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.

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A Skillful Facsimile Page in a 1611 King James Bible

There’s an intriguing tradition of a “crocodile mystery” on the Folger Shakespeare Library blog, “The Collation,” which periodically posts the mystery in question, awaits comment, and then posts an explanation a few days later. Earlier in May, we were intrigued by a crocodile mystery image that looked like a page from the 1611 King James Bible. What was so mysterious about this image? Was something not as it appeared? The answer, from Collation author Sarah Werner, Undergraduate Program Director at the Folger, concerned a fascinating nineteenth-century phenomenon, the “pen facsimile.” We wanted to share the following excerpt from her Collation blog post, which you can read in full here:

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Pen facsimile page, 1611 Authorized Bible (King James Bible), Folger

Pen facsimile page, 1611 King James Bible, Folger

As the commenters on our May 3 crocodile guessed, the mystery image shown there, and repeated here, shows writing masquerading as print or, to use the more formal term, a pen facsimile. (Click on any image in this post to enlarge it).

The book in question is the Folger copy of the 1611 Authorized Version of the Bible, also called the King James Bible. The last leaves of the book are increasingly damaged—the corners are missing and repaired with blank paper—until the final original leaf is entirely gone. In its place is a pen facsimile, a hand-drawn copy of what the original leaf would have looked like.

As you can see by comparing the facsimile with the original leaf, shown here from a copy at the University of Pennsylvania, the facsimilist did a very good job. But you can also see, when you’re looking for it, that the pen facsimile is just a bit wobblier than the print original. The kerning (the adjustment of spacing between letters) is just slightly irregular; some long-s’s are missing their crossbar; and the three capital-G’s starting the instances of “God” in the third verse are all just slightly differently shaped.

Once you know which is which, it’s hard to “unsee” the details that reveal it as a facsimile.

At left: Pen facsimile of final page from Folger copy. At right: original printed page from 1611 King James Bible, University of Pennsylvania

At left: Pen facsimile of final page from Folger copy. At right: original printed page from 1611 King James Bible, University of Pennsylvania

Adding pen facsimiles of missing or damaged leaves was not unusual in the nineteenth century for collectors who preferred their works to be pristine and perfect, a common preference. Adding such a facsimile was referred to as a way of perfecting the copy. The verb “to perfect” is one of those odd bibliographical terms that shows how much standards and tastes have changed since we’ve been studying rare books and similar objects. To perfect a book was to supply any missing or damaged leaves with leaves from another copy of that book or with facsimiles of those leaves. By our modern-day standards, of course, this is far from a perfect practice and one that libraries today don’t follow.

Shakespeare First Folio, 1623. Damaged and "perfected" title page. Folger.

Shakespeare First Folio, 1623. Damaged and “perfected” title page. Folger.

It’s not clear who the facsimilist was for the Folger’s King James Bible, or when the work was done. There’s a note in the catalog of the former owner, W.T. Smedley, from nineteenth-century Bible expert Francis Fry, attesting to the book’s good condition and noting that “The last leaf is repaired. It is very rare. They are so often lost.” Either Fry was using “repaired” as a euphemism for “facsimile” (although this seems unlikely, since he accurately describes the volume’s title page as a facsimile) or it was done after Fry examined the book.

Facsimilists, including the unknown figure who created the final page of the Folger’s KJV, were not intending to deceive anyone by passing off copies as originals. Rather, the intent was to make as close to complete as possible copies of works that were missing leaves. While I’m astounded by the talent of such a facsimilist as we just saw, my favorite pen facsimile, shown here, reveals not remarkable skill, but remarkable desire. This title page is from one of the 82 copies of the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare in the Folger collection. It’s not what I would do if I owned a First Folio with a torn title page, but then again, I can’t begrudge the desire of this long-ago owner to make clear what this book is.

Sarah Werner is the Undergraduate Program Director at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

To read the rest of this article, including additional amazing images of pen facsimiles and their print equivalents, read the full blog post on The Collation. For more information about another facsimilist, John Harris, and a bibliography of books and articles related to the practice, consult this interesting page from the British Library.

To explore more of the Folger first edition of the 1611 King James Bible, complemented by notes and read-aloud audio, consult our online feature Read the Book. Since the Folger copy lacks an original title page, as co-curator Steve Galbraith explains in his title-page audio comment, Read the Book uses the original 1611 title page from a Bodleian Library copy.


Records and Mementos in a Family Bible

Family Bibles on display, Harford Community College. Julia Ciccio.

Family Bibles on display, Harford Community College. Julia Ciccio.


To augment our exhibit at the Hays-Heighe House at Harford Community College, we borrowed several 19th-century Bibles from the Harford County Historical Society. These were the oversized and gilded Bibles with tooled leather covers—incredible specimens.

Along with the Bibles came the contents. As the Manifold Greatness exhibit mentions, many families store personal keepsakes such as letters, pamphlets, prayers, obituaries, and other items in their heirloom Bibles.

One Bible we borrowed maintained a family record of the Titus family as far back as 1776. It also contained several interesting keepsakes. The photos here include a family record page, an obituary bookmark, and a prayer to “Good Saint Joseph” with a detailed reproduction of an etching mounted to intricate die-cut lace paper. The handwriting is beautiful on the family record page and the keepsakes were fascinating.

Titus family record in family Bible

Titus family record in family Bible

Obituary bookmark and Saint Joseph etching on lace paper

Obituary bookmark and Saint Joseph etching on lace paper

Saint Joseph text on lace paper, with manuscript annotations

Saint Joseph text on lace paper, with manuscript annotations

Iris Barnes is the Coordinator for the Hays-Heighe House, site of the current Manifold Greatness exhibit at Harford Community College, Bel Air, Maryland.

For more information, consult Family Bibles on the Manifold Greatness website.


Readers’ Theater Explores KJB-Influenced Texts—Out Loud

This Mother’s Day blog entry from Tifton is about reading aloud texts influenced by the King James Bible. Like other Bibles, the King James Bible itself is also often read aloud from the pulpit, something the original translators were well aware of. During the translation of the Bible, each committee or “company” of translators met to read aloud and discuss each passage of the Bible as it came up for translation.

"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (1741), Dr. Brian Ray

“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (1741), Dr. Brian Ray

I am often very hard on texts. I will read a book at top speed, following the plot threads like a hound on the hunt, totally ignoring all the little details of setting and character that the author has added to round out the reader’s experience. Audiobooks were a revelation to me—the narrator reads every word and, in listening to the text being read, I experience more of the text than I would have if I had read it myself. It is like being a child again and having your Mom read you a story—and my Mom was a very good reader.

Last Sunday, May 5, at the Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage, an appreciative audience got a real treat. Four people with extensive acting and speaking experience read excerpts from texts directly influenced by the King James Bible. It was like Mom, but even better. (Sorry, Mom, and Happy Mother’s Day!)

Among the things that made this performance so memorable were the acoustics in this amazing building. For many years it was a church, and sound echoes and booms in the space. So, hearing Dr. Brian Ray preach Jonathan Edwards’s famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” here, in a huge bass voice, was enough to make us all consider the state of our souls.

"For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry," Sandra Giles

“For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry,” Sandra Giles

Making a direct contrast to Reverend Edwards, Dr. Sandra Giles read with humor and brightness from Christopher Smart’s “For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry,” an excerpt from the much longer work Jubilate Agno. Smart contends that “For he (Jeoffry) is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him” and that “English cats are the best in Europe.”

Moby-Dick, Peter Pinnow

Moby-Dick, Peter Pinnow

Peter Pinnow read, from Moby-Dick, the chapter in which Captain Ahab reconsiders his resolve to hunt and kill the white whale. His reading allowed the audience inside Ahab’s agonized internal battle and his longing for peace and a comfortable life on shore.

The last excerpt was from William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Dr. Erin Campbell put on the perfect holier-than-thou Southern accent to give the character the voice she so richly deserved.

As I Lay Dying, Erin Campbell

As I Lay Dying, Erin Campbell

The audience was well entertained and informed. Many, many thanks to all four of these very talented people for sharing their gifts with us.

Vickie Horst is the Manager of Tifton-Tift County Public Library in Tifton, Georgia.

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For more information on the literary influence of the King James Bible, you may wish to consult the interactive Literary Influences timeline on our Manifold Greatness website or watch our short Literary Influences video on YouTube.

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Readers’ Theater reading list:

  • Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (sermon, 1741)
  • William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (novel, 1930)
  • Herman Melville, Moby-Dick: Or, The Whale (novel, 1831)
  • Christopher Smart, “For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry,” Jubilate Agno (poem, composed 1758–63).

The Translator’s Dilemma, or How DO You Say That in English?

Pastor Earl Steffens, Manifold Greatness lecture

Pastor Earl Steffens, Manifold Greatness lecture

The Manifold Greatness exhibit provides a great deal of information about how the King James Bible came into being. We are told that the translators were instructed to work from the wording used by the Bishops’ Bible (1568), unless the wording used in the Coverdale or Geneva Bibles, for example, was judged to be closer to what the older Greek and Hebrew texts intended. It seems at first as though it would be easy enough to determine which translation was more accurate and arrive at a Bible that ticked all the boxes for the various interested parties.

On Thursday, May 2, Pastor Earl Steffens, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, gave a presentation he called The Translator’s Dilemma or How DO you say that in English? The lecture outlined the problems that Biblical translators through the ages have had when attempting to either make a new translation of a Bible from “original” sources, or to translate a Bible from one language to another.

Plantin Polyglot Bible, multiple languages, 1568-1572. Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

Plantin Polyglot Bible (includes Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Aramaic, and Latin), 1568-1572. Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

What is the most basic problem for people attempting a new translation?  Having to decide which documents to use as a basis for that translation. Which of the texts in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin are the closest to what the original authors actually wrote? The primary documents, called autographs, are long gone. All that is left are copies. And copies of copies. And copies, of copies, of copies. Needless to say, there are plenty of discrepancies between various copies of the scriptures that have come down to us. A good translator looks at all the variations on the text and decides what is the most likely original wording and meaning—in an ideal world, without tinting that decision with political or theological agendas.

George Abbot, a King James Bible translator (detail). (c) University College, Oxford.

George Abbot, a King James Bible translator. (c) University College, Oxford.

The second problem for a translator is “How DO I say that in …”—how to convey, as closely as possible, what the original author of the text intended. Word for word translations are stilted and awkward. Pastor Steffens used the example of the three words that Greek authors use for three completely different kinds of love and how, in order for English speakers to understand the difference between them, translators use phrases to clarify the meaning.  And, of course, translators want the result to sound good, to convey the correct meaning, and to be relevant to the intended audience. Translation is more of an art than a science.

The audience asked some great questions.There was some discussion of how oral tradition might have impacted translation—it seems quite possible that, if you had heard a Bible story one way all your life, you might add bits of the story as you know it to your copy of the text as you sat in the scriptorium scribbling away. There was also some discussion of the merits of various English translations, with the King James Bible being the hands-down favorite of a number of the participants.

Vickie Horst is the Manager of Tifton-Tift County Public Library in Tifton, Georgia.

To learn more about the Plantin Polygot Bible shown above, consult the Early Bibles image gallery; you can learn more about George Abbot (above) and other King James Bible translators in our Meet the Translators online feature.


Opening Manifold Greatness with Theatrical Flair

Exhibit visitor. Photos by Julia Ciccio.

Exhibit visitor. Photos by Julia Ciccio.

The Manifold Greatness exhibition officially opened at Harford Community College (Bel Air, Maryland) on April 22, 2013, with a reception, a lecture, and theatrical readings.

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night

Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion Gary Owens lectured on “Catholicism, Protestantism, Blood, Guts, Ink and the King James Bible” to a room filled with community members, students, and faculty. Nearly every seat was taken.

In his lecture, Dr. Owens described in depth some of the earlier efforts to translate the Bible into English (and into other languages than Latin), as well as placing the work of translation in context and explaining the risks—and in many cases, the consequences—of this work. The bountiful and compelling slides that illustrated his narrative, as well as his lively presentation style, brought this history to life for all participants. The audience stayed well past the planned 75-minute lecture and discussion to ask questions and learn more about this history.

HCC theater professor Ben Fisler. Julia Cioccio.

Theater professor Ben Fisler

The reception was scheduled from 3 to 7 p.m. and attracted many viewers over the course of four hours. During the last hour of the reception, HCC Associate Professor of Theater Ben Fisler spoke about the explosion in the development of the English language that was taking place at the time that Shakespeare wrote and during the period of the translation of the King James Bible.

Mike Brown as Junius Booth

Mike Brown as Junius Booth

Two HCC students performed monologues from Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night, and Mike Brown (in the person of the great Shakespearean actor, Junius Brutus Booth) gave a dramatic reading of Psalm 46 from the King James Bible.

The Booth family home, Tudor Hall, is located just a couple of miles from the college, and Tudor Hall is a partner in HCC’s presentation of Manifold Greatness.

A more extended version of the readings and talk is scheduled for May 9 from 6 to 9 p.m., under the title ‘A Great Feast of Languages’: The Language of Shakespeare and of the King James Bible.

Carol Allen is the Library Director of Harford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland.


Interleaving History: An Extra-Illustrated Book of Common Prayer

A post about the Book of Common Prayer—the source of such familiar phrases as “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”—recently appeared on the Folger Shakespeare Library blog, “The Collation,” and we wanted to share a short excerpt here. First produced in 1549 (see this web page for details), the Book of Common Prayer has gone through different editions over time. In 1649, Charles I was beheaded. After his son, Charles II, was restored to the throne in 1660, a new edition was published in 1662. Whitney Trettien has been studying an intriguing Folger copy of a 1664 Book of Common Prayer with numerous added images; you can read her full blog post (with a wealth of other images) on the Collation blog:

Guy Fawkes, interleaved image. STC 22634.5 / Folger.

Guy Fawkes. 1664 Book of Common Prayer. Folger.

In Henry Fielding’s novel Tom Jones (1749), Partridge and his friends go to see a play. As they watch a man light the upper candles of the playhouse, the predictably inane Partridge cries out, “Look, look, madam, the very picture of the man in the end of the common-prayer book before the gunpowder treason service!”

The picture Partridge refers to is most likely the one at left, a widely circulated and often reproduced image of Guy Fawkes sneaking toward the House of Lords, matches and lantern in hand. It’s easy to read Partridge’s bumbling analogy as a comedic misinterpretation of the seriousness of the Gunpowder Plot—after all, he seems to see no difference between a flame intended to ignite barrels of gunpowder and one used to light candles in a playhouse (!).

There’s a second level to his comedy, though, lost to most modern readers: namely, that by the eighteenth century this iconic depiction of Fawkes simply was as common as lit chandeliers. Found interleaved in many (if not most) extant post-1662 copies of the Book of Common Prayer, this image, along with another showing Charles I’s execution and a third celebrating Charles II’s return, iconically punctuated the state services added to the end of the restored Prayer Book.

While the Folger holds many fine examples of extra-illustrated Prayer Books, I’ve been researching a copy that makes particularly interesting use of the practice of interleaving liturgical texts with images. Like many others compiled in the seventeenth century, this Prayer Book is bound within a collected volume that includes several religious texts, including a Bible, a copy of Sternhold and Hopkins’s Psalms, an Apocrypha, John Speed’s genealogical tables, and John Downame’s concordance.

Unlike other composite volumes, however, this book—really, an aggregate of multiple printed books bound together—is heavily interleaved with loose prints, diagrams, maps, illustrations extracted from other texts, contemporaneous portraits of religious and political figures, even an elaborate (and as-yet unidentified) manuscript monogram.

Dutch navy defeats the Spanish in the English Channel, Battle of Downs. 1664 Book of Common Prayer. Folger.

Dutch navy defeats the Spanish in the English Channel, Battle of Downs. 1664 Book of Common Prayer. Folger.

In fact, most of the leaves of the Bible in this copy have been removed and replaced with images culled from different sources, including William Slatyer’s illustrations of Genesis (a set of 40 plates published in the 1660s) and an unidentified German book, possibly some form of illustrated Bible that includes scriptural passages in both German and Latin. In short, the owner(s) of this volume went far beyond the standard practice of interleaving one’s Prayer Book with a few ready-made prints of Guy Fawkes!

If (returning to Tom Jones) Partridge’s offhand remark satirizes how common images of the Gunpowder Plot had become, then the volume at the Folger indicates how uncommonly such images could be used. Through a highly material process of cut-and-paste composition, the owners of this book transformed a set of mass-reproduced religious texts into a wholly new document that uniquely reflects—or perhaps carefully projects—their political and religious affiliations.

Whitney Anne Trettien is a PhD candidate in English at Duke University, where she is writing her dissertation on the Little Gidding Harmonies. She works on a variety of projects related to book history, digital humanities, and early modern material culture. As noted above, you can read the rest of her blog post here.

To learn more about extra-illustrated books, you may want to explore the online content for a past Folger exhibition, Extending the Book: The Art of Extra-Illustration, which includes this volume. You can learn more about the November 1605 Gunpowder Plot here. 


Biblical Art for a Former Church Turned Museum

Annette Rigdon Swan, Mary and Martha

Annette Rigdon Swan, Mary and Martha

The Manifold Greatness exhibit’s visit to Tifton, Georgia, is the joint effort of the Tifton-Tift County Public Library and the Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage. When I came back from the Washington, DC, training session at the Folger Shakespeare Library with my big white notebook full of information, one of the first things that a member of the museum board said to me was, “The panels take up 600 square feet and the museum is 3500 square feet. What are we going to do so it looks like we have something in the building?”

It was felt that we had a unique opportunity with this exhibit, because the museum once was a Methodist church, complete with fabulous stained glass windows and the most beautiful wooden ceiling, crafted by skilled Yankee shipbuilders a long way from home. After some discussion and phone calls and negotiating, the museum board decided that an art exhibit would be an appropriate accompaniment.  They chose three artists, all of whom are well known in the community, knowing that an exhibit containing works by these artists would attract their fans.

Minnie G. Brown's Nativity, flanked by kneelers from St. Anne's Episcopal Church

Minnie G. Brown’s Nativity, flanked by kneelers from St. Anne’s Episcopal Church

Minnie G. Brown’s works hang in the First Baptist Church and First Presbyterian here in Tifton, as well as in the United Methodist Church in Ashburn, home of the annual Fire Ant Festival. Annette Rigdon Swan was a local art teacher for many years and at 92 years of age still produces paintings to commemorate special occasions in her friends’ lives. Her twelve paintings of women in the Bible that grace the exhibit come to us from their permanent home at First Methodist Church in Tifton.

Vincent Keesee, Let the Little Children Come to Me

Vincent Keesee, Let the Little Children Come to Me

Vincent Keesee’s oil paintings are an interesting contrast to traditional Biblical art. Dr. Keessee is inspired by parables and Bible stories and puts them in rural Georgia settings and he did some of the paintings especially for this occasion.

These paintings are amusing, often provocative, and make an offbeat and quirky contribution to a display that could have become quite heavy and pedantic. Most of the characters in his paintings are inspired by people he knows. Two of the congregants in the painting “Let the Little Children Come to Me” came to the museum to see themselves and explain to me who the other people in the picture were.

To contrast with the vertical surfaces created by the panels and the hanging paintings, three small displays, each containing a wonderful object, were created that sit on pedestals. Fabulously hand-worked kneelers borrowed from St. Anne’s Episcopal Church add more texture (see photo above).

Swedish pulpit Bible from a Swedish Lutheran congregation in Naugatuck

Swedish pulpit Bible from a Swedish Lutheran congregation in Naugatuck

Music from the period is played while the exhibit is open to the public to provide “ear candy.” We set up a touch-activated kiosk that works exactly like the one at the Folger Shakespeare Library did and you can sit and watch the Manifold Greatness YouTube videos in a little nook we made in the back.

It all fills the space very nicely.

To see how the Manifold Greatness panels and the art exhibit work together, take a look at the second photo (scroll down to see it) in our recent quarto-making blog post.

Vickie Horst is the Manager of Tifton-Tift County Public Library in Tifton, Georgia.


May 2 and Other King James Bible Myths

King James, seen here in our online coloring activity, did not translate the King James Bible. It also wasn't published on May 2.

King James, seen here in our online coloring activity, did not translate the King James Bible. It also wasn’t published on May 2.

It’s May 2 today, and that makes it the anniversary of… a classic May 2, 2011, blog post by Manifold Greatness co-curator Hannibal Hamlin, explaining just why May 2 isn’t and couldn’t be the anniversary of the King James Bible’s publication date.

But the curious tradition of May 2 is not the only King James Bible myth that he’s discussed on this blog. One of our all-time most popular blog posts (with a fairly self-explanatory title, we think) remains Shakespeare did not write the King James Bible, no way, no how. Nor did the King James Bible influence Shakespeare’s plays: the timing was wrong, as explained here.

Dealing with another common misconception, King James didn’t write the King James Bible, either. See this blog post for that explanation.

Curious to learn more? These and other questions are included as Myth or Reality? FAQS on our Manifold Greatness website, too. What makes the King James Bible so subject to myths, stories, and misconceptions? Perhaps, in part, it’s just a sign of its cultural and religious importance. As for May 2, it’s an unusually prosaic “myth” about a book publication date, rarely the stuff of legend or romance. As Hannibal Hamlin suggests in his original “May 2″ blog post, perhaps just having a definite date—any date—helps satisfy our perennial desire for certainty.

The Manifold Greatness project, including this blog, began in 2011, the 400th anniversary year of the 1611 King James Bible. To learn more about the origins, creation, and broad influence of the King James Bible, explore our Manifold Greatness website. To try our coloring game, select “Coloring” from the Games and Activities section of the website’s “Kids Zone.”


Let’s Make a Quarto: Crafting Books by Hand

The quarto workshop was in the Tifton Museum, where Manifold Greatness is on display.

Advertised as a family activity, the workshop attracted a wide range of ages.

Modern book making is a highly mechanized business. In the most common case, sheets of paper are piled together into a block, the spine edge might be sanded or notched, glue is applied, and a cover attached. There is little handcraft in the process, and when you consider the adage, “Good, cheap, and fast—you get to choose two,” modern glue binding is mostly cheap and fast.

On April 25, some Tifton-Tift County library patrons got an opportunity to see how book production might have occurred in 1611. Jerry Walker, a retired educator with a lifelong interest in the arts and a highly skilled crafter, led a workshop that we titled “Let’s Make a Quarto: a type of book made in the Renaissance era.” The workshop was held in the museum that houses the Manifold Greatness exhibit, so anyone who had not seen the exhibit got the opportunity to see it then, as well as make their own little book.

The quarto workshop was held in the Tifton Museum, where Manifold Greatness is on display.

The quarto workshop was held at the Tifton Museum, where Manifold Greatness is on display.

The basic idea behind a quarto is that a large sheet of paper is folded to make four smaller pages (hence the “quarto”). It was a very common way of producing books during the time of the King James Bible, allowing eight pages to be printed with only two trips through the press and using only one sheet of paper.

Some of our participants found out the hard way what this folding does to the orientation and the numbering of the pages. We suggested folding the paper, marking the page numbers and the bottom of the pages with a pencil, and then unfolding the page before decorating the pages with a story, stamps, stencils, pictures, and other decorations. (There was no glitter—we had used it all at the Renaissance Faire.) We got some great little stories and pictures. Some of them were upside down and in the wrong order, but we decided that you learn from mistakes, too.

Our amateur bookbinders learned how pages were made into “gathers” and then sewn together to make a finished book, ready to be bound. On the 16th of May, Tracy Iwaskow will be coming from Emory University’s Theology Library and will be bringing some selections from their special collections. Many of the participants are looking forward to seeing examples of the professional bookbinder’s craft.

Vickie Horst is the Manager of Tifton-Tift County Public Library in Tifton, Georgia.

You can find additional information about Making a Quarto, including a video, on the Manifold Greatness website.


A Rousing Renaissance Kickoff for Manifold Greatness

Manifold Greatness, Tifton, Georgia

Library employees Trina Jones and Mack Freeman pose with artist/student worker Jesse Carpenter.

What do you do when you have an exhibit celebrating the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James Bible? What do you do to get a small, rural community in south Georgia in the right mindset for an exhibit and an onslaught of information on the politics and history surrounding a book that most people know very well, but probably have never thought seriously about? Well, in Tifton, Georgia, we put on a Renaissance Faire and partied like it was 1611!

This event gave a lot of people an opportunity to get in touch with their inner RenRat. Attendees were encouraged to attend in costume and were given handouts instructing them on how to speak “The King’s English.” The library staff and our amazing volunteers lavished endless attention on costumes and pavilions. Jesse Carpenter, one of our student workers, was recruited to produce cutouts that included King James himself. Members of the Literacy Volunteers and the Rotary Club were cajoled into selling era-appropriate food to our visitors. One of the interesting facts we discovered while researching the time is that gingerbread men were invented during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I!

Manifold Greatness in Tifton, Georgia

A children’s tent was dedicated to the production of quill pens, swords, shields, and crowns. It is hard to know how long the street will be glittered. We also had a volunteer that taught a steady stream of people how to play Nine Man Morris, a game that we discovered was popular during the time. Wagering on outcomes was not encouraged during our faire.

One of the highlights of the faire was the participation of the Society for Creative Anachronism. These talented individuals came and set up tents and demonstrated blacksmithing, illumination, dancing, sewing techniques, and FIGHTING! Knights fought for the honor of fair maidens picked from the audience and to advance their status in their shires. It was loud and exciting and very, very popular with our visitors. Cameras were encouraged and the fighters were probably the most photographed characters on Faire day.

RenFaire 018

Costumed volunteers added ambiance to our Manifold Greatness opening day!

Why did we open the exhibit this way? It was important for us to have a strong kickoff event for the exhibit. We were looking for something that would appeal to a large number of people, people who might not have thought to come to the exhibit, but might come to the Faire, eat a smoked turkey leg, and then decide to go and see what was happening with the exhibit. We believe that the Faire did this for us. The exhibit had a very strong opening day and we hope that, because we were able to promote the rest of the programming surrounding the exhibit more personally with the Faire-goers, we have good turnouts for what is to come.

Vickie Horst is the Manager of Tifton-Tift County Public Library in Tifton, Georgia.


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