake was made.

When Hannibal and I pulled the Folger’s copy of the 1613 edition and opened it to Matthew 26:36, we saw “Then commeth Jesus.” At first glance, anyway.  To our great delight a second glance revealed that “Jesus” was actually printed onto a cancel slip that was glued over “Judas.” This was a fairly common way of making corrections in early modern books.  Hannibal and I were looking at a “Judas Bible.”  If you look closely at the image above, you can see the “J” of “Judas” peeking out from behind the “J” of “Jesus.”

The Folger’s “Judas Bible” will appear in the Folger’s Manifold Greatness exhibition alongside the “Wicked Bible” in a case called “Misprints and Misfortunes: Printing the King James Bible.”

Steven Galbraith, Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


ye only booke I carried in my pockett

There is more to books than just the texts they contain. Books are historical artifacts whose physical makeup and features tell us something about the people who owned them and the cultures that produced them. In this way, each book has its own story to tell.

While searching for books to use in our Manifold Greatness exhibition, I came across a copy of The third part of the Bible with the following inscription: “This was ye [the] only booke I carried in my pockett when I travelld  beyond ye [the] seas ye [the] 22d year of my Age; & many years after Just. Isha[m].”

I was astonished. While many book owners from the early modern period inscribed their names into their books and perhaps even supplied a date, very few provided such personal details. We not only know who owned this book but where he kept it and where he took it. While it is taken for granted that small books often traveled in the pockets of their owners, it is wonderful to have confirmation from a contemporary owner.

Identifying “Just. Isha[m]” turned out to be a surprisingly easy task. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) brought me to Sir Justinian Isham (1611–1675), second baronet of Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire. The DNB entry states that Isham traveled to the Netherlands in 1633 at the age of twenty-two, a perfect match to the book’s inscription, “beyond ye seas ye 22d year of my Age.”[1]

When I showed Isham’s Bible to Heather Wolfe, the Folger’s Curator of Manuscripts, she recalled that two scholars, Elizabeth Clarke and Erica Longfellow, had transcribed the diary of a woman from the same period named Elizabeth Isham and wondered if she could be related to Justinian.  Looking at the diary online I found entries from 1633 that confirm that she was his sister.  She writes, “‘my B[rother] went beyond sea” and later “my B[rother] came from beioynd [sic] sea.”[2]

Also through the diary I learned of the Isham family’s close relationship with the Stuteville family.  In the back of Isham’s Bible is a manuscript IOU contract between sisters Susan and Elizabeth Stuteville.

Another interesting feature of the book is the manuscript index to the Psalms found in the book’s blank endpapers.  Here Isham records the numbers of particular psalms appropriate for particular occasions: morning, evening, mercy, sickness, joy, communion, and comforts. The Psalms section of the book is also where he wrote the most manuscript notes.

I continue to be amazed by the amount of history contained in this one, small book.  It really is one of the treasures of the Folger.  I must admit it’s my favorite book in the exhibition.

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


[1] R. Priestley, ‘Isham, Sir Justinian, second baronet (1611–1675)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/14489, accessed 13 April 2010]

[2] Elizabeth Clarke and Erica Longfellow, “Constructing Elizabeth Isham,” University of Warwick, Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, 28 Jan 2009 [http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/ren/projects/isham/, accessed 5 May 2010]


The King and the King James Bible

Elvis Presley King James Bible. Courtesy Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Today marks the 34th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. Though known primarily as a rock and roll singer, Elvis had a special love for the gospel music he’d grown up with in Tupelo, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee. Performances of favorites such as “How Great Thou Art” and “Peace in the Valley” earned him his only three Grammy awards and a spot in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. The lyrics to many such gospel songs are rooted in the language of the King James Bible.

On Sunday, my local PBS station, Maryland Public Television (MPT), aired a documentary called “He Touched Me: The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley.”  It was a joy seeing and hearing Elvis perform his gospel favorites and to hear his former bandmates recall how after their shows ended, Elvis and his band would sing gospel songs and jam for friends until the sun rose.

Elvis owned many Bibles and always kept one close by. The King James Bible pictured here, normally found in Elvis’s room in Graceland, will be on display at the Folger Shakespeare Library as a part of the Manifold Greatness exhibition. The loan approval for Elvis’s Bible came shortly after news that we would not be receiving the Abraham Lincoln/Barack Obama Bible from the Library of Congress.  We were disappointed, but completely understood the decision. And after all, we might not have gotten the President, but we got the King.

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


The Wicked Bible


Folger exhibitions draw primarily on Folger collections, but are often supplemented with items loaned from other libraries and museums. Most of the time the process goes smoothly, but every exhibition has its challenges. Manifold Greatness has had a few challenges, ranging from chasing down Bibles belonging to presidents and reggae musicians, to finding a pulpit and pew to put in the Great Hall.  Then there’s the Wicked Bible…

Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) edition of the King James Bible is an edition from 1631 that has come to be known as the “Wicked Bible” due to a rather outrageous typo in the ten commandments. Instead of having “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” the Wicked Bible has “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Quite a difference!  Even the King, Charles I, took notice and saw to it that the book’s printers, Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, were severely fined. Copies of the book were recalled and thus very few survive.

That very few copies survive made it a challenge for us to find one for the Folger exhibition. Finding a Wicked Bible turned out to be a rather wicked endeavor. After a few failed attempts, we finally found a copy with a willing lender: our partner in Manifold Greatness, the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford!

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


The Museum of Biblical Art

The Museum of Biblical Art in New York, NY  is commemorating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bibles with an exhibition, “On Eagles’ Wings: The King James Bible Turns Four Hundred,” that begins today, July 8, and runs through October 16, 2011.  “The exhibition will present the touchstones of the translation process examining how this work was and continues to be inspirational for various audiences over time.” Considering the rich collections of the Museum and the American Bible Society, this exhibition should be excellent.  A unique feature of the exhibition will be a series of paintings by contemporary artist Makoto Fujimura, commissioned for Crossway Publishers’ new edition of the English Standard Version of the Bible.

Tomorrow, July 9, the American Bible Society will host a symposium featuring: Dr. David Norton, Dr. Scot McKnight, Dr. Euan K. Cameron, and Dr. Marlon Winedt. This will be followed by a screening of “KJB: The Book that Changed the World” and a discussion with the film’s director Norman Stone.

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


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.


A Visit to Oxford

This past Friday, Folger Librarian Steve Enniss and I had the pleasure of traveling to Oxford to attend a reception celebrating the opening of the Bodleian Library’s exhibition “Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible.” Guests gathered in Oxford’s majestic Divinity School for drinks, fellowship, and remarks from Bodley’s Librarian, Sarah Thomas, and comedian Ian Hislop, who was delightfully irreverent.

Prior to the reception, I made my way through the exhibition.  I was awestruck by the assembled artifacts.  I lingered over Anne Boleyn’s copy of the Tyndale New Testament and the Wicked Bible of 1631, with its infamous typo “Thou shalt commit adultery.” At one point I overheard someone whisper, “Have you seen the Big Three?” The “Big Three” to which she was referring are a copy of the 1602 Bishops’ Bible annotated by KJB translators, a manuscript containing working translations of the New Testament epistles, and surviving notes from translator John Bois.  “The Big Three” is a fitting title. On exhibition together for the first time, these three artifacts are primary documents recording the process behind the creation of the King James Bible.

The next day as we discussed the exhibition at the Turf Tavern, Steve noticed an ad for Manifold Greatness hung at the bottom of the tavern’s crowded wall of posters. I thought snapping a picture was in order.

We return invigorated and excited to continue work on the Folger exhibition coming this fall.

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


The Debut!

The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition panels made their debut this past Sunday at Shakespeare’s Birthday Open House, an annual Folger tradition.  It was incredible to see all fourteen panels on display in the library’s New Reading Room. We were truly amazed by the number of visitors who read each panel closely and had questions for Hannibal and me (I should say mostly Hannibal, because I was manning the Folger’s replica wooden printing press for most of the day).

We were very encouraged. I even saw a couple of people taking notes. As a friend commented, this is surely a sign of good things to come.

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


The exhibition panels have arrived

The traveling exhibition panels have arrived in time to make their debut this Sunday as a part of the Folger Library’s Shakespeare’s Birthday Open House.  Here is a picture of Co-curator Hannibal Hamlin, Exhibitions Manager Caryn Lazzuri, and me posing in front our panel on “Family Bibles.”  I can wait to see all the panels  unfurled in the Folger’s New Reading Room.

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


Describing a Cantankerous Scholar

Exhibition visitors, Folger Shakespeare Library.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been putting the final touches on the panels of the traveling exhibition. I recently saw the proofs and they looked amazing! Studio A in Alexandria, Virginia, has done a fantastic job as always.

We also learned that a very strong number of libraries have applied to host the Manifold Greatness panel exhibition. That’s wonderful news. Now it’s time to write the case and item labels for the Folger exhibition. This is an exciting challenge.

Not only do you have to describe the artifacts in the case and tie them together as a group, you must also situate the case within the larger exhibition narrative. All the while you must be sure that you are really engaging the reader. Tricky business!

Broughton. Folger.

I’m about halfway through my share of the work and finding that it’s a very rewarding process. One of my favorite moments has been deciding how to describe the scholar Hugh Broughton. Thus far I’ve gone with “equally famous for his erudition, as he was infamous for his cantankerous personality.”

In response to the King James Bible he wrote, beginning with the page at right, “Tell his Majestie that I had rather be rent in pieces with wilde horses, then any such translation, by my consent, should bee urged upon poore churches.” He did not mince words.

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


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 68 other followers