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.

Influences

“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.


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.


Walt Whitman’s American Bible

Whitman, Leaves of Grass. 1856. Drew Univ. Library, gift of Norman Tomlinson, Jr.

Whitman, Leaves of Grass. 1856. Drew Univ. Library, gift of Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr.

Happy Birthday, Walter! Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is deeply indebted to the King James Bible, despite Whitman’s claims to be utterly original. In fact, Whitman wrote of his work as “the Great Construction of a New Bible.” The first, slim, volume of Leaves of Grass was published in 1855. Whitman paid for it himself, and there were fewer than 800 copies. The rest of Whitman’s poetic life was spent revising and adding to this collection, culminating in the final “Deathbed” edition of 1891. The original 95 pages had swollen to almost 450, and the 12 poems of the 1855 edition had become nearly 400.

Various explanations have been offered for Whitman’s title, “Leaves of Grass,” including the obvious pun on the “leaves” of a book. But somewhere in the background is probably the statement of Isaiah that “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isaiah 40:6-7). Isaiah’s grim prophecy of death is transformed by Whitman into a celebration of the natural cycle, in which death is part of life and the poet, like all the people he sings of in his poem, returns to the earth from which he came. As Whitman writes in “Song of Myself,” “I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,/ If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.”

Walt Whitman. From a copy of Shakespeare's works associated with Whitman. Folger.

Walt Whitman. Engraving in Whitman’s former copy of Shakespeare’s works. Folger.

“Song of Myself,” the first poem in the 1855 edition, may also derive its title from the Bible. The great Old Testament celebration of love is the Song of Songs or Song of Solomon, an erotic dialogue between a man and a woman rich in metaphors of spices, fruits, animals, and birds. Whatever the original author intended, Jews and Christians have both traditionally interpreted the poem as an allegory for the love between God and humanity. Whitman’s “Song,” typically and radically, is not of God, or even a lover, but of himself: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself.”

One striking feature of Whitman’s poetry is his rambling but rhetorically powerful prose-poetic line, often full of lists of people, places, and things. He adapts this line, just as William Blake did before him (and Alan Ginsberg after), from the parallelistic prose of Isaiah and other Old Testament prophets, in the King James Version. Leaves of Grass may be a new American Bible, but in some ways it sounds a lot like the old one.

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

Note: You can read (or hear) about the Whitman engraving shown here on the web page Personalizing Shakespeare, by Louis B. Thalheimer Head of Reference Georgianna Ziegler.


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.


Changing Images of the Bible in Art

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

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

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

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

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

Curator David Steel speaks on The Bible in Art

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

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

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

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


A Lively Opening at Missouri Valley College

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Roberts presenting his slideshow.

Professor Roberts presents his slideshow.

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

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

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


Doubling Up

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama on Jan. 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama on Jan. 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

During his second Inauguration on Monday, President Barack Obama used not one, but two King James Bibles. One of the books was the Lincoln Bible, used during his first inauguration. The Lincoln Bible is currently housed in the collection of the Library of Congress and includes a note stating that this is the Bible used by Lincoln for his swearing-in as President on March 4, 1861. You can learn more about the Lincoln Bible from the Library of Congress’ blog post.

The second Bible belonged to Dr. Martin Luther King and accompanied him on many of his travels. “We know our father would be deeply moved to see President Obama take the Oath of Office using his bible,” Dr. King’s children said in a statement. “His ‘traveling bible’ inspired him as he fought for freedom, justice and equality, and we hope it can be a source of strength for the President as he begins his second term.”

Barack Obama is not the first president to use more than one Bible while taking the oath of office. Richard Nixon and Dwight D. Eisenhower both used two Bibles during their inauguration ceremonies. You can watch Barack Obama’s second inaugural address here.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


The KJB on TV

The Emmy-winning television program Little House on the Prairie enjoyed great popularity between 1974 and 1982, and remains in syndication today.  Based on the book series chronicling the adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder as a girl and young woman on the Western frontier, the program includes dramatic encounters with the harsh realities of pioneer life.

During one poignant episode, the townspeople must shelter in the church and schoolhouse on Christmas Eve to wait out a sudden blizzard while other residents search for several of the town’s children trapped outside in the storm. By the following day, the children are recovered safe and sound, although one man dies during the search and leaves behind a grieving family. Community leader Charles Ingalls (played by Michael Landon) picks up a copy of the King James Bible and reads the Christmas story from gospel of Luke to comfort the survivors.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


Refashioning a Classic

Cover of the 1962 edition of A Wrinkle in Time. Art design by Ellen Ermingard Raskin.

Cover of the 1962 edition of A Wrinkle in Time. Art design by Ellen Ermingard Raskin.

Fans of A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle’s popular science fiction fantasy novel, will likely remember its trio of leading characters, Meg Murry, Calvin O’Keefe, and the precocious Charles Wallace; the mind-bending possibilities of the tesseract; and the children’s dramatic final confrontation with IT.

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication, and this epic story of good vs. evil continues to be widely read by children and adults. In fact, A Wrinkle in Time was recently made into a graphic novel by writer Margaret Ferguson and illustrator Hope Larson.

“It was definitely an important book for me. It’s one of those books that I’ve gone back to again and again throughout my life.” Larson said in an October interview.

With the novel’s motifs of love, redemption, and sacrifice, many readers detect spiritual themes. L’Engle herself considered A Wrinkle in Time to be a Christian allegory, and the text borrows directly from the King James Bible in one of the novel’s final scenes as Meg Murray prepares to face IT and rescue her brother Charles Wallace. Meg receives encouragement from another character, who tells her:

The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. And the base things of the world, and the things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought that are. (I Corinthians 1:25-28)    

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


Pilgrims, a Bible, and a Love Triangle

Artistic rendering of John and Priscilla Alden.

As we approach Thanksgiving,  images of the Pilgrims assembled around an autumnal feast may pop into mind as we stock our own cupboards with cranberries, stuffing, and canned pumpkin. Although the Pilgrims did bring food supplies with them on the Mayflower, these items ran out during their first winter in the New World; a successful harvest the following year prompted a celebration of “thanksgiving.”

Artistic rendering of John and Priscilla Alden.

In addition to foodstuffs, weapons, farming supplies, 102 passengers, and two dogs, the Mayflower also carried a copy of the King James Bible belonging to John Alden. In an earlier post, curator Hannibal Hamlin notes that this may have been the first King James Bible to arrive in America.

Alden was not a Pilgrim himself; rather, he was a cooper, or barrel-maker, hired by the Pilgrims at Southampton, where the Mayflower was docked before beginning her trans-Atlantic voyage.  William Bradford, leader of the Pilgrims, described the 21-year-old Alden as a “hopefull yong man.” Alden may also have been a man of faith, choosing to carry a Bible with him as he journeyed to the New World.

 Alden’s youth and skill must have impressed Bradford, for the future governor of the colony also noted that the Pilgrims very much wished that Alden would join them, although they left the final decision in his hands. Upon arrival on the shores of Massachusettes in November 1620, Alden opted to stay with the Pilgrims and added his signature to the Mayflower Compact, signed on November 21, 1620.

Alden soon had another tie to the Pilgrim settlement. Sometime between 1620 and 1623, he married Priscilla Mullins, a young woman in her late teens or very early 20s. Priscilla had sailed with her parents and older brother Joseph on the Mayflower. However, her parents and brother died soon after their arrival in Massachusetts, leaving Priscilla to fend for herself in the new colony. According to folk tradition, her beauty attracted the attention of Miles Standish, the colony’s military adviser,  as well as John Alden, and the two men were deep rivals for her affection. This story prompted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish.

The historical record offers no evidence of a Mullins-Alden-Standish love triangle. However, Priscilla did end up marrying John Alden (the younger man) and over the course of their long marriage, the couple had 10 children, with a possible 11th child dying in infancy. Several of their descendents became notable figures in their own right; their oldest son, John, escaped being tried for witchcraft in Boston, and a daughter, Sarah, married Alexander Standish, son of Miles Standish and his second wife, Barbara.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was descended from another Alden offspring, and helped immortalize his ancestors through his literary output.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


Saul and the Witch of Endor

Nikolay Ge. The Witch of Endor Calling Up the Spirit of the Prophet Samuel. Painting, 1875.

Nikolay Ge. The Witch of Endor Calling Up the Spirit of the Prophet Samuel. Painting, 1875.

You won’t find vampires and werewolves in the King James Bible, but witches (referred to as mediums) and spirits rising from the grave are mentioned. One famous incident occurs in the book of 1 Samuel, when Saul, King of Israel, secretly contacts a woman with powers for summoning the dead. Her name is not given in the story, although in popular culture, she has become known as the witch of Endor.

According to the Biblical account, the prophet Samuel is instrumental in making Saul king of Israel, and continues to provide counsel during Saul’s reign.  After Samuel dies, Saul faces an enormous threat from an army of Philistine soldiers assembled to attack Israel. Saul’s prayers and attempts to seek divine aid are unsuccessful.

Desperate for advice, Saul disguises himself and seeks out a medium. Although she expresses reluctance at first, she eventually agrees to summon the spirit of Samuel for Saul.

Things go downhill from there.

And Samuel said to Saul: ‘Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?’ And Saul answered: ‘I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams; therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.’ 1 Samuel 28:15

Samuel foretells that Saul will be defeated in the upcoming battle, and that he and his sons will be killed. These prophecies come true, and Israel suffers a crushing defeat, after which Saul commits suicide.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


The Amish and the King James Bible

Amish boys using traditional farming techniques. Photograph by National Geographic Channels / Jeff Hoagland.

Amish boys using traditional farming techniques. Photograph by National Geographic Channels / Jeff Hoagland.

Amish culture is popping up on television sets across America, thanks to reality series such as National Geographic’s Amish: Out of Order and TLC’s Breaking Amish. In states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, Amish buggies are a common sight along roadways, as are Amish homesteads, distinctive white-sided houses with a single curtain in each window.

Like many other immigrant groups originating in Europe, the first Amish immigrants arrived in America in the early 18th century. Many settled in Pennsylvania, where they are sometimes referred to as the Pennsylvania Dutch. However, most Amish are of German or Swiss descent.

The Amish denomination emphasizes a simple lifestyle and a rejection of “worldly” pursuits. The name derives from Jakob Ammann, a member of the Swiss Anabaptist movement, who disagreed with other, less radical Anabaptists on matters related to excommunication, and Amman’s followers split from the main Anabaptist community. Amish dogma forbids its followers from holding government office, participating in the military, or owning modern technology. Historically, these beliefs set the Amish at odds with other Christian groups, and continue to distinguish them today. As a result of widespread prosecution in Europe from both Catholics and Protestants in the 17th and 18th centuries, many Amish fled to America.

One practice that the Amish share with many mainstream Protestant denominations is their use of the King James Bible. While Pennsylvania German (also known as Pennsylvania Dutch) is widely spoken in Amish communities, most Amish read and write in English, and the King James Bible is used in Amish worship services. Amish services typically include two sermons. Most of the time, they are spoken extemporaneously. Unlike some Christian churches, the Amish do not follow a liturgical calendar, so the Bible passages chosen for each particular service are selected spontanesouly.

Another influential text in Amish religious practice is the Ausbund. The Ausbund is a collection of hymns dating back to the mid-1500s; tradition holds that the original songs were composed by Anabaptist prisoners held in Passau Castle between 1535 and 1540.  The first printed edition of the Ausbund appeared in 1564. There is no musical notation, with the tunes being passed on from generation to generation. Songs from the Ausbund are sung in a German dialect, and the lyrics are adapted from passages in the Biblical Psalms and the New Testament. The practice of congregational singing–traditionally without musical accompaniment– reflects the Amish belief in simple worship that encourages humility. To hear samples of hymns from the Ausbund, click here.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


Q&A: Churches That Exclusively Use the KJB

A King James Bible only church in Alabama. Photo by Richard David Ramsey (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons”.

Jason Hentschel is in University of Dayton’s doctoral program in theology. Here, Jason discusses the King James Only movement, in which certain churches use the King James Bible translation exclusively, believing that it is the most accurate and doctrinally correct translation available. This topic arose during one one of the programs offered in conjunction with the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition here at University of Dayton.

 Q: Why do certain churches choose the King James translation?

The churches themselves tend to explain their exclusive use of the King James in terms of an appeal to the only perfect and pure—we might say inerrant—Bible.  All other translations—be they RSV, NIV, NASB, The Message, etc.—are understood to be ultimately misleading at points, usually on account of the fact that they are translated from the modern critical text and not the Received Text. In other words, King James Only (KJO) churches see other translations as corrupting the Bible, particularly the doctrine of Christ, and so they only read from the King James because they believe that it perfectly preserves the true biblical text and thus the true doctrines of the faith.  This does not include churches that prefer the King James translation for “merely” literary or stylistic reasons.

 Q: What do you think the KJB-only movement accomplishes for congregations?

 The movement provides a measure of certainty often questioned in the face of opposition. The KJO pastors around Dayton, OH whom I visited often directed me to one or another author—Samuel Gipp, Edward Hills, Wilbur Pickering, to name a few—whom these pastors found authoritative. Not only can these churches champion the King James Bible, they can champion these defenders of the King James Bible. There is nothing new about appealing to scholarship, of course, but in a group of evangelicals that is more often than not willing to reject such appeals in favor of either emphasizing the priesthood of every believer or the perspicuity of the text, this authoritative claim is significant.

Q: What surprised you about the churches here in Dayton?

Most surprising was their diversity. Whereas one of the churches I visited maintained a hard, polemical stance in its assertion of the King James’ Bible sole validity, another church argued for the validity of other professing believers’ perspectives on the translation debate. The three churches I visited did not see themselves as still in a battle for the Bible. That was a thing of the past. This translated into a rather nonchalant attitude toward visitors and members who resisted the churches’ exclusive use of the King James Bible. Hence, while the pastors I spoke with expressed without fail the importance of the King James Bible over and against the modern translations, that concern failed to translate to the congregation. This raises the question: About what are these churches truly concerned?

Jason Hentschel earned his M.Div. at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary and is currently working on his doctorate in historical theology at the University of Dayton. Besides the theological and cultural foundations of local KJV-only congregations, his research interests lie in American Cold War evangelicalism.

 Katy Kelly is communications and outreach librarian at University of Dayton Libraries and project director for the University of Dayton Manifold Greatness exhibit.


Building the Bible by Hand

Detail of the 2nd page of Genesis from the King James Bible, handset in re-created type. Photo courtesy of Stan Nelson.

Detail of the 2nd page of Genesis from the King James Bible, handset in re-created type. Photo courtesy of Stan Nelson.

As part of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James Bible in 2011, the library at Norwich Cathedral in Norwich, England prepared an exhibition. During this exhibition, they planned to conduct demonstrations of letterpress printing, the method used to print the first editions of the King James Bible in 1611.

In order to do the demonstrations, the library at Norwich needed authentic type of the kind used 400 years ago. The librarian there, the Rev. Peter Doll, contacted me because he didn’t know of anyone who could find/make all of the letters needed to re-set these pages.  I am presently one of the few practicing punchcutters in the world.

For this project, we decided to make type forms of the first two pages of the book of Genesis.

In order to make the forms, I enlarged digital scans of pages from the original 1611 edition of the King James Bible until they were exactly the correct size. I then compared the founts (fonts) with a variety of type specimens to determine which kinds of type had been used in 1611.

I quickly determined that some of the type was made from the matrices of Francois Guyot, a Flemish typefounder. Other founts were ‘Garamond,’ named after another 16th century punchcutter and still seen in many word processing programs today. A few lines remain unidentified, but are close to Garamond’s types.  The black letter fount (also known as Old English) is a widely-used design that originated in Paris in the 15th century and continued to be used through the 18th century.

These formes presented a challenge as they would require the acquisition of actual, three-dimensional metal types in the correct type designs–Goyot, Garamond, and black letter–that were used by the London printer, Robert Barker, 400 years ago.  Finding authentic types would have been a demanding task a century ago, when letterpress was ‘king’, but today, commercial typefounding resources are nearly gone.  The solution to getting the correct printing letter was a collaboration between members of the American Typecasting Fellowship, a loose organization of amateur type founders who have worked to preserve antique type making materials. These type makers provided a great deal of the types needed.

Matrices for the black letter survive in several museums, but were not available for casting. For black letter, a modern re-cutting provided the ‘bare bones.’ The Guyot types are not extant.  Modern recuttings of many versions of Garamond exist and could be used on this project. But all of these designs would have to be specially cast for these pages, and many sorts had to be purpose made.

Of course, some printing types simply cannot be found outside of a few European museums.  For example there are the old, long s characters that look like f’s. Some of these were custom made with a pantographic engraver.  Also, Barker’s King James Bible used numbers that do not exist today.  These sorts were engraved by hand, in steel, and used to make the dies (matrices) from which types were cast by hand in a specially fitted early style type mould – just as the original types were manufactured.

Cast sorts with brass German mould used in re-creating type from the 1611 printing of the King James Bible. Photo courtesy of Stan Nelson.

I made twenty of the special characters primarily by engraving original punches in steel, from which special dies were stamped and the types cast in hand held moulds. These are the oldest techniques for type making, a subject that has been the focus of much of my work. While all of the text fount could have been hand made, time constraints made this impractical. But great care was taken to make the pages very authentic, such as hand casting special spacing pieces for the project and completely eliminating any modern materials.

A friend and fellow type maker, Mike Anderson used his engraving machine to cut some of the needed letters in brass plate, from which types could be cast. Rich Hopkins and Bill Riese, also experienced casters, made various founts of the Garamond.  Some of these had to be altered by hand engraving to make the letters more like the original.

Jim Walczak used his Monotype caster to make the bulk of the black letter fount using modern matrices of a design that is extremely close to the original fount, with the exception of the capitals and some of the lower case. Instead of the modern body size this large fount was cast on the slightly smaller body, seen in the original fount, so that the pages match the original line for line. Jim also made some of the Garamond types.

Type setting of the first two pages of Genesis proceeded in the traditional manner, letter by letter, line by line, taking special care not to use any anachronistic materials.  Special spacing was cast in order to avoid using distinctively modern hollow spaces.

The insistence upon using actual metal type, instead of a plastic photo-polymer plate, rests in its role as a teaching tool.  In this digital age, most people have lost touch with the work of previous centuries.  They deserve an opportunity to understand and appreciate the processes and skills employed by printers of the past.

The pages traveled to England in specially made cases, designed to prevent any accidents. My biggest concern was with the customs agents — known for damaging curiosity.  I put photos of the contents on the outside and special handling instructions to these officials, in hopes that they wouldn’t drop my type on the floor. Both pages arrived safely.

I later traveled to Norwich for the opening of the exhibit and to present three lectures about the project. The type formes remain in the library’s collection, to be used as reference objects for years to come.

Stan Nelson is a master typographer and a scholar on the history of type. He is also a practicing punchcutter.


“Abide With Me” and the KJB

During the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics, Scottish vocalist Emeli Sandé performed a stirring rendition of the classic hymn, “Abide With Me.” The hymn is often sung at Christian funerals, and this performance was dedicated to victims of a series of bombings in London in 2005, in which 52 people lost their lives.

Those familiar with the lyrics and the King James Bible may notice several striking similarities. Henry Francis Lyte, the author of the hymn, was certainly familiar with the King James Bible.  “Abide With Me” arguably takes its inspiration from a passage in the gospel of Luke , in which disciples ask Christ: “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.”

Many of the phrases in “Abide With Me” are close variations of passages in the King James translation. For example, “healing in Thy wings” is a variant of Malachi 4:2, and “Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?” is a variant of 1 Corinthians 15:55.

Other lines draw from Biblical imagery. The final verse of the song describes the evening shadows in a way that is very similiar to a description in Song of Songs:  “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.” (Song, 2:17)

In the hymn, however, the coming of evening is an allegory for death:

“Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”

Lyte wrote many religious poems and hymns throughout his life. As a student at Trinity College, Dublin, he won numerous prizes for poetry. “Abide With Me” is his best-known work, and was written shortly before his death from tuberculosis in 1847. The hymn is often performed to the music of “Eventide,” composed by William Henry Monk in 1861 to replace Lyte’s original tune.

Although the hymn has many somber associations, it has enjoyed many livlier uses in popular culture. “Abide with Me” has been sung at the Football Association Challenge Cup (FA Cup) finals  in England every year since 1927. Jazz musician Thelonious Monk recorded an instrumental version of  the hymn with John Coltrane in 1957, and soldiers during WWI created an irreverent parody of the lyrics, singing “We’ve had no beer, we’ve had no beer today.”

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is grateful for the excellent information from Hannibal Hamlin, one of the Manifold Greatness curators, on the history of “Abide With Me.”


MLK Jr., Rap Music, and More in South Carolina

Members of Cornerstone Baptist Church, winner of the King James Bible Quiz. Image courtesy of Sumter County Library.

The traveling exhibition for Manifold Greatness is still on view in Sumter, SC, and many exciting events have taken place since our last blog post. The Sumter County Library held a King James Bible quiz on Saturday, July 21st. Three teams competed to see who could name the Book, Chapter and Verse of popular, everyday phrases that originated from the King James Bible. At the end, the team from Cornerstone Baptist Church won the quiz and received copies of the King James Bibles as their prize. In fact, all three teams won Bibles!

On Tuesday, July 24th, Dr. Harry Singleton of Benedict College discussed the influence of the King James Bible and other scholarly works upon Dr. Martin Luther King’s civil rights beliefs. While the King James Bible was the foundation upon which King preached and believed, other texts affected King deeply, including Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disenchanted, Paul Tillech’s Systematic Theology and Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”. “Civil Disobedience” declared one must shame the person you are confronting by passivity. Dr. King believed that being arrested and sent to jail would eventually shame those persecuting the oppressed.

In addition to important theological and philosophical texts, Dr. King deeply believed in the poetry of the King James Bible. During slavery, slave owners used the Bible to legitimize that institution. Dr. King rejected that view, instead seeing Biblical figures such as Amos, Paul and Jesus as leaders of social transformation. Amos believed ritualistic religion is not positive, but justice and social transformation is something for which we all should strive. Paul and Jesus claimed man must suffer for God in order to change what is wrong around him.

Dr. Singleton used the term “zeitgeist” to summarize Dr. King’s beliefs and actions during his lifetime. “Zeitgeist” means “spirit of the times.” Dr. King believed the time was always right for social justice and transformation. While most humans do not want change, the Bible, through its messages of hope and justice, calls for a righteous path to free all people from oppression.

On Monday, July 30th, Dr. Valinda Littlefield of the University of South Carolina – Columbia discussed the use of the King James Bible within the context of rap music. To begin the lecture, Dr. Littlefield played two music videos; “E Pluribus Unum” by the Last Poets, and “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio. Dr. Littlefield examined the poetic beauty of the King James Bible. Rap music is a form of poetry, and rappers use the King James Bible to espouse their competing views of life.

The Last Poets were the earliest influence of hip-hop in the late 1960s to the 1970s. Common themes in “E Pluribus Unum” include life, truth and the light. The Last Poets used many biblical references including “living the lie leads to sin” and John 14:6 which states “Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.”

Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” discusses how the “gangsta” life is a lie. Dr. Littlefield believes Coolio’s issue is not living a life in the presence of God. Coolio directly lifts Psalm 23:4 which states “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” In “Gangsta’s Paradise”, Coolio raps “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I take a look at my life and realize there’s nothin’ left”. Dr. Littlefield also stated in the song Coolio raps “how nobody is here to teach me”. In the Bible, David had God beside him to lead the way, but those stuck in the “Gangsta’s Paradise” do not. The lack of hope in street life is the opposite of the King James Bible, where hope is found.

The Sumter County Library will continue to host events into early August, includng hosts events through the beginning of August, including a King James Bible Choir Concert, an “Expressions” Art Show, and the Closing Reception featuring Dr. Patrick Scott. Dr. Scott will display a King James Bible dating back to the 1600’s.

Please visit our Manifold Greatness webpage, YouTube, and Photobucket channels for more information, video and pictures of events at Sumter County Library.

Ford Simmons is the Reference and Information Services Coordinator/Webmaster at Sumter County Library.


Talking About “The Book That Changed the World”

The Rev. Dr. Charles Sumners. Image courtesy Pikes Peak Library District.

Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs, CO planned an ambitious month of programming to celebrate Manifold Greatness. Our events were varied, including a concert, lectures, public discussions, and several film screenings built around KJB: The Book That Changed the WorldThis dramatized documentary by actor John Rhys-Davies retraces the history of the King James Bible.  

The first screening brought so many people that we couldn’t fit them in our largest community room. We quickly realized that the demand for this programming was higher than we had anticipated. We asked our local city-run senior center and faith-based organizations to lend us space and technical assistance for additional screenings, which we ran through the month of June.  

Some of our Manifold Greatness scholars hit the road with us and facilitated lively public talks directly following each screening.  The Reverend Dr. Charles A. Summers (retired) led two programs that featured films and discussions about the King James Bible.

“Even though the KJB is specifically part of my heritage as an Anglican/Episcopal priest, I was glad we could utilize resources from other faith groups to understand its history,” he commented.

Audiences actively participated in programming around KJB – the Book that Changed the World, including a recitation from memory of the King James Bible version of the Twenty-third Psalm while it was read aloud.

“They were surprised that they could do it but then commented that it was almost subliminal,” Sumners said.

Other interactive activities included discussions about the process of Bible translation in general, and the process of creating a documentary about the Bible.  

The Reverend Dr. Charles A. Summers received his B.A. from Davidson College, earned his Master of Divinity degree from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in Kentucky, and his Doctor of Ministry degree from Columbia Presbyterian Seminary in Atlanta, GA. He did post-graduate work in Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.  Rev. Sumners is also an accomplished producer of Christian and secular documentaries for over 35 years.  

 Dr. Scott Munger also offered a humanities perspective on the King James Bible. He was the topic of an earlier post.

We are sharing our experiences in the hope that other communities hosting Manifold Greatness can use it to enhance their celebrations while the exhibit is on display in their cities.

Rachel Stovall is a Community Relations Specialist at Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs, CO.


More Reggae

Album cover art. The Harder They Come, 1972.

It’s a warm, sunny day in Rochester, NY and my office is resounding with the soundtrack to The Harder They Come—a reggae classic. It prompts me to follow up on an earlier post that discussed how Bob Marley carried a copy of the King James Bible with him and often engaged friends in religious debate. Marley and other reggae artists also incorporated verses from the KJV into their lyrics and I thought I’d share a couple with you.   

One example of Marley’s use of Bible verse is his song “Small Axe” .  Click here to watch on YouTube.

A helpful website “dedicated to matching Reggae song lyrics to Biblical quotations” compares Marley’s “Small Axe” to the biblical passages from which he drew his inspiration. For example, they show how Marley drew inspiration from Proverbs 26:27 and Ecclesiastes 10:8 for the song’s refrain.

Marley: “And whosoever diggeth a pit, Lord, Shall fall in it – shall fall in it.

Whosoever diggeth a pit Shall bury in it – shall bury in it.”

Proverbs 26:27 – “Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.”

Ecclesiastes 10:8 – “He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.”

Perhaps my personal favorite example of the use of Biblical verse in Reggae music is the Melodians “Rivers of Babylon” (1970), a highlight of The Harder They Come soundtrack.  Songwriters Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton beautifully interpret Psalms 19 and 137 with Rastafarian references to Emperor Haile Selassie I as “King Alpha” and “Fari” or “Jah Rastafari.

 Click here to watch on YouTube.

Psalm 137:  “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yes, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” 

Psalm 19:  “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”

Melodians “Rivers of Babylon”:

“By the rivers of Babylon
Where he sat down
And there he wept
When he remembered Zion

‘Cause the wicked carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
How can we sing King Alpha’s song
In a strange land?

‘Cause the wicked carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
How can we sing King Alpha’s song
In a strange land?

So, let the words of our mouth
And the meditation of our heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight
Oh, Fari”

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.


From the Ole Miss Archives

As we prepared to receive the Manifold Greatness exhibit at the University of Mississippi, Dr. Leigh McWhite, one of our archivists, began seeking items that would give the viewer a sense of the translators’ work and would also make a connection between the exhibit and Mississippi and/or the South. 

As it happened, she found several.

On display is an edition of St. Jerome’s Vulgate, printed in Basel, Switzerland in 1591.  It is among the last editions published before the introduction of the 1592 version, which soon superseded it. The 1592edition of the Vulgate was sponsored by Pope Clementine VIII, and this edition was later consulted by the teams of English translators working on the King James Bible.  The Clementine Vulgate remained the authorized text for the Roman Catholic Church until 1979.

Clementine Vulgate, 1591. Basel, Switzerland. Image courtesy of the University of Mississippi.

The Choctaw tribe has had a long association with the state of Mississippi, and the University of Mississippi has a copy of the Second Book of Kings translated into the Choctaw language by the American Bible Society in 1855.  Choctaw translations of portions of the Bible first appeared in print in 1836 and a complete edition of the New Testament was produced in 1848.  The Choctaw Bible Translation Committee in Mississippi is currently working to translate the entire Bible into Choctaw.

Choctaw Bible, 1855. Courtesy of the University of Mississippi.

  A more contemporary and very Southern translation is the Cotton Patch Bible created by Clarence Jordan.  Born in Georgia in 1912, Clarence Jordan created an interracial Christian farming community outside Americus, GA called Koinonia (from the Greek word for “communion,” which is used in Acts 2:42 to refer to the earliest Christian community).  In the late 1960s, Jordan began writing his “Cotton Patch” series, which translated the scripture into a colloquial Southern accent and context.  “Jews” and “Gentiles” became “white man” and “Negro,” and Jordan changed all references to “crucifixion” to “lynching.”  The Cotton Patch Version of Paul’s Epistles in the University of Mississippi’s Special Collections is from the James H. Meredith Collection.  James Meredith is a prominent figure in the American civil rights movement and integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962.

Clarence Jordan. The Cotton Patch Version of St. Paul’s Epistles. Image courtesy of the University of Mississippi.

Christina Torbert is Head of Serials and  Bibliographer for Philosophy and Religion at the J.D. Williams Library at the University of Mississippi.


Going Global

Dr. Scott Munger. Courtesy Pikes Peak Library District.

Dr. Scott Munger is culturally adventuresome Biblical translator who has overseen Bible translation work in some 40 languages around the world. That international experience helps provide a unique perspective on American religious, social, and political life. Scott is currently Vice President of Biblica, the producer of The Holy Bible: The New International Version. He and his family—wife, children, and grandchildren—now live in Colorado.

Here is an interview that Pikes Peak Library District, currently hosting the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition,  recently conducted with Dr. Munger about Bible translation.

Question: How do you feel about the King James Version of the Bible? 
Answer: I treasure and revere it like I would a famous ancestor—but one who lived in a different age and time.

Question: Biblica has created the NIV translation of the Hebrew Bible. How did the Biblica processes differ from the processes of King James Version translators’?
Answer:  The processes are remarkably similar. Both began with the call for a fresh translation, both were supported by dedicated people from various Christian denominations, and both were undertaken as a group project.

Question: Did that involve translating from the original languages of the Bible?
Answer: Yes, the KJV and the NIV are each done from the languages of the original biblical texts: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Likewise, translators of both versions considered history and tradition (e.g., the KJV relied a great deal upon the work of William Tyndale, killed in 1536), but they also considered present and future needs. And most important, the translators of the KJV and NIV tried to represent the Word of God in the language of their day, that is, with vocabulary and style that would speak to the hearts of their contemporaries.

Question: We know that 48 translators worked on the King James Bible of 1611.  How many translators did it take to come to the NIV version that Biblica publishes now?
Answer: The Committee on Bible Translation is an independent group of 15 scholars from many Christian denominations. The CBT determines the NIV text. But their work builds upon the efforts of over 100 original contributors. Unlike the KJV, the NIV is a “green” text. During the half century since its original conception, thousands of helpful suggestions from readers and scholars worldwide have made the NIV translation what it is today.

Question: What goals did the Biblica translators have while translating the Bible?
Answer: The NIV’s goal, similar to that sought by the KJV, is to create a balance, designed for “the best possible blend of transparency to the original documents and comprehension of the original meaning” (www.niv-cbt.org).

Question: With its soaring language, the King James Bible is very poetic. Do you think that some of the translations today lose the beauty of that poetic edge?
Answer: Beauty is hard to define, and is often in the eye of the beholder. When it comes to language, beauty of both form and content must be considered. A skillfully worded poem about the glories of a microwave meal will never win a Pulitzer. The real, inner beauty of the KJV comes from its content. Note the last two verses of Psalm 23, below, the first from the KJV and the second from the NIV.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (KJV)

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (NIV)

Modern people are often charmed by older forms of language. The KJV’s “… est” and “… eth” caress our ears. But we need to consider that what sounds quaint to us was common to people in 16th and 17th century England.

Question: With so many new translations available, is the King James Version still important and relevant today?
Answer: The KJV endures as a testimony and example not only of great Bible translation and great English, but of great thought. The former is due to the heart of those who undertook the translation. But the thoughts they conveyed are those of the original authors, men and women—inspired, I believe, by a gracious God—all of them now considered world-renowned prophets, rulers, poets, and reformers.

Rachel Stovall is a Community Relations Specialist at Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs, CO.


Manifold Greatness On the Road: One Year On

A family Bible from a workshop hosted at the University of Minnesota. Courtesy of the University of Minnesota.

A family Bible displayed at a workshop hosted at the University of Minnesota. Courtesy of the University of Minnesota.

Hard to believe the panel exhibition of Manifold Greatness has been traveling across America for a year! Like you, I’ve followed its progress, reading reports from Whitworth University (Spokane, WA), Winfield Public Library (Winfield, KS), Mobile Public Library (Mobile, AL), and Hope College (Holland, MI). And these are only the posts on the blog’s first page! I remember when Steve Galbraith and I, as co-curators of Manifold Greatness, met with representatives of all the host sites.

In September, 2011, the American Library Association hosted a daylong workshop, where Steve and I talked about the genesis and realization of the exhibition, and about what we saw as its most compelling stories. It was fascinating and moving to hear then from all the representatives, as they described the diverse array of events with which they would surround the Manifold Greatness panels. So many of these have now come to pass: lectures and colloquia on the translation of the Bible, on the influence of the King James Bible on American writers, on family Bibles, on rare book preservation, and much more. Through the wonders of communication technology, we’ve been able not only to read about these celebrations but to see photographs, and even watch a live stream of the colloquium at the University of Minnesota. It’s as if the conversation we started at the Folger is ongoing, being joined and carried on by other communities across the country.

In a way this reminds me of the spread of the King James Bible itself. I wrote in the exhibition book about Parson Weems, the almost legendary Bible salesman of the Philadelphia printer Matthew Carey. Weems hawked Bibles in the 1790s and early nineteenth century in Maryland, the Carolinas, Georgia, and his native Virginia. But he sold Bibles to Northerners, too. From New York he wrote to Collins that their publishing plans had “knock’d up just such a dust here among the Printers as would a stone if thrown smack into the center of a Hornet’s nest.” As an interesting aside, Weems was also the author of The Life of Washington , a collection of stories about America’s first president and the origin of the famous (but untrue!) anecdote of young George Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree.

Weems was the Johnny Appleseed of Bibles, planting them wherever he and his horse rode. Weems’s efforts were later eclipsed by those of the American Bible Society, whose goal was to put a Bible (King James Version) in every household. By mid-19th century they were printing and distributing a million Bibles a year. In the twentieth century, the Gideons took on the task of putting a Bible in every hotel room. The huge dissemination of the King James Bible in America ensured its influence on American literature and culture. The influence of Manifold Greatness will be more modest, I’m sure, but like the book it explores, it will have a wide reach. The panels have already traveled to 14 states, and they will reach 13 more before they reach the end of their road in 2013.

Happy trails!

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


Literature and Art and Pop Culture…Oh My!

Lancelot Andrewes. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Lancelot Andrewes. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

On Monday,  Whitworth University hosted a panel of speakers who each discussed the Bible’s influence within the context of his or her discipline. Whitworth Professor of English Leonard Oakland traced the events that led to the primacy of the King James Bible as an influencer of literature, incorporating excerpts from Milton, Matthew Arnold, Denise Levertov, and T.S. Eliot. In the opening lines of “The Journey of the Magi,” Eliot quotes Lancelot Andrewes, a member of the KJB translation team:

“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”

This passage comes from one of Andrewes’s most famous Nativity sermons (which may have been a sermon in which King James was present), as Andrewes describes the journey of the Magi to visit the infant Jesus. 

Whitworth Assistant Professor of Art Meredith Shimizu demonstrated the ways in which art is used in the Bible, and how the Bible is used in art. She indicated that while many older texts used art primarily for decorative purposes, art in modern Bibles becomes an important addition to the meaning of the text itself. Gonzaga University Professor of Religious Studies Linda Schearing discussed the ways Bible publishers use elements of popular culture to market their products, and the ways in which popular culture co-opts biblical elements – particularly the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve – in advertising and humor.

Speaking of Adam and Eve, the Pacific Northwest Inlander, a local independent newspaper, ran a story discussing the cultural impact of the King James Bible and mentioned Whitworth University’s Manifold Greatness exhibit and events. The author of the article listed some examples of pervasive Biblical images in popular culture, including an adult retail chain called Adam and Eve.  The article has the potential to reach a very different audience using unconventional methods.

Amy C. Rice is an Instructor/ Coordinator of Technical Services & Systems at Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library at Whitworth University.


The Bible or Shakespeare?

Portrait of Shakespeare. Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Watercolor, c. 1865. Folger Shakespeare Library.

William Shakespeare and the King James Bible have both contributed many noteworthy expressions to the English language. In honor of Shakespeare’s birthday, traditionally believed to be on April 23, readers are challenged to decide whether the following phrases come from William Shakespeare’s works or the King James Bible. Some people believe that Shakespeare himself had a role in creating the King James Bible translation. Scholar Hannibal Hamlin refutes this rumor with a resounding “No!” in his post, “Shakespeare did not write the King James Bible, no way, no how.”

And now for the challenge, “The Bible or Shakespeare?”  Answers will be posted tomorrow.

 A. salt of the earth
B. in a pickle
C. the blind lead the blind
D. apple of his eye
E. not a mouse stirring
F. at their wit’s end
G. the skin of my teeth
H. budge an inch
I. turn the other cheeck
J. many are called, but few are chosen
K. a tower of strength
L. for goodness’ sake
M. your own flesh and blood
N. one fell swoop.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website, particularly the content and activities in the “For Kids” section. She is a communications associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


Handel’s Messiah Reigneth

Charles Jennens. Messiah. An oratorio. London, 1749? Folger Shakespeare Library.

On April 13, 1742, a new oratorio by the famous composer George Frideric Handel made its debut in Dublin, Ireland.

The performance was held to benefit three local charities:  prisoners’ debt relief, the Mercer’s Hospital, and the Charitable Infirmary.  The Dublin News-Letter provided an early critique on the work, praising the oratorio as “…far surpass[ing] anything of that Nature which has been performed in this or any other Kingdom”.

Handel’s Messiah has continued to be performed ever since. Its librettist, Charles Jennens, drew from the King James Bible for his text, with one exception: lines from the psalms are taken from Miles Coverdale’s earlier translations in the Book of Common Prayer.

 To hear excerpts from Messiah, with information on their KJB connections, please enjoy the Handel’s Messiah interactive feature on the Manifold Greatness website. More information on Handel himself appears in this previous post.

 

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website. She is a communications associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 68 other followers