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

Farewell, With Many Thanks

The Manifold Greatness blog is no longer active, but remains available here as an online archive to explore. For more information about the King James Bible, its history and influences, consult the Manifold Greatness website, http://www.manifoldgreatness.org.


Representative Daniel Webster of Florida previews the Manifold Greatness exhibition. R. David/ National Endowment for the Humanities.

2011: Representative Daniel Webster of Florida previews the Folger Manifold Greatness exhibition. R. David / National Endowment for the Humanities.

Today is Friday, July 12, 2013, the last day for the touring exhibit of Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, which has traveled to 40 libraries across the United States. The original Bodleian Library and Folger Shakespeare Library exhibitions of 2011 are long over, as is the 2012 Ransom Center exhibition. We’ve shared some final words in recent posts from the curators of the Folger exhibition, Steve Galbraith and Hannibal Hamlin, who have written on this blog many times. And so, with the conclusion of the touring exhibit, it is time to end the Manifold Greatness blog as well.

Starting in March 2011, this blog has debunked myths about the King James Bible; explored KJB-related anniversaries and holidays; offered a guide to family and young visitors’ activities; examined American historical milestones from Jamestown and the Mayflower to the speeches of Martin Luther King; taken close looks at many rare and historic materials from the exhibition (including a Civil War prisoner’s Bible and one owned by King James’s son, Prince Henry), and highlighted the cultural influences of the King James Bible, ranging from A Charlie Brown Christmas and the lyrics of Bob Marley to Handel’s Messiah and William Blake. (Late in 2011, swept up in year-end listmania, we also gathered our “top 10 posts,” including a King James Bible owned by Elvis Presley.)

Folger debut of the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition, Lloyd Wolf

2011: Debut of the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition. Photo by Lloyd Wolf.

We’ve reported often, too, on Manifold Greatness events, from the traveling panels’ debut, to numerous events and displays at the traveling exhibit host sites, to lectures, exhibition openings, and other occasions, including the NEH exhibition preview for members of Congress pictured above. See this blog post on the congressional reception for more photos—and the story of the 1782 Aitken Bible, the only Bible ever recommended by Congress.

In the words of Ecclesiastes in the Byrds’ #1 hit in 1965, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” however, “To everything there is a season.” And while the King James Bible translators—and the Byrds—surely did not have blogs in mind, the same insight still applies. With the conclusion of the traveling exhibit, it is the “season” for this blog to finish, too. We thank you for your encouragement, participation, and support during its run of almost two and a half years. We also offer special thanks to everyone who has written for the blog, all of whom we’ve listed in the Sponsors and Credits page.

For more information on the King James Bible of 1611, including its origins, creation, and later influences,we encourage you to explore the extensive, rich content of the Manifold Greatness website. 


“Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land”: The King James Bible and the Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell. National Park Service.

Liberty Bell. National Park Service. The line from the King James Bible is near the top of the bell.

Perhaps the most surprising fact about the Liberty Bell is that it was first cast many years before the American Revolution, in 1751—not in 1776, as one might assume. Pennsylvania’s colonial assembly ordered a bell for its state house, specifying that the London company making the bell place on it a passage from the King James Bible, Leviticus 25:10: “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof.” That phrase was apparently a reference to the liberties established in the Pennsylvania colony by its Quaker founder William Penn, including religious freedom and the powers of the legislative assembly. Anti-slavery advocates later gave the Liberty Bell its name based on the biblical words, and used it as an abolitionist symbol starting in the 1830s.

As explained by the National Park Service, the first bell cracked almost immediately after it reached Philadelphia. The same metal was used to cast a second bell, with the same biblical language, in 1753. That one—the bell we know today—lasted until 1846, when a crack appeared and another followed, retiring it from service. What would the Liberty Bell sound like if it had never cracked? For that matter, what would it sound like if it were rung today, as-is? Thanks to a computer model described in this article on a National Park Service website, you can hear it for yourself. Just select the  audio links for the “unbroken” or “cracked” Liberty Bell.

Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, is a joint project of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, and the Bodleian Library of Oxford University, with assistance from the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin, that marked the 400th anniversary of the 1611 King James Bible. A traveling exhibit to 40 libraries around the United States is now at the 40th library, the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library in Conyers, Georgia, through next Friday, July 12. Manifold Greatness also includes an extensive website with image galleries, original videos, interactive timelines, and more.


Digital Footprints on the Sands of Time

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes, Death Valley. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs, photo by Carol M. Highsmith. LC-DIG-highsm-24050.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs, photo by Carol M. Highsmith. LC-DIG-highsm-24050.

“Lives of great men all remind us / We can make our lives sublime. / And, departing, leave behind us / Footprints on the sands of time”

In these familiar lines from his 1838 poem “A Psalm of Life,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow offered the famous image of “footprints on the sands of time.” Written during the years after the death of the poet’s first wife and before his marriage to his second, the poem is one of those that Longfellow liked to call his “psalms.” The footprints are also a great image for the sometimes fleeting, sometimes longer lasting, digital materials that emerge from major projects today.

Our Manifold Greatness project has certainly left behind hundreds, if not thousands, of ephemeral footprints on Twitter, Facebook, and local news site calendars; it also leaves some more enduring footpaths that seem likely to continue long after this project is complete. In addition to the project’s own core resources previously chronicled on this blog (the website, the app, the Folger videos, the traveling exhibit YouTube videos, the Folger exhibition pages, the exhibition opening podcast, and more), Manifold Greatness has inspired a far-flung array of other online materials. Here’s a trail guide to those we’ve spotted so far:

Baker Beach, San Francisco. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs, photo by Carol M. Highsmith. LC-DIG-highsm-20593.

Baker Beach, San Francisco. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs, photo by Carol M. Highsmith. LC-DIG-highsm-20593.

On iTunes U, look for the series of Manifold Greatness lectures at Oxford (as audio or video). At the University of Wyoming, a Manifold Greatness page in the Wyoming Scholars Repository brings together five illustrated lecture videos (also available on YouTube): “The Role the King James Bible Played in Mormonism and the Settlement of the West” (Philip Barlow), “The World’s First Scripture Translations: The Targums and the Septuagint” (Paul V.M. Fletcher), “Seventeenth Century Needleworks and the King James Bible” (Susan Frye), and “Jerome’s Vulgate Translation: The First People’s Bible” (Kris Utterback).

Several of the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit host libraries—particularly those at colleges and universities—used Libguides to create what are, in effect, small, focused websites, ranging from lists of books and resources at that library, to online sources, to detailed surverys of the exhibit cases in their own accompanying exhibitions. So far, we know of seven Manifold Greatness Libguides, all quite different, and each leaving its own set of digital footprints to follow: Arizona State University Libraries, Harford Community College Library, Loyola Marymount University, Pepperdine University Libraries, University of Wyoming Libraries, Whitworth University Library, and (on the King James Bible Quadricentennial), William Carey University.

On Vimeo, Claremont Graduate University, one of the earliest Manifold Greatness exhibit sites, has posted “‘A Bible! A Bible! We Have Got a Bible!': Mormonism’s Selective Affair with the King James Bible” (Patrick Mason) and “The Bible and Translation” (Tammi Schneider). And in the last two weeks, the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library in Conyers, Georgia, posted on Vimeo, too, sharing a recent presentation by Michael Morgan on “The Origins of the King James Bible,” that includes highlights of Morgan’s collection of Bibles and related materials, including Handel’s Messiah.

We invite you to follow some of these Manifold Greatness digital footprints, and see what new content and ideas you may find. But don’t be too surprised if you discover, over the years, that some of the links are broken and their footprints faded back into the sand. As Longfellow noted in 1838, such is the nature of life—digital and otherwise.

Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible is on exhibit at the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library in Conyers, Georgia, through July 12.


A Grand Tour Draws to a Close

A large crowd gathered to hear four Kennesaw State University faculty disccus the history and language of the King James Bible.

A large crowd gathered to hear four Kennesaw State University faculty discuss the history and language of the King James Bible in Kennesaw, GA.

It feels like yesterday that I was drafting the itinerary for the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition to libraries. Almost two years later, the exhibition has traveled to 40 libraries across the United States, and it wraps up at its final site—Nancy Guinn Memorial Library of the Conyers-Rockdale Library System in Conyers, Georgia—on July 12, 2013. The ALA Public Programs Office has been honored to coordinate the tour to public and academic libraries, who presented a variety of free humanities programs in conjunction with the exhibition.

Host libraries enthusiastically planned for Manifold Greatness. Library patrons were exposed to more than 230 programs related to the King James Bible—and more than 130,000 people visited the exhibition over the course of the project! To illustrate the creative hard work of library hosts, here is a sampling of just a few of the many unique programs presented:

  • The Sacred Praise Chorale chorale performs at Loyola Marymount University. Photo by Jeannine Emmett.

    The Sacred Praise Chorale chorale at Loyola Marymount University in California. Photo by Jeannine Emmett.

    Lecture: “The King’s English in a Tamil Tongue” was presented by Dr. Dyron Daughrity—Pepperdine University Library, Malibu, CA

  • Lecture: “King James Bible and Two of Its Famous Contemporaries: William Shakespeare and John Milton” was presented by Drs. Edward Jones and David Anderson, followed by discussion—Oklahoma State University Library, Stillwater, OK
  • Lecture: “The Role the KJB Played in Mormonism and the Settlement of the West” was presented by Dr. Philip L. Barlow, Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture, Utah State University—University of Wyoming Libraries, Laramie, WY
  • Activity: “Illuminations Family Night,” a family activity in which the Utah Calligraphy Artists taught children about illuminating manuscripts—Provo Library, Provo, UT
  • Musical performance: “Praise Ye The Lord: A Festival of Hymns Inspired by the King James Bible,” music performance, script, and sing-a-long of hymns—Transylvania County Library, Brevard, NC
  • At Rhodes College. L to R: Naomi Tadmor, Vincent Wimbush, Hannibal Hamlin, Ena Heller, Robert Alter

    At Rhodes College in Memphis: Naomi Tadmor, Vincent Wimbush, Hannibal Hamlin, Ena Heller, Robert Alter

    Demonstration: “Teen 19th Century Bloggers”; Tracy Honn of Silver Buckle Press demonstrated the use of a nineteenth century printing press for ages 11 to 18—Verona Public Library, Verona, WI

  • Lecture: “Covering the Feet: Scatological References in the King James Bible” was presented by Dr. Daniel C. Browning, Jr. who discussed the King James Bible from an archaeologist’s point of view—William Carey University, Hattiesburg, MS
  • Presentation: “Impact of Scripture on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” a lecture given by Reverend O’Neil Wiley, was accompanied by dramatic readings from two of Dr. King’s speeches by University of Mobile theater major Broderick S. Ryans—Ben May Main Library of the Mobile Public Library, Mobile, AL
  • Lecture: “The First Editions of the King James Bible: Misprints and Misfortunes” was presented by Dr. Pablo Alvarez, who talked about the printing process that led to errors in the first editions of the King James Bible—Van Wylen Library, Hope College, Holland, MI
  • Presentation: “The Family Bible: A Historical and Genealogical Resource” offered owners of family bibles information on how to use their treasured family heirlooms as a tool when doing genealogical and historical research—Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA
  • Lecture: “Catholics and the King James Bible: Stories from England, Ireland, and America” was presented by Dr. Ellie Bagley from Middlebury College—Rhodes College, Memphis, TN
Manifold Greatness visitors, Kellenberger Library, Northwest Christian University, Eugene, Oregon

Northwest Christian University, Eugene, Oregon

In addition to stellar program line-ups, libraries reported that the exhibit provided them with the opportunity to try new programming formats.

Project Director Katy Kelly at the University of Dayton opened up exhibit-related brown bag lunches—typically limited to faculty and staff—to the public. Kelly said the new lunchtime presentations were very well-attended and “brought greater awareness to the local community of the kinds of scholarship and research our faculty undertake.”

Project director Steve Silver of Northwest Christian University commented on the long-term impact of hosting the exhibit. He said, “Connections made with local groups as a result of Manifold Greatness endure after a year and a half since we hosted the exhibit. Those connections would not have been made without the requirements of the grant.”

Even though the exhibition’s grand tour is coming to an end, ALA looks forward to building on the inspiring success of Manifold Greatness in our future work with libraries.

Jennifer Dominiak is a program officer for exhibitions in the Public Programs Office at the American Library Association.


Just for Kids (and Families): Berry Ink, Online Printing, and More

From "Making a Ruff" craft video, www.manifoldgreatness.org

From “Making a Ruff” craft video

The King James Bible has inspired plenty of children’s and family activities as part of the Manifold Greatness project. One of the most popular original videos on our YouTube channel is Making Ink. There’s a sequel to that one, Making a Quill Pen, another video on Making a Quarto, and still another on Making a Ruff—the essential fashion statement for a well-dressed King James Bible translator!

And there’s more: on our Manifold Greatness website, all four craft videos come with suggested supplies and other tips. (There’s a printing demonstration video by Manifold Greatness co-curator Steven Galbraith, too.)  The website’s Kids Zone also includes All About the King James Bible, which is filled with cool facts and image galleries, a family guide, and many online activities.

King James Coloring
Among the online games and activities, you’ll see some of our favorite features, including a “translator scavenger hunt” that helps you search for a translator’s ink, pen, glasses, and more, an audio-rich translation comparison, an online printing press, the chance to design your own book bindings, crossword puzzles, and highly original pictures to color.

For more materials on the subject, you may wish to explore our past blog posts on Ideas for Educators (from Teacher Appreciation Week in 2011) and The KJB and Young Audiences, as well as this report from Tifton, Georgia, on a Making a Quarto workshop during the Tifton exhibit of Manifold Greatness. (For more on a family classic influenced by the King James Bible, by the way, read Manifold Greatness co-curator Hannibal Hamlin’s post on My Favorite Exhibition Item?, including his thoughts on A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).)

Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, is on view at Nancy Guinn Memorial Library in Conyers, Georgia, through July 12, 2013. For a wealth of material on earlier English Bibles, the origins and translation of the King James Bible, its diverse early formats, and its widespread cultural, literary, and social influence for the next 400 years, see our website, www.manifoldgreatness.org.


The Blog Revisited: Anniversaries, Holidays, and Happy Birthdays

Handel's Messiah. Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, Toronto, Canada. Photo by Gary Beechey.

Handel’s Messiah sing-along. Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, Toronto, Canada. Photo by Gary Beechey.

You may have noticed that Hannibal Hamlin’s recent post on Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, and the King James Bible began “Happy Birthday Walter!” And with good reason. As we look back on the Manifold Greatness blog since its own birth announcement on March 15, 2011, birthdays and other anniversaries have been an enormous help to us in tracing the origins and cultural influences of the 1611 King James Bible, from its time to the present day. Many of our posts have been quite different, of course, with no anniversary connotation. But again and again, we’ve found that anniversary dates are a welcome and frequent part of the mix.

A special date, like Whitman’s birthday, not only gives a blog post an easy-to-understand reason for appearing when it does; it often means that there will be other links and resources elsewhere for readers to explore on the same day on the same topic. For our  blog, paying attention to such dates has also created, in effect, a real-world immersion in the width and breadth of the King James Bible’s influence, so that we find ourselves noting the anniversary of the first Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) one day, the death date of reggae superstar Bob Marley another day, and the death of King James Bible translator John Rainolds on yet another. Others in an almost endless list of examples include the anniversaries of the reading from Genesis from Apollo 8 in lunar orbit, the death of William Blake, and the death of Elvis Presley.

Drummer boy, Manassas 150th anniversary. Copyright Jeff Mauritzen and Discover Prince William & Manassas, VA.

Drummer boy, Manassas 150th anniversary. Copyright Jeff Mauritzen and Discover Prince William & Manassas, VA.

Anniversary dates can be tough deadlines, too. Behind the scenes, we’ve occasionally found ourselves scrambling to create a post on or near belatedly discovered date. Steve Galbraith produced that post on the anniversary of Bob Marley’s death in a matter of hours; Helen Moore, at the Bodleian, wrote the Rainolds tribute in very short order; and, quite recently, Hannibal Hamlin marked the rarely noted anniversary of the death of Casiodoro de Reina, a crucial early Spanish Bible translator, with just a few hours’ notice. For all of which and more, many thanks to all three!

King James Bible-influenced poems, songs, movies, television shows, and other creative works have anniversaries to celebrate, too, from the release of the 1956 film version of Moby Dick to the debut of the Byrds’ Turn, Turn, Turn. Handel’s Messiah has given rise on this blog to posts on Handel’s birthday, the anniversary of the oratorio’s original Dublin premiere, and the modern custom of performing it in the days before Christmas rather than during Lent, the period before Easter. Christmas and Easter, of course, are among the annual holidays—religious and secular, fixed-date like Christmas and moveable feast like Easter—that we have marked on the blog, too, which has also included posts tied to Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving, among others.

Ultimately, the impulse to celebrate anniversaries led to the entire Manifold Greatness project, inspired by the 400th anniversary of the 1611 King James Bible, and to countless other projects around the globe in the anniversary year of 2011. But the same impulse has also inspired a modern King James Bible myth. The natural desire to link the King James Bible to a specific date, as well as to the year 1611, has led to the widespread, but false, idea that the King James Bible was first published on May 2, one of several King James Bible myths debunked on this blog over time.

King James himself, of course, is inevitably linked to several anniversary dates, including the date of his coronation. On June 19, 2011, we first wished him “Happy Birthday, King James!” You can wish him the same next Wednesday, as June 19 rolls around once more.


Opening This Week: The Manifold Greatness Finale

After an event-filled tour that has criss-crossed the United States since the fall of 2011—including, most recently, exhibits in Bel Air, Maryland; Danville, Kentucky; and Tifton, Georgia—Manifold Greatness is ready to open at its final exhibit site. The 40th of its 40 locations in 27 states is the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library of the Conyers-Rockdale Library System in Conyers, Georgia, where Manifold Greatness will be on view from tomorrow, May 29, through July 12.

As detailed in the library’s brochure below, the Conyers display includes a wealth of programs this June. To see what’s coming, including photos of some intriguing local Bibles that will also be on exhibit, read this preview in the Rockdale Citizen. You can also check out the library’s website or its Facebook page. (To examine the brochure at larger size, just select the page you wish to read.)

mgrackcardfinalns

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Arlington National Cemetery and the King James Bible

World War I chaplains memorial, Chaplains Hill, Arlington Cemetery. Esther Ferington, 2013.

World War I chaplains memorial, Chaplains Hill, Arlington Cemetery.

Since this blog began in the spring of 2011, the 400th anniversary year of the King James Bible, we’ve examined inscriptions from the King James Bible in several locations around Washington, DC, home of the Folger Shakespeare Library. We took a look at the Library of Congress and at biblical influences on Martin Luther King’s rhetoric, including a biblical inscription at the Martin Luther King Memorial, which we revisited recently as part of our Washington, DC, cherry blossoms entry.

On this Memorial Day weekend, Arlington National Cemetery, just across the Potomac, seemed like a good place to look for King James Bible inscriptions. Two examples on the Arlington memorials and monuments are perhaps the best known, in addition to some private citations on individual tombstones. (Robert E. Lee’s former home, Arlington House, still stands at the highest point on the grounds; in yet another KJB connection, you can see Lee’s own King James Bible here.)

One of the two King James Bible inscriptions is on the World War I chaplains memorial, dedicated in 1926. The memorial includes a line from John, 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Located on the brow of Chaplains Hill within the cemetery, the memorial is now accompanied by memorials to Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish chaplains that include later wars; the Jewish chaplains memorial was dedicated relatively recently, in 2011.

Confederate Memorial, Arlington Cemetery

Confederate Memorial, Arlington Cemetery

Ploughshares

The Confederate Memorial was unveiled in 1914, almost half a century after the end of the Civil War, in a section of the cemetery that was set aside for Confederate graves in 1900. Both the graves section and the memorial were seen as symbols of national reconciliation.

The memorial is encircled near the top with the line from Isaiah 2:4, “and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks.” Above this inscription, a female figure representing the South lifts a laurel wreath southward with one hand; she holds a pruning hook in her other hand, which she rests on a plow. The pruning hook and plow are meant to illustrate the King James Bible passage.

Learn more about the King James Bible in American history, including Confederate and Union copies of the King James Bible, in our Historic American Bibles image gallery. 

Curious about the post-Civil War origins of Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day? Try this recent blog post from the Smithsonian American History Museum.


Translating Manifold Greatness from Scholarship to Exhibition

Miles Smith, one of the King James Bible translators. (c) The Governing Body of Christ Church, Oxford.

Miles Smith, one of the King James Bible translators. (c) The Governing Body of Christ Church, Oxford.

Back in 2009, when we first started working on Manifold Greatness, we identified a number of themes we wanted the exhibition to touch on, and one of those was the nature of translation. In our grant proposal, we talk about how translation is a true literary act, one that requires choices in tone, style, vocabulary, and emphasis, and how translation is a process of culture adapting, changing, and potentially growing. On our main website, we note that the translation of the KJB was, above all, a collaboration.

The Manifold Greatness traveling panel show is now on the way to its final location, the Conyers-Rockdale Library System in Conyers, Georgia, where it will appear, with much related programming, from May 29 to July 12. And as this touring phase comes to a close, I’ve been looking back at our own process, and thinking about the way in which exhibitions themselves are a process of translation. Of course we collaborate—anyone who has worked on an exhibition can tell you that it is one of the most collaborative undertakings they have experienced. But because we tend to think of translation as a text moving from one language into another, it’s not immediately obvious that the work we do in exhibition is also a process of translation. And yet, on many levels, I think it is.

Tuscaloosa Public Library, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Tuscaloosa Public Library, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

We begin with an idea, and shape it into a narrative: here is our story; here is what can be said about the history of the King James Bible. But as scholars, our curators have a certain language, a way of packaging their knowledge. This does not always (ahem) translate well to an audience which may be made up of everyone from schoolchildren and educators to tourists or subject specialists. We need a way of speaking, and of writing, that provides information accurately and succinctly, and in accessible nuggets for a broad range of audiences.

For Manifold Greatness, we did this twice: once for the artifact-based exhibition in Washington, DC, and again for the panel exhibition that traveled the country. For these, we needed two different “languages.” The Washington, DC, show was in the language of artifacts, showing the here and now, and revealing KJB stories through what could be seen on the open pages before a visitor. The traveling show retracted the lens a little further, and gave weight to story over object. We covered the same material, but we translated the content in slightly different ways in order to best serve the format of the shows.

Courtesy of the University of Minnesota

Courtesy of the University of Minnesota

I like to think that the KJB translators would have appreciated our process. Our translation process was, like theirs, concerned first and foremost with accuracy. Every word needed to be true; each idea needed to be formed and informative. We were not reading Hebrew, Greek, and Latin—but remember, of course, that the King James Bible was not the first English Bible, and the translators drew liberally from the English translations that came before. Although they produced a masterpiece of English literature, their concern was not for lyricism or rhetorical power; they aimed for accuracy as they translated both from ancient languages and from previous English versions.

Have a look at the website to compare translations, and see for yourself how the KJB translators ended up creating a new version at once lyrical and accurate. One of my favorites is the passage from Ecclesiastes (1:2), in which the translators don’t really change the meaning or emphasis from the previous English translation, but they manage to create a verse that is poetic, song-like, and memorable—and also just that much more true to the original Hebrew:

Great Bible (1539)
All is but vanity (saith the Preacher) all is but plain vanity.

King James Bible (1611)
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Would that our exhibit text was as memorable as that! Perhaps it is indeed vanity to compare our process to that of the King James Bible translators. But as we near the end of this commemorative exhibition, I’m very pleased to have been part of such a process, to understand it, and to see the many thousands of people we have reached through the work that we did to turn ideas into language, and to use language to deliver the right information.

Caryn Lazzuri is the Exhibitions Manager at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


Seven Speakers, Exhibits, and Community: Manifold Greatness at Centre

Bible, ca. 1880s, Cassell, Peter, and Galden, 2 volumes. Illustration by Gustave Dore. Centre College. Exhibited with Manifold Greatness.

Gustave Dore, “The Angel Appearing to Balaam.” Bible, ca. 1880s, Cassell, Peter, and Galden, 2 volumes. Centre College. All Bibles pictured here were exhibited with Manifold Greatness.

As part of the Manifold Greatness exhibit, the staff at The Grace Doherty Library and the Religion Program at Centre College designed a program which included seven speakers, hoping to appeal to a broad range of college and community patrons. Our program began in February and ran through April 30, involving nationally known scholars, Centre College faculty, and local genealogists.

Manuscript inscriptions, Geneva Bible, 1594. Centre College. Exhibited with Manifold Greatness. (Click any image to see it larger.)

Manuscript inscriptions, Geneva Bible, 1594. Centre College. (Select the image to see it larger.)

Dr. Margaret Mitchell, Shailer Mathews Professor and Dean of the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, visited our campus on February 25 to deliver “Bible and Media Revolutions: A Select History.” Dr. Mitchell spoke to a crowd of approximately 375 students, faculty, staff, and community members.

Dr. Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel, spoke to more than 700 students, faculty, and community patrons on April 17, to deliver the paper, “Misquoting Jesus: Scribes Who Changed the Scriptures and Readers Who May Never Know.” Dr. Ehrman’s address prompted a furious letter in the local newspaper from an irate reader who, although he admitted he had not attended the lecture nor had he read any of Dr. Ehrman’s books, was convinced that Dr. Ehrman was an agent of the devil.

Earlier in the term, on March 27, Dr. Phillip White, Associate Professor of English, Centre College, led a more intimate conversation with a group of 30 students, faculty, and community members in the library’s reading room with his presentation, “A Miracle of Style: Some Ways the King James Bible Affected Later Writers and Writing.” Dr. White discussed Lincoln’s use of the King James Bible phrasing in both the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural. He also discussed Hebrew idioms from the KJB that have been assimilated as English idioms, such as:

To fall flat on one’s face
To pour out one’s heart
The land of the living
The skin of one’s teeth
Like a lamb to the slaughter
A drop in the bucket
To give up the ghost

On April 18, Dr. Amos Tubb, Gordon B. Davidson Associate Professor of History, Centre College, led a similar discussion group in the library’s reading room in his presentation, “The History of Publishing in England and the King James Translation,” walking the group through the complex and sometimes baffling history of the publication of the KJB.

Manuscript inscription, Geneva Bible, 1594. Centre College. Exhibited with Manifold Greatness.

Manuscript inscription, Geneva Bible, 1594. Centre College. (Select the image to see it larger.)

Dr. Eugene March, Arnold B. Rhodes Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, also led a discussion group through “The ‘Birthing’ of the King James Version of the Bible: Two Hundred Years of Labor Pains,” describing the initial resistance to the new translation and the many printing errors that plagued the early editions.

Finally, on April 30, Reverend Mark Davis, Pastor-Theologian, First Presbyterian Church of Lexington, Kentucky, spoke to group of 175 students and community members with his presentation, “Authenticity and Authority: The King is Dead, Long Live the King.”

Also, Boyle County Public Library developed an exhibit of family Bibles to accompany Carolyn Crabtree, genealogist and researcher, and her program, “Family Bibles as Sources for Legal Documents and Historical Research,” on April 25.

Clearly, the integration of the exhibit Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible with our English, History, and Religion programs was of great benefit. In addition, the collaboration with the Boyle County Public Library further strengthened the bond between Centre College and the community at large. Overall, the exhibit and the accompanying program were of real significance.

Stan Campbell is Director of Library Services at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.


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