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.

On Tour

Fine Press Books and the King James Bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Digital Footprints on the Sands of Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Grand Tour Draws to a Close

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northwest Christian University, Eugene, Oregon

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

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

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

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

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


Opening This Week: The Manifold Greatness Finale

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

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

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Translating Manifold Greatness from Scholarship to Exhibition

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

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

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

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

Tuscaloosa Public Library, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Tuscaloosa Public Library, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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

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

Courtesy of the University of Minnesota

Courtesy of the University of Minnesota

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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