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.

Posts tagged “Bible

Changing Images of the Bible in Art

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

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

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

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

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

Curator David Steel speaks on The Bible in Art

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

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

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

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


Casiodoro de Reina and the Bear Bible

1569

La Biblia. Basel, 1569. Folger.

Yesterday was March 15, the anniversary of the death of Casiodoro de Reina (ca. 1520–1594). And that made us think of the Bear Bible, or Biblia del Oso, first published in 1569. The translation was largely the work of de Reina, a Spanish Reformer who began his religious life as a monk in the monastery of San Isidoro outside of Seville.

Persuaded by the writings of Martin Luther, de Reina fled Spain when he aroused the suspicions of the Inquisition. After a brief stay in Geneva, which he found uncongenial, de Reina traveled to England. In 1559 he became the pastor of the Spanish Protestant exile community in London, who worshipped at the church of St. Mary Axe, named after a neighboring tavern whose sign bore the image of an axe.

Seemingly trumped up due to the machinations of Spanish agents, accusations against de Reina included an astonishing array of crimes, among them dishonesty, embezzlement, immoral conduct with female congregants, and sodomy, as well as doctrinal and ecclesiastical errors. He fled England with his family in 1563 and devoted himself to the translation of the Bible, as well as to writings criticizing the Inquisition.

1569 Bear Bible

La Biblia. Basel, 1569. Folger.

There had been earlier Bibles in Spanish, but de Reina’s, first printed in Basel, was the most influential. The de Reina Bible was revised in 1602 by Cipriano de Valera, originally a member of the same monastic order as de Reina, who was, from 1559, a professor at the University of Cambridge.

Though it was revised again several times up to the twentieth century, this Spanish Protestant translation is still known, and still in use, as the Reina-Valera Bible. It has a status among Spanish Protestants somewhat equivalent to that of the King James Bible among English speakers. The charming printer’s mark of the bear climbing a tree for honey identifies the work of the Bern printer Mattias Apiarius, whose name (in his native German, “Biener”) means “beekeeper.”

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


Pioneering Spirits

Bible. Holman’s Edition, published by M.C. Lilley & Co. in Columbus, OH.
On loan from the Winfield Masonic Lodge #110 the Free and Accepted Masons of Kansas. Image courtesy of Winfield Public Library.

The Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Winfield Public Library displayed two rarely-seen pulpit Bibles, and these items drew considerable attention over the course of the exhibition. The Bibles are associated with two prominent men—Colonel Henry C. Loomis and John Peter “J.P.” Baden—who shaped the early history of Winfield, KS.

Bible. Holman’s Edition, published by M.C. Lilley & Co. in Columbus, OH.
On loan from the Winfield Masonic Lodge #110 the Free and Accepted Masons of Kansas. Image courtesy of Winfield Public Library.

Soldier, Pioneer, and Gentleman: Colonel Henry C. Loomis 

Born in Cattaraugus County, NY in 1834, Henry Loomis grew up in a farming family and inherited an interest in military life from his grandfather, a veteran of the Revolutionary War.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Loomis served in Company C., 64th N.Y. Infantry and was commissioned as a first lieutenant.  At the Battle of Fair Oaks in June 1862, Lt. Loomis received severe wounds while leading his company in a charge against Confederates soldiers.

Loomis was ordered home to convalesce, and during his recovery, he helped recruit and organize the 154th N.Y. Infantry. He eventually received a commission as a Lieutenant Colonel before leaving the Army and heading West.

As he traveled westward in search of new opportunities, Loomis heard of a perspective opening of the Osage Indian Reservation in the new state of Kansas. Loomis found the valley near the Walnut River near present-day Winfield attractive, and paid the Osage chief $5.00 to stay on his squatter’s claim of 160 acres. Winfield now occupies 100 acres out of the original 160 settled by Henry Loomis.

As one of the founders of the town, Loomis has been first and foremost in every enterprise that would build up and improve Winfield.  Loomis helped organize the county, served as its first county clerk, became a member of the first board of trade, helped secure railroad lines through Cowley County, and served two terms as mayor in 1896. Loomis was made a Master Mason in 1862 and remained a member for forty-three years, advancing to the thirty-third or highest degree.   He died in Winfield and is buried in the town’s Union-Graham Cemetery. His copy of the King James Bible, along with a photograph of Loomis in his Templar uniform, was displayed.

J.P. Baden Memorial Bible. Levant morocco- bound pulpit King James Bible presented to J.P. Baden Memorial Lutheran Church as a memorial to J. P Baden by his wife on January 28, 1906. On loan from Trinity Lutheran church in Winfield, KS. Image courtesy Winfield Public Library.

Enterprising Industrialist and Founder of St. Johns College: J.P. Baden

John Peter Baden was born 1851 in Elsdorf, Germany.  At the age of 15, he sailed on the Richard Reihe and landed in New York City in 1866.  He went to live with his brother in Hannibal, MO to learn the English language and to become a United States citizen.  After working and saving money, J.P., as he came to be know, traveled to Kansas and opened a business in Winfield in 1879.

As a young entrepreneur, Baden operated a packing plant that became one of the largest in the West and handled the bulk of poultry, game, eggs, butter and produce of southern Kansas, Oklahoma, and what was then a part of the Indian Territory. He also owned an ice plant and cold storage facility, and a roller mill and elevator for processing grain. His business ventures proved very successful, as Baden possessed notable talent in making money while simultaneously leading a modest lifestyle.  He poured his profits back into trade, stimulating business and giving work to the unemployed.

J.P. Baden and his wife, Adelaide, brought the first Lutheran church services to Winfield and also established St. John’s College.  The college was founded in 1893 and was the first Evangelical Lutheran College of higher education to admit women. It operated for over a century before closing in 1986. The City of Winfield later purchased the St. John’s College site and renamed it Baden Square.  The Winfield Public Library now occupies one of the buildings on Baden Square, and it seems fitting to display a Bible owned by the college’s founder on the very site that he played such a role in creating.

Sue Birney is the Adult Special Services Librarian at Winfield Public Library in Winfield, KS.


The Sauer Bible

"Biblia, Das ist: Die Heilige Schrift Alten und Neuen Testaments, Nach der Deutschen Übersetzung D. Martin Luther". Courtesy Rochester Institute of Technology.

Whenever a librarian or curator begins working at a new library, he or she is given the overwhelming, though gratifying, challenge of getting to know the collection. When I was in library school, my advisor John Ellison gave me sound advice that when I start any new job to spend time afterhours and during breaks just browsing the stacks until I felt comfortable in my new surroundings. I’ve since made this a habit.

When I first arrived at RIT’s Cary Graphic Arts Collection last September, a great many books called to me from the shelves, but one book in particular really beckoned.  Here’s what I saw:

“Biblia, Das ist: Die Heilige Schrift Alten und Neuen Testaments, Nach der Deutschen Übersetzung D. Martin Luther”. Courtesy Rochester Institute of Technology.

 I happen to love books that are missing their binding material.  Though they can be a challenge to handle, they are great examples to use when teaching bookbinding and the anatomy of books.  From a distance, the book looked early to me, perhaps sixteenth-century.  When I opened it, however, I quickly realized it was a later German Bible.  Its title page was missing (a common ailment in early Bibles), so I moved forward to the beginning of the New Testament, which often has its own title page. 

Two things jumped off the New Testament title page: “Saur” and “1743.” 

“Biblia, Das ist: Die Heilige Schrift Alten und Neuen Testaments, Nach der Deutschen Übersetzung D. Martin Luther”. Courtesy Rochester Institute of Technology.

 How exciting!  This book was a copy of the first edition of “The Sauer Bible.” In an earlier post,  Hannibal Hamlin mentioned John Eliot’s missionary Bible translated into the Native American language Massachusett and Robert Aitken’s “Revolutionary” Bible produced during the American Revolutionary War.”

Printed in 1663 and 1782, respectively, these were the first and third Bibles printed in the United States.  Both appeared in the Folger’s Manifold Greatness exhibition. The Sauer Bible could have as well.  Historically, it rests between Eliot’s Massachusett Bible and Aitken’s “Revolutionary” Bible, as the second Bible printed in the United States and the first Bible printed in America in a European language.

The Sauer Bible takes its name from Christoph Sauer, a German immigrant and printer in Germantown, PA who in 1743 sought to publish a Luther Bible in German for the waves of immigrants that were making their homes in Pennsylvania.

When in the fall of 2013, the Cary Collection attempts its own Bible exhibition, this copy of the Sauer Bible will certainly be featured as an important artifact in the history of the Bible in America.  For more on this topic, I would recommend Hannibal Hamlin’s essay “The King James Bible in America” from the Manifold Greatness exhibition catalog.

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.


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.


From Geneva to Mobile

1583 Geneva Bible owned by Robert S. Edington.  Also known as the "Breeches Bible," in reference to the Genesis iii:7 passage regarding Adam and Eve clothing themselves in "breeches" made from fig leaves.   Photo courtesy of Mobile Public Library.

As part of the Mobile Public Library’s recent showing of the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition, local residents and universities lent rare Bibles that were included in the display.

Mobile resident Robert S. Edington provided a 1583 Geneva Bible, which is also known as the “Breeches Bible.”  “Breeches Bible” is a book collector’s term for the Geneva Bible, which was first printed 1560. The term derives from the reference in Genesis iii: 7 to Adam and Eve clothing themselves in “breeches” made from fig leaves.

The Geneva Bible was one of the results of the persecution under infamous Queen Mary I, popularly known as “Bloody Mary” (1553-1558). Several of the Protestant reformers had fled to Geneva, Switzerland, to escape persectuion in England.  Geneva was a free city, politically and religiously, dominated by Calvinism, the “cradle of the Reformed Faith” and a haven for religious reformists.

1583 Geneva Bible owned by Robert S. Edington. Also known as the "Breeches Bible," in reference to the Genesis iii:7 passage regarding Adam and Eve clothing themselves in "breeches" made from fig leaves. Photo courtesy of Mobile Public Library.

The Geneva Bible offered the first new English translation of the Bible in nearly 20 years. Many of the previous translations also had their inceptions  under duress, such as William Tyndale’s work producing the New Testament at a time when English translations of the Bible were prohibited. Tyndale suffered execution as a result.  For more information on the volatile history of English translations of the Bible, visit The Crown and the Bible on the Manifold Greatness website.

Spring Hill College contributed several Bibles to the exhibition, including a Gutenberg Bible facsimile that was produced in 1961. The Gutenberg Bible, known also as the Mazarin Bible and the 42-Line Bible, is a Latin edition of the Bible, printed at Mainz, Germany, sometime between 1450 and 1456. Although German bibliographers claim that it was printed by the German printer Johann Gutenberg, the edition may have been finished and perfected by Johann Fust, a wealthy financier who gained Gutenberg’s share of the business in a lawsuit; and Peter Schöffer, Gutenberg’s assistant. The book is the first volume known to have been printed with movable metal type.

1512 Vulgate Bible and 1871 Luther Bible on loan by Spring Hill College. Photo courtesy of Mobile Public Library.

The College also provided a 1512 Vulgate Bible, a 1546 Hebraica Biblica (Hebrew-Latin Bible), and a 1871 Luther Bible.  The Vulgate is a early translation of the Bible into Latin, originally undertaken in the 4th century. It remained the standard translation of the Bible for centuries, and was widely used throughout the middle ages. The Luther Bible is based on a translation by Martin Luther and was first published in 1534. Over 300 years later, his translation remained important enough for an edition to be printed in 1871.  

In addition, the University of Mobile lent several Bibles.  Local residents Clyde and Ira Jenkins displayed their 1949 New Standard Reference Bible, and Robert Hyde showed his grandmother’s 1869 American Bible Society version.

A family Bible owned by Clyde and Ira Jenkins. 1949 New Standard Reference Edition. Photo courtesy of Mobile Public Library.

Amber Guy is a public relations officer at Mobile Public Library, which hosted the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition from February 29 to March 30, 2012.


The Truth Shall Set You Free

The Main Building at the University of Texas, Austin with the inscription “Ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free.” Photo by Marsha Miller.

This week the Manifold Greatness exhibition is once again on the road, traveling to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin; Hope College in  Holland, MI; Mid-Columbia Library District, in Kennewick, WA ; and Mobile Public Library in Mobile, AL.  

Danielle Brune Sigler of the Harry Ransom Center is co-curator of “The King James Bible: Its History and Influence,” a variation of the Manifold Greatness exhibition.  This week, she blogs on common phrases from the King James Bible and how the book has influenced contemporary culture, from the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Robert De Niro’s tattoos in the film Cape Fear.

“The King James translation has left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of English-speaking people throughout the world,” she writes.

Read her complete blog post here.

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

 


Family Bibles in Mississippi

A richly illustrated family Bible. Courtesy William Carey University.

Manifold Greatness arrived at the William Carey University Library in Hattiesburg, MS , in January. One of the highlights of the exhibition to date has been a “Family Bibles Road Show.” The program featured a workshop on the care and preservation of family Bibles. Community members brought about a dozen family Bibles to be photographed for the exhibit. These treasured heirlooms, held together with tape, bound with faded ribbon, or enclosed in a box, were carefully opened and examined. And what interesting things we discovered!

Two of the Bibles contained Family Temperance Pledge documents, designed to be signed by family members who “solemnly promise by the grace of God to abstain from the use of all intoxicating drinks as a beverage.” Neither of the Family Temperance Pledge documents in our Bibles was signed, but we heard rumors of a temperance pledge in another family Bible which was signed by two individuals, who, upon further reflection or perhaps after a nice apertif, crossed out their names!

Family Temperance Pledge, unsigned. Courtesy of William Carey University.

 Another family Bible, an 1815 American imprint, had multiple pages of family birth, death, and marriage dates. Clearly visible water stains in the text were explained by a family legend, which held that the ancestor who acquired the Bible was forced to flee from pursuing Indians as he returned home with his new purchase. At the height of the chase, he dropped his Bible into the creek, but fortunately, was able to retrieve it.

Still another family Bible was noted to have won the Highest Prize Diploma of Merit at the International Cotton Exposition in Atlanta in 1881. And another, found in the Clarence Dickinson Collection in the William Carey University Library, was Dickinson’s family Bible. Dickinson, who was a pioneer in the training of church musicians in the early 20th century, was a cousin of poet Emily Dickinson.

The “Road Show” revealed fascinating local lore in family Bibles.  Photographs of these treasured Bibles have become a popular supplement to the Manifold Greatness panels at William Carey University. 

Sherry Laughlin is Director of Libraries at William Carey University.


The Bible and Othello

Owiso Odera as Othello in Folger Theatre's 2011 production. Photo by James Kegley.

Like all of Shakespeare’s plays, Othello contains many significant allusions to the Bible, the book he could count on most members of his audience knowing best. Shakespeare most often alludes to the Geneva Bible, a copy of which he surely owned, but he also knew the Bishops’ Bible and the Coverdale Psalms from the Book of Common Prayer, since he heard them in church. (As noted in our Manifold Greatness website FAQs, Shakespeare was not influenced by the later King James Bible.)

Most people today think of Othello as a play about race. This has been a common view for decades. Indeed, U.S. President John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) thought the play a failure because of its representation of a young Venetian girl making “a runaway match with a blackamoor.” The play was a hit in the pre-Civil War South, since it offered, so it was believed, a lesson in the dangers of miscegenation. Audience react to the play differently today, but they still focus on race.

Tragedy of Othello (quarto). 1622. Folger.

In Shakespeare’s day, before the expansion of the transatlantic slave trade, what was most risqué about Othello was not race but religion. Othello is a Christian, it’s true, but he is descended from Muslims. Shakespeare’s subtitle The Moor of Venice would have suggested Islam as well as blackness. And the conflict that threatens Venice in the play is with the Muslim Turks.

One of the most overt biblical allusions in Othello is in Iago’s early speech, when he says to Roderigo, “I am not what I am.” At first hearing, this sounds like Viola’s coy remark in Twelfth Night, “I am not that I play.” But it’s more complex.

Iago’s statement is actually logically impossible. How can anyone not be what they are? The key is that Iago is parodying God’s naming of himself to Moses in Exodus: “I am that I am.” It’s not a name, really, but a statement of God’s eternal sameness and essential being. Iago inverts this, which implies something essential unstable or even empty about him.

Owiso Odera, Ian Merrill Peakes. Othello, Folger Theatre, 2011. Photo: James Kegley.

Another important reference to the Bible comes at the end of the play when Othello says that he, “like the base Judean, threw away a pearl richer than all his tribe.” (Though some editors argue for “Indian” rather than “Judean.”) The “Judean” in question is Judas, who, according to the note in the Geneva Bible (with the later “Tomson” New Testament), was of the tribe of Judah. The “pearl” Judas threw away was Jesus, whom he betrayed, and who was also of the tribe of Judah. Because he has betrayed and murdered Desdemona, Othello is thus likening himself to the greatest betrayer in Christian history.

Othello later says to Desdemona’s body, “I kiss’d thee ere I kill’d thee.” A biblical literature audience might hear this as an echo of Judas’s kiss, which identified Jesus to the chief priests and elders.

The Folger Theatre production of Othello opens October 18 and runs through November 27. Othello was performed at James I’s court in 1604, the year that work began on the 1611 King James Bible; scholars believe Shakespeare wrote the play in 1603 or 1604.

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


KJB on the go! The Bodleian’s new mobile app

The Making of the King James Bible (Toura), Bodleian Libraries app

It’s hard to envision what the original King James Bible translators would have made of it, or exactly how one would even begin to explain it to one of them if a time machine were available, but the Bodleian Libraries have just released their first mobile app: “The Making of the King James Bible,” available for iPhone, iPad, and Android-based devices.

To quote the Bodleian’s own press release: “The app is being launched to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the Bible’s publication and the Bodleian’s summer exhibition, Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible (until 4 September).” Like the exhibition, the app “brings together, for the first time, many of the books and documents that lay behind the King James Bible translation.”

Among numerous highlights, including images of many items from the exhibition, the app includes comments from the Oxford curators, readings from the King James Bible translation, and Evensong performed by the choir at Corpus Christi College.


Curt Wittig: In Appreciation

Messiah. London, 1749(?), Folger.

We were saddened to learn of the death of recording engineer Curt Wittig, who contributed in a very significant way to the Handel’s Messiah portion of our Manifold Greatness website. Composer James Primosch has this tribute on his blog, with additional links.

Soon after starting work on the Manifold Greatness website, we discovered that Handel’s Messiah—which, as we have previously noted, takes most of its text from the King James Bible—had been performed in 1991 by the Choir of Oxford’s Magdalen College and the Folger Consort, the resident early music ensemble of the Folger Shakespeare Library. The 1991 Folger-Oxford performance was a nice parallel to Manifold Greatness, a joint project of the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford, with assistance from the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas.

Recordings of the three 1991 performances were thus a natural source for audio clips to be included in the Handel’s Messiah portion of the website. Archival recordings of multiple concerts in a public space cannot simply be used as-is, however. Curt, the long-standing audio engineer for the Folger Consort, came to the rescue. Having made the original recordings of the 1991 concerts, he worked closely with us last year to edit clips from the multiple performances, while also suggesting the best segments of the work to use from an audio perspective. His meticulous and thoughtful edits now make it possible for website visitors to hear how Handel and his librettist Charles Jennens set the words of the King James Bible to music, producing a work that has become so widely performed that it may well be the primary way in which many people hear the language of the King James Bible today.

You can hear Curt’s audio excerpts from the Messiah here.

 


The Wicked Bible


Folger exhibitions draw primarily on Folger collections, but are often supplemented with items loaned from other libraries and museums. Most of the time the process goes smoothly, but every exhibition has its challenges. Manifold Greatness has had a few challenges, ranging from chasing down Bibles belonging to presidents and reggae musicians, to finding a pulpit and pew to put in the Great Hall.  Then there’s the Wicked Bible…

Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) edition of the King James Bible is an edition from 1631 that has come to be known as the “Wicked Bible” due to a rather outrageous typo in the ten commandments. Instead of having “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” the Wicked Bible has “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Quite a difference!  Even the King, Charles I, took notice and saw to it that the book’s printers, Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, were severely fined. Copies of the book were recalled and thus very few survive.

That very few copies survive made it a challenge for us to find one for the Folger exhibition. Finding a Wicked Bible turned out to be a rather wicked endeavor. After a few failed attempts, we finally found a copy with a willing lender: our partner in Manifold Greatness, the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford!

Steven Galbraith, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Books, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


The Museum of Biblical Art

The Museum of Biblical Art in New York, NY  is commemorating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bibles with an exhibition, “On Eagles’ Wings: The King James Bible Turns Four Hundred,” that begins today, July 8, and runs through October 16, 2011.  “The exhibition will present the touchstones of the translation process examining how this work was and continues to be inspirational for various audiences over time.” Considering the rich collections of the Museum and the American Bible Society, this exhibition should be excellent.  A unique feature of the exhibition will be a series of paintings by contemporary artist Makoto Fujimura, commissioned for Crossway Publishers’ new edition of the English Standard Version of the Bible.

Tomorrow, July 9, the American Bible Society will host a symposium featuring: Dr. David Norton, Dr. Scot McKnight, Dr. Euan K. Cameron, and Dr. Marlon Winedt. This will be followed by a screening of “KJB: The Book that Changed the World” and a discussion with the film’s director Norman Stone.

Steven Galbraith, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Books, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


Of Presidents and King James Bibles: Ronald Reagan

Ronald and Nancy Reagan with Jane Weinberger, chair of Folger trustees, at the Folger 50th anniversary. Photo: Bruce Wodder

Ronald Wilson Reagan, who died on June 5 in 2004, was one of numerous American presidents sworn in on a King James Bible, a tradition begun (as noted in an earlier post) by none other than George Washington. In Reagan’s case, as in many others, the Bible in question offers us something of a snapshot of American social history and family life, or at least the life of a particular family.

The Bible Reagan used, plainly visible in an inauguration photograph in the Historic American Bibles feature of the Manifold Greatness website, was his mother’s Bible. A relatively slender, much worn copy, it is known today as the Wilson Bible after the maiden name of his mother, Nelle Wilson Reagan. President Reagan used the same Bible for both of his inaugurations, and also spoke about it in a Mother’s Day radio address in 1983.

To make sure it was a King James Bible, rather than another English Bible translation, we checked with the curators at the Reagan Presidential Library. We were delighted when they quickly e-mailed us a scan of the title page, which confirms its use of the “Text of the Authorized Version,” another term for the King James Bible, and provides other interesting details as well.

Clearly meant as a family Bible (“for every home,” as stated on the title page), this King James Bible was published by John Dickson Publishing Company of Chicago under the title The New Indexed Bible. Like many family Bibles sold for the purpose, it included numerous additional educational features, including not only the promised indexes—biographical, geographic, historical, and “teaching”—but pronunciation guides and photographs of biblical locations. (For more on the phenomenon of family Bible publishing in the 1800s and early 1900s, see our feature on Family Bibles.)

As with many family Bibles, however, what was apparently most treasured were not those extra features included by the publisher, but rather the handwritten notes added over time. Of this Bible, President Reagan said in his radio comments, “it has its flyleaf filled with important events, its margins are scrawled with insights and passages underlined for emphasis. My mother, Nelle, made all those marks in that book.”


Mythbusters 2: May 2 Publication Date of KJV

Queen Elizabeth I (Penelope Rahming) and Sir Derek Jacobi cut Shakespeare’s birthday cake at the Folger Shakespeare Library, April 2008. Claire Duggan.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about the King James Bible. (See my earlier post on Shakespeare as translator.) On both sides of the Atlantic, people are celebrating today as the publication date of the KJV. Even Garrison Keiller has used the date in his Writer’s Almanac. The date even seems to have a certain venerable tradition, since the date is noted as far back as 1866 in A Reference Book for English History by Alexander Charles Ewald. It’s been in lists of famous dates ever since.

The problem is that it’s not true. Never mind that there’s no documentary record of May 2 as a publication date — the more important point is that the whole notion of a “publication date” did not exist in 1611. Even pinning down the year of publication of books can be tricky. Some were given fake imprints with falsified dates (many 17th century Geneva Bibles, for instance). In other cases, especially with a book as huge as the Bible, printing took a rather long time, and it is not at all clear when the finished product was finally made available to the public.

The one record that does help approach the time of publication is the Stationers’ Register, but there’s no record of the KJV, because it was considered a revision, not an original book. David Norton, who knows more than anyone about the text and printing of the KJV, describes it as having appeared sometime between March 1611 and February 1612 (the earlier system of dating, beginning the New Year on March 25, is a further complication). So it’s actually possible the KJV didn’t come out in 1611 at all!

We are uncomfortable with uncertainty, it seems, especially anniversaries. Look at Shakespeare’s birthday (photo above!). No one knows on which day in late April he was born, for the simple reason that all we have is a baptismal record, not a birth certificate (there wasn’t such a thing). We want to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, though, and April 23 appeals for two reasons: he died on April 23, and we like the symmetry of matching birth and death dates; and April is St. George’s Day, patron saint of England.

It doesn’t seem that May 2 has any particular associations, but we do want to a day to celebrate. Never mind if it’s the right one.

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


George Washington starts a tradition

George Washington started so many presidential traditions that you may not be surprised to learn he began the custom of using a Bible (and often, a King James Bible) to take the oath of office, too, on this date, April 30, in 1789. With the capital city of Washington, DC, not even established, Washington’s first inauguration took place at Federal Hall in New York City.

Library of Congress

Just before the ceremony, there was a brief crisis when it was discovered that nobody had brought a Bible. A local Masonic lodge came to the rescue by lending its own King James Bible, a handsome 1767 edition with 300 steel engravings. The same Bible, still owned by the lodge, has since been used at numerous ceremonies, including the inaugurations of Presidents Harding, Eisenhower, Carter, and George H.W. Bush.

Although there are older images of the Washington Bible, we were very pleased to work with the lodge as we produced the Manifold Greatness website to obtain new, never-before-published photographs, one of which appears in the Historic American Bibles image gallery. The gallery includes images of other inaugural Bibles, too, as well as a King James Bible that came over on the Mayflower, one owned by the abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass, and more.

As recounted in Paul Gutjahr’s book An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777-1880 (1999), a fifteen-year-old girl at Washington’s inauguration recorded the event in her diary: “Chancellor Livingston read the form of oath prescribed by the Constitution; Washington repeated it, resting his hand upon the Bible. Mr. Otis, secretary of the Senate, then took the Bible to raise it to the lips of Washington who stooped to kiss the book.” Someone else, Gutjahr notes, marked which passage the new president had kissed.

For more about the Washington Bible, see our Links list, which includes links to the Masonic lodge and to the National Park site where the Bible is sometimes displayed. For other books related to the King James Bible, consult our Suggested Reading list.


A Tale of Two Pelicans

Bible binding with Folger pelican. Bodleian Library Shop.

Embroidered binding. 1633 KJV. Folger Shakespeare Library.

We got our first look today at this great plum Bible binding (left), to be offered at the Bodleian Library Shop during the  “Manifold Greatness” exhibit there, which opens April 22. It’s directly inspired by a stunning 1633 KJV in the Folger collection, with an embroidered binding of a pelican. Said to draw blood from its own chest to feed its children, the pelican is a traditional symbol of Christ. The new binding comes in a granite color, too.


Reading the (whole) KJB aloud

Moody Bible Institute radio show

How long does it take to read aloud the King James Bible? The 400th-anniversary year of 2011 is giving us lots of chances to find out.

This week, the BBC reports on an organized “reading relay” at a church in Sussex that began on Monday and, if all goes as planned, will wrap up this Sunday, March 27, with breaks at night. Earlier in March, the King James Bible Challenge at the 2011 Bath Lit Fest went for a round-the-clock approach expected to take 120 hours. In the end, it clocked in at 96 hours. Then there’s the on-going, global “public reading” being created through the YouTube Bible project (Prince Charles recently added fourteen verses) — although that one is probably a topic for another day.

It’s all very much in the spirit of the King James Bible translators, who knew that they were producing a translation to be heard, not just read. They even read aloud alternative wordings in their committee meetings, seeking rhetorical power through word choice and word order, while still focused on accuracy. To hear the results for yourself, try reading aloud this line from the older, 1568 Bishops’ Bible: “Get thee up betimes and be bright, for thy light cometh.” (Isaiah 60:1). Then, listen to the same line from the King James Bible: “Arise, shine, for thy light is come.”


In the beginning …

It seems amazing how far we’ve come since I first broached the subject of doing something on the KJB at the Folger when I was a fellow back in 2007-2008.

What started out as an idea for a Folger exhibition has snowballed into a joint exhibition with the Bodleian and the Harry Ransom Center, a traveling panel show, and a major website, funded by the NEH, and a collection of essays to accompany all this, The Making of the King James Bible, published by the Bodleian. Since I was already organizing a conference at Ohio State and editing a book for Cambridge – The King James Bible after Four Hundred Years – before the Folger events were even thought of, the last few years of my life have become pretty much all KJB, all the time.

But these many months of labor are starting to bear fruit. I’m excited to see the fabulous website now in its final stages, ready to launch in mid-April, to hear about libraries and colleges across the country that are applying to the ALA to host the panel exhibition, and to see, with my co-curator Steve Galbraith, and Caryn Lazzuri, Exhibitions Manager, the exhibition itself start to take shape, as decisions are made, texts are written and rewritten, and loans secured from across the country and overseas. One of the panel titles is “Many Forms for Many Readers,” referring to the variety of shapes and sizes in which Bibles were printed. We could say the same about the whole exhibition – many forms for many readers, viewers, listeners, and visitors at the Folger and beyond. Amazing!

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


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