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.

The KJB Today

Looking Back, and Far Ahead

The Jerusalem Chamber. (c) Westminster Abbey.

The Jerusalem Chamber, (c) Westminster Abbey.

I’m writing this from Borough High St. in Southwark (London), a few blocks from Southwark Cathedral, and in the vicinity of what used to be Winchester Palace, the London residence of the Bishop of Winchester. Lancelot Andrewes, translator of the King James Bible and perhaps supervisor of the First Westminster Company, was granted the bishopric in 1618. He is buried in Southwark Cathedral and is represented in effigy lying on top of his tomb.

London is full of reminders of the translation of the English Bible. Across London Bridge, which is just up the road and on the right, is the church of St. Magnus Martyr. Miles Coverdale, who translated the first complete English Bible (apart from the Wycliffites), is buried there, since he served for a time as rector.

William Tyndale. English translation, Pentateuch. 1530. Ohio State University.

William Tyndale. English translation, Pentateuch. 1530. Ohio State University.

William Tyndale, translator of translators, is buried in Vilvoorde in the Netherlands, where he was strangled and burned, but his sculpted head is included as a decorative architectural feature at St. Dunstan-in-the-West, where he lectured. John Donne later preached at St. Dunstan’s.  A little south of St. Paul’s, where Donne was dean, stood the church of Holy Trinity the Less, destroyed in the Great Fire. John Rogers, the man responsible for Matthew’s Bible (1537), was rector there a few years earlier. He was later burned alive as a heretic at Smithfield, a 10 minute walk north, near the church of St. Bartholomew the Great. Benjamin Franklin worked briefly for a printer in the Lady Chapel of St. Bart’s.

Of course, Westminster itself, the location of two companies of the King James Bible translators, is down the Thames to the west. Thomas Bilson, Bishop of Winchester (before Andrewes), member of the Second Cambridge Company, and one of the revisers of the final King James Bible text, is buried in Westminster Abbey, as is, of course, King James I. Archbishop Matthew Parker, who supervised the translation of the Bishops’ Bible (1568), is buried at Lambeth just across the Thames.

Erasmus. Novum Testamentum. 1519. Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

Erasmus. Novum Testamentum. 1519. Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

The celebrations of the King James Bible anniversary have died down here. There are no upcoming events listed on the website of the King James Bible Trust. And in the United States, the tour of Manifold Greatness comes to end on July 12—oddly enough, my birthday. Perhaps more appropriately, it is the date of the death of Erasmus (1536), who produced the Greek text of the New Testament that became known as the Textus Receptus, an essential resource for translators from William Tyndale to the King James Bible companies.

As I reflect on the long history of Manifold Greatness, from its inception and planning, to the years of research, to the exhibition at the Folger, to the long journey of the panel exhibitions, I wonder what lies ahead for the King James Bible in 2111. Will the 500th anniversary be celebrated as were the 400th and the 300th? Will the King James Bible still be in use in some churches? Will American presidents still be sworn in on it? Will the King James Bible have an afterlife in the 21st century? Will some lecturer refer back to the 2011 anniversary celebrations at the Folger, as I referred in my opening lecture to celebrations in New York and London in 1911? Few of us will know. As Matthew writes, “of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”

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


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.


The Lasting Presence of the KJV in the Music of the Black Church

On Monday, February 11, at the third of four programs designed to explore the themes in Manifold Greatness (and as a part of Loyola Marymount University’s Black History Month celebration),  the Sacred Praise Chorale of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, CA performed works directly inspired by the words of the King James Bible.

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

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

The concert, directed by pianist and soloist Diane White-Clayton (affectionately known as “Dr. Dee”), took attendees on an inspiring, energetic musical performance of eight works of that spanned eighty years of worship music written by African American composers.

Reverend Jason Darden, Protestant and Multifaith Campus Minister at LMU, provided moving commentary between songs, and the 120 guests of all ages in attendance left with their hands tingling from clapping and their hearts elated by the honesty, beauty, and soulfulness of the performance. After the concert, guests and performers walked from the Sacred Heart Chapel to the William H. Hannon Library for a reception and viewing of Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible.

I invited Dr. Dee and Reverend Darden to share their personal perspective on the role of the KJV in their life.

“The King James Version of the Bible with its poetic colors and literary prominence has been the source of artistic inspiration for composers for centuries. This is especially true of African American composers.  A culture which relies heavily on lyrical oratory, the Black church in America is often filled with the words from this great work, whether quoted by a pastor in a sermon, read as the Sunday morning scripture, spoken antiphonally by congregants and reader, or sung in the lyrics of the choir’s musical rendition.

Raised in a traditional Black church, my ears were filled with the words of the King James Version as I memorized verses in Sunday School or listened to my father preach them with eloquence.  Hence its influence on me as an artist would be strong.  As a composer, a great percentage of my choral works employ the King James Version as the sole source of lyrics.  I use it for the beauty of the old English, the familiarity it breeds for those entrenched in the tradition, and simply because of the inspiration it breathes to me as a Christian.”

- Diane White-Clayton (“Dr. Dee“)

“The King James Bible holds a very special place in my heart. I grew up as a preacher’s kid; not only was my father a preacher but my grandfather as well.  I can remember sitting in the pews and listening to my father and grandfather preach from the King James Bible.  I memorized scripture using the KJV and whenever I quote a passage during a sermon I always seem to resort back to my KJV vernacular. 

For me, the King James Bible is comforting; it brings back fond memories of our family’s small African American Church of Christ in Sylvania, Georgia. The very first bible that I received after my baptism was a black Thompson Reference King James Bible, with the words of Jesus in red of course!  The King James Bible was with me as I began my ministry in the pulpit and will be with me on the day I deliver my last sermon from the pulpit. For African Americans, the KJV is much more than a translation of scripture. The KJV is our grandfather, father and mother, our friend in times of trouble, and our history as a people.”

- Reverend Jason Darden

Jamie Hazlitt is Outreach Librarian and Manifold Greatness program director at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA.


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 Queen James Bible

Queen James BibleLast week, a new adaptation of the King James Bible titled the Queen James Bible attracted considerable  media attention. A statement on the Bible’s website notes “The Queen James Bible seeks to resolve interpretive ambiguity in the Bible as it pertains to homosexuality.” Its editors have changed 8 verses: Genesis 19:5, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10 and Jude 1:7, amending each to remove anti-gay language.

One of the claims made on the Queen James Bible website is that James I, the royal sponsor of the King James Bible, was called “Queen James” during his lifetime due to his public affection for other men. While James did have many male favorites, including Robert Carr and George Villiers, his sexual preferences remain ambiguous. There is no historical evidence that James was referred to as “Queen James” by contemporaries, although one epigram noted “Rex fuit Elizabeth, nunc est regina Jacobus” (Elizabeth was King, now James is Queen). However, the epigram is apocryphal. Furthermore, whether the epigram is a comment on his sexuality, or the difference in governing style between James and his forceful cousin, remains unclear.  James and his wife, Anne of Denmark, had 7 children, although only 3 of them reached adulthood. In addition, Anne suffered several miscarriages. Within a few years of his marriage, James also became romantically linked to Lady Anne Murray, a Scottish noblewoman.

Whatever James’ sexual orientation may have been, the King James Bible is one of the definitive achievements of his reign, and its legacy continues to inspire Bible translation and interpretation today.

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.


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.


The Oral Character of the King James Bible

Bible. English. Authorized. London, 1611. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Bible. English. Authorized. London, 1611. Folger Shakespeare Library.

The year 2011 constituted the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Originally created by England’s Anglican Church, it became widely used by all Protestant denominations in America until the twentieth century, as both a pulpit and a personal Bible.

Despite the increasingly old-fashioned character of its language, it was not until the 1950s that a second translation, the Revised Standard Version, gained a foothold in American Protestantism.

Today, the King James Bible, also known as the KJB or KJV (the “V” is for “Version”), still has a revered place among Evangelical Protestantism. The Scofield Reference Bible, widely used among Evangelicals, relies upon it. And although the New International Version has recently gained popularity as a personal Bible, the KJB remains the pulpit Bible for many churches.

Of course, the Gideons continue to place a copy of the KJB in every hotel room in the United States. They believe that an individual alone can read the Bible and by themselves gain an understanding of God.

This attitude derives from the sixteenth-century declaration by the Reformer Martin Luther that the authority for true Christianity rested on “Scripture alone.” Since that time, Protestantism has envisioned each individual believer knowing the Bible. The ideal Christian became someone who read and studied their Bible extensively. Today, most devout Christians own a personal Bible, which they read regularly by themselves.

The achievement of this ideal within modern Evangelicalism has made us forget that for most of Christianity’s history, this ideal was impossible for all but a few. During 95% of its history, the overwhelming majority of Christians could not read.

Until the twentieth century, near universal literacy existed nowhere on earth. Only then, in Europe, did 90% of adults acquire the ability to read. In 1675, 64 years after the KJV’s publication, only about 45% of adult males in England could sign their name at their marriage; for women the percentage was significantly lower. Even in 1850, the best estimates put adult literacy in Europe at no more than 50%. American literacy rates were similar.During most of its history, then, the KJV functioned quite differently from the personal, private use so widespread today. When it was published, it was intended to be read aloud, and that was its primary use until the end of the nineteenth century.

People who can read the Bible gain a sense of its organization as a text and of its character as a physical object. They know how large it is, whether considered in number of words (lots), number of books (66), or just its size (fat). Those who become familiar with it learn the order of its books and develop a sense of the total amount of stories, moral tales, parables, law codes, admonitions and prophecies the book contains.

Those who only hear the Bible read and cannot read it for themselves learn about much of it contents, but they never gain a sense of the book as a written text. Because they are always dependent on a reader, they never acquire any direct access to the text itself.

They know its contents as the material is read to them over the years, in whatever order it is read and whatever passages are selected. They may develop a sense of organization from some of its longer stories, but most oral readings present shorter passages. Just reading a few chapters out loud can take nearly an hour. Hearers will not gain understanding of the Bible’s structure; it will seem an unorganized  collection to them.

Moreover, hearers will rarely gain a sense that they know everything in the Bible. They can always be surprised by some passage they have not heard before. Although many churches have a liturgical calendar that guides regular scripture reading, such calendars present selected readings rather than the entire Bible.

Furthermore, liturgical calendars often feature different readings from different places in Scripture together. The Anglican approach for each Sunday includes an Old Testament passage, a reading from the New Testament letters, and a selection from the Gospels.

So until the twentieth century, the success of the King James Bible came much more from its use for oral presentation of Scripture than from its use as a personal Bible. This is not surprising, for the poetic beauty of much of its language was intended to be heard. The oral hearing of the Bible gave Christians a different sense of Scripture from individual private reading. It is only by the mid-twentieth century, when most Christians can read the Bible by themselves, that a translation whose language is more up-to-date can make headway against the long-standing popularity of the KJB.

 Paul V.M. Flesher, Ph.D. is the Director of the Religious Studies Program at the University of Wyoming. The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition is on view at UW from October 7-31, 2012.


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.


A Scintillating Start to Manifold Greatness at the Sumter County Library

After a great deal of  planning, the traveling exhibition for Manifold Greatness is currently on view at the Sumter County Library in Sumter, SC. On Friday, July 13th, the Library presented an opening reception with remarks by Dr. Harry Singleton of Benedict College and Dr. Larry Watson of South Carolina State University.  The two scholars led a discussion focusing on the religious and political aspects involved in the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible. Dozens attended the event, including State Representative David Weeks and Sumter Mayor Joe McElveen. The Friends of the Sumter County Library graciously provided the funds for a wonderful spread of refreshments.

Dr. Larry Watson returned on Monday, July 16th to discuss Dr. Martin Luther King’s use of the King James Bible in his speeches and sermons, including the “I Have a Dream Speech” and his allusion to Amos 5:24 and Isaiah 40:4-5. (More on Dr. Martin Luther King and other examples of the King James Bible’ influence on contemporary culture can be seen on the Manifold Greatness website’s “Modern Life” timeline). During and after the discussion, Dr. Watson fielded numerous questions from an attentive audience. In addition to these events the Sumter County Library created a display of Family Bibles. These Bibles, which include a Greek New Testament Pocket Bible from 1822, were loaned courtesy of the Sumter County Museum.

On left, a 1852 Bible printed in London by the G.E. Eyre Company. On the right, a Bible printed in 1963 by the South Carolina Tract Society. Both items on loan from the Sumter County Museum. Image courtesy of the Sumter County Library.

In addition to the both the Manifold Greatness exhibit and Family Bible display, the Sumter County Library will put on a variety of events until the Closing Reception on Thursday, August 9th. These events include lectures by Dr. Valinda Littlefield and Dr. Harry Singleton, a King James Bible Quiz Bowl, King James Choir concert and an “Expressions” Art Show.

We look forward to these upcoming events and will send an update soon. In the meantime, please see our Photobucket account for pictures and YouTube channel for videos from this project:

http://www.photobucket.com/sumtercountylibrary

http:/www.youtube.com/sumtercountylibrary

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


Roadtripping with the King James Bible

Gallatin Mountain Range outside of Bozeman, MT. Photo by Amy Arden.

Gallatin Mountain Range outside of Bozeman, MT. Photo by Amy Arden.

Two years ago, I was in the midst of developing content for the Manifold Greatness website. During that summer, I also embarked on a cross-country road trip that had been on my bucket list for years. I drove from Washington, DC, south to Texas, then north to Montana, and then all the way back.

In the weeks leading up to my departure I spent hours thinking about what I would need and what should make the final cut for my packing list. I was traveling relatively light, my goal more in line with being a modern-day pioneer than with bringing along every comfort of home. I had camping gear, an ultra-light stove, a laptop and camera to record my experiences, and a few choice books. One of them was a copy of the King James Bible.

As an earlier post noted, many settlers carried family Bibles with them as they traveled westward. For my own personal journey, I wanted a book that reflected that period and the leaps of faith that traveling to a new destination required.

Admittedly, I did not own a copy of the King James Bible before my trip. And I wasn’t looking for just any copy – I wanted one that had existed in the 1870s and 1880s, the heyday of the Western frontier. In order to find one, I visited antique book stores and browsed online.

I finally located the Bible that would travel nearly 6,000 miles with me at an antiquarian bookseller based in New York City. (Thank you, AbeBooks.) It had been printed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1858. Inside, a woman has signed her name. Part of the signature is difficult to read, but it looks like “Mrs. Anne Pattison.”

King James Bible. Glasgow, 1858. Private collection. Photo by Julie Ainsworth.

With its tooled black leather binding and a perfect size for transporting, I was instantly convinced that I had found the right Bible. The little book piqued my curiosity as well. Who was Anne Pattison, and how had her book come to the United States? Had she herself moved to America? Was it passed along through a family member? Or was it merely another old book traveling between sellers’ inventories?

Regardless of how it got here, having it with me seemed fitting. One evening at a campground in Oklahoma, as the families around me were settling in for the night, I took it out and read a passage. 140 years ago, had someone done the same? Holding that artifact in my hands, I felt uncannily connected to the past, and to my pioneer doppelganger, if she had existed.

 If you’d like to know more about my 2010 roadtrip, please visit my trip blog, the Outside Fringe, here.

 

 

 

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


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.


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.


A Curator Looks at 400

Steven Galbraith. Photo by Ryan Jenq.

Steven Galbraith. Photo by Ryan Jenq.

Thinking about the one-year anniversary of Manifold Greatness takes me back to August 2009 and a balcony overlooking the ocean at Bethany Beach, DE. Miles from the Folger, my mind was more in Margaritaville than Jacobean England, but I owed Hannibal Hamlin a phone call regarding the King James Bible. A few days earlier we had met with my Folger colleagues regarding plans for the KJV’s 400th anniversary. We agreed to co-curate a Folger exhibition in 2011, but as ideas flew around the room, the scope of the exhibition grew and grew. There was talk of partnerships, grants, websites, and traveling exhibitions.

In some ways this is the most exciting moment in the life of an exhibition: the moment when you think as creatively as you can, without yet worrying about what might not be possible. The KJV anniversary was clearly going to be a bigger project than we had first imagined. I think that I can speak for both Hannibal and myself in admitting that although it was exciting, it was also pretty overwhelming. We agreed to talk everything through in a few days. I left the library for the beach.

Fast forward to this past fall. Like Hannibal, who recently shared his reflections on the one-year anniversary of the exhibition, I was inspired by our meeting last fall with representatives from the exhibition’s host sites. As I stood before this amazing group of people and heard their plans for their exhibitions, it really dawned on me that the exhibition on which we all had been working was really about to launch. With the Folger Shakespeare Library, the NEH, and all of these dynamic librarians, curators, and educators putting their efforts behind the exhibition, I knew things could only go well.

A year in and I am thrilled by the reach of Manifold Greatness. So far the exhibition has traveled to eighteen sites (counting the larger exhibitions at the Folger, the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin).  The Folger exhibition broke previous attendance records and the turnout at the exhibition sites has been very impressive. We are so thankful for all the support. The blog itself has been visited 30,948 times. Thank you for reading!

I couldn’t have seen any of this three years ago from my perch looking out over the ocean. When I did phone Hannibal we talked at length about how fun it was going to be to work together and agreed that we wouldn’t let things get too overwhelming. We were right on one count!  But from my vantage point the future looked pretty promising.

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.


Manifold Greatness at Whitworth University: A Community Effort

A display of family Bibles and certificates for recording births, deaths, and marriages. Courtesy Whitworth University.

A display of Bibles, including one owned by George Whitworth, the founder of Whitworth University, and certificates for recording births, deaths, and marriages. Courtesy Whitworth University.

As Whitworth University Library prepares to pack up the Manifold Greatness exhibit, we have the opportunity to reflect on the community support we have received. Our community partners, and the people who visited the exhibition, have truly made Manifold Greatness at Whitworth University a success!

The Spokane County Library district , which partnered with Whitworth to promote the Manifold Greatness exhibition, hosted programs related to the Bible and Culture at two of their branch libraries. A speaker from Whitworth University asked for audience input about the Biblical themes portrayed in advertising. Audiences were surprised to learn that in some Jewish traditions, Cain is considered the son of Eve and the serpent (the serpent seed), rather than the son of Adam and Eve. This interpretation comes into play in an advertisement for Smirnoff Green Apple Twist, in which the serpent (a female) appears to be seducing Adam.

Gonzaga University Library’s Special Collections contributed items for the Manifold Greatness exhibit room. One such item is a Franklin Mint reproduction of the Thompson Medallic Bible, a group of 60 sterling silver medals depicting famous artists’ rendering of Biblical stories on one side and accompanying scripture (text from the King James Bible) on the other side.

Reproduction of the Thompson Medallic Bible. Image courtesy of Whitworth University.

The Spokane Public Library’s Northwest History Room hosted a display entitled “Early Religious Texts,” showcasing a collection of rare Bibles, psalm books, and other religious tools and texts.  The collection includes a 1475 transcript of Peter Lombard’s Four Books of Sentences, complete with chains to ensure it would not be stolen. The Four Books of Sentences was a classic theology textbook in medieval universities.

Whitworth University Library’s Special Collections displayed a Bible used by traveling salespeople to show customers the many customizable features available to them. There are sample covers and sample leather colors in addition to the illustrations, concordances, and other features included in the Bible. The Bible contains a ledger in which the salesperson can keep an accounting of the names of people who ordered a Bible and how much they agreed to pay. One of the sample covers matches the cover of a Bible owned by George Whitworth, the founder of Whitworth University.

We have been fortunate to have church groups (some who traveled more than 100 miles!), school groups, and retirement community groups view the exhibit and attend programs. This, of course, is in addition to the campus community, including faculty, staff, and students. The exhibition’s schedule gives Whitworth University an additional opportunity to reach a wider audience on the eve of  Commencement with families of graduating students, alumni groups, and trustees also on campus. The exhibit is richer as a result of the community involvement and support we have received. Thank you to all who have contributed and spread the word about Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible at Whitworth University!

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


Special Collections Take Center Stage at Saint Michael’s College

Rare Bibles from the collections of Middlebury College Special Collections, the University of Vermont Special Collections and Saint Michael’s College.  Clockwise from Top left: King James Version 1629; first Bible printed in state of Vermont 1812; Luther Bible 1696; incunable Bible 1477-78, Geneva Bible 1596-97; Geneva Bible 1644.

Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT.

The exhibition of Manifold Greatness at Saint Michael’s College’s Durick Library is off to a great start.  We actually kicked of the events before the exhibit even arrived in Vermont! In March, the University of Vermont Special Collections opened up with an exhibit of their rare Bibles, including their 1613 KJB.  A bit later in the month, they hosted a panel discussion entitled “Authorized Versions: Perspectives on the King James Bible.”  In this panel discussion, three UVM faculty members offered theological, historical, and literary perspectives on the coming of the King James Bible and its place in the early modern world.  Anne Clark spoke on “Before the King James: Medieval Bibles and Their Users”; Charles F. Briggs spoke on “The Problematic Publishing Background of the Bible in English, from Wyclif through the Mid-Sixteenth Century”; and Andrew Barnaby added a bit of drama to the mix, speaking on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and the King James Bible.  This well-attended session was an excellent introduction to the King James Bible, and had us anxiously awaiting the official opening of the Manifold Greatness exhibition!  

Instead of simply hanging around waiting for the panels to arrive, we got working on the complementary exhibits we had planned.  Library staff put together several displays from our circulating collections—one featuring scholarship related to the King James Version, another focused on the Catholic Reformation and Counter Reformation,  and a third featuring some of the more interesting contemporary Bibles in our collection.  

Rare Bibles from the collections of Middlebury College Special Collections, the University of Vermont Special Collections and Saint Michael’s College. Clockwise from Top left: King James Version 1629; first Bible printed in state of Vermont 1812; Luther Bible 1696; incunable Bible 1477-78, Geneva Bible 1596-97; Geneva Bible 1644. Courtesy of Saint Michael’s College.

In our rare book cases, we have complementary exhibits of rare books from our collections and with donations from the University of Vermont Special Collections and Middlebury College.  Their wonderful additions to the display included a Rheims New Testament from 1582, a 1629 King James Version, an incunable Bible printed by Nicolaus Gotz in 1477-78, and the first Holy Bible published in the state of Vermont, published in 1812 in Windsor, VT.  Among our own collection of Catholic Reformation and Counter Reformation works, we have on display Tridentine Catechisms and a lovely Missale Romanum, a Graduale Romanum for the Tridentine Mass, that are fine examples of two of the major reforms of the Council of Trent.  One of the more interesting titles on display is Locorum Catholicorum tum sacrae scripturae, tum etiam antiquorum patrum, por orthodoxa, et vetere fide retinenda, septem, by Francisco Horantio (Orantes) printed in Venice in 1564.  This text discusses the importance of seven Deutero-canonical (or Apocryphal) books of the Bible and includes an “ardent” refutation of John Calvin’s arguments against the veneration of the Saints. 

By the time the panels themselves arrived in the library the day after Easter, the other exhibits were in place.  Saint Michael’s students were away for the long Easter weekend, so they did not have to watch us dismantle some of the most favored group study spots in the library!  Although it is a significant change from the study tables, the exhibit panels fills in the space quite nicely.  It will be sad to see Manifold Greatness close next week.

Elizabeth B. Scott is an Archivist at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT.


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.


Manifold Greatness meets Mind & Heart at Whitworth University

Prof. James Edwards speaks about the King James Bible at Whitworth University. Photo courtesy Whitworth University.

At Whitworth University, the Manifold Greatness exhibit dovetails nicely with the university’s mission to promote “an education of mind & heart.” As a faith-based liberal arts institution, we place high value on knowledge that addresses both intellectual and spiritual issues, much like the King James Bible was both an intellectual and a religious endeavor. Our Special Collections at the library include a Pacific Northwest Protestantism collection, and one of the university’s exhibit items is a Geneva Bible printed in 1611. Gonzaga University, one of our community partners, has also contributed a Douay-Rheims Bible for display.

At our first event on April 19, we listened to Whitworth Professor of Theology James R. Edwards speak about the translation teams’ commitment to providing an English translation that incorporated good scholarship with sound theology. Moreover, Dr. Edwards emphasized, the translators ensured that the King James Bible was stylistically superior, thanks in large part to other English translations that had come before it. Translators acknowledged their indebtedness to their predecessors and strove to make the King James translation the cream of an already superior crop.  They, too, were interested in providing a translation that engaged both the mind and heart.

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.


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