As part of the Manifold Greatness exhibit, the staff at The Grace Doherty Library and the Religion Program at Centre College designed a program which included seven speakers, hoping to appeal to a broad range of college and community patrons. Our program began in February and ran through April 30, involving nationally known scholars, Centre College faculty, and local genealogists.
Dr. Margaret Mitchell, Shailer Mathews Professor and Dean of the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, visited our campus on February 25 to deliver “Bible and Media Revolutions: A Select History.” Dr. Mitchell spoke to a crowd of approximately 375 students, faculty, staff, and community members.
Dr. Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel, spoke to more than 700 students, faculty, and community patrons on April 17, to deliver the paper, “Misquoting Jesus: Scribes Who Changed the Scriptures and Readers Who May Never Know.” Dr. Ehrman’s address prompted a furious letter in the local newspaper from an irate reader who, although he admitted he had not attended the lecture nor had he read any of Dr. Ehrman’s books, was convinced that Dr. Ehrman was an agent of the devil.
Earlier in the term, on March 27, Dr. Phillip White, Associate Professor of English, Centre College, led a more intimate conversation with a group of 30 students, faculty, and community members in the library’s reading room with his presentation, “A Miracle of Style: Some Ways the King James Bible Affected Later Writers and Writing.” Dr. White discussed Lincoln’s use of the King James Bible phrasing in both the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural. He also discussed Hebrew idioms from the KJB that have been assimilated as English idioms, such as:
To fall flat on one’s face
To pour out one’s heart
The land of the living
The skin of one’s teeth
Like a lamb to the slaughter
A drop in the bucket
To give up the ghost
On April 18, Dr. Amos Tubb, Gordon B. Davidson Associate Professor of History, Centre College, led a similar discussion group in the library’s reading room in his presentation, “The History of Publishing in England and the King James Translation,” walking the group through the complex and sometimes baffling history of the publication of the KJB.
Dr. Eugene March, Arnold B. Rhodes Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, also led a discussion group through “The ‘Birthing’ of the King James Version of the Bible: Two Hundred Years of Labor Pains,” describing the initial resistance to the new translation and the many printing errors that plagued the early editions.
Finally, on April 30, Reverend Mark Davis, Pastor-Theologian, First Presbyterian Church of Lexington, Kentucky, spoke to group of 175 students and community members with his presentation, “Authenticity and Authority: The King is Dead, Long Live the King.”
Also, Boyle County Public Library developed an exhibit of family Bibles to accompany Carolyn Crabtree, genealogist and researcher, and her program, “Family Bibles as Sources for Legal Documents and Historical Research,” on April 25.
Clearly, the integration of the exhibit Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible with our English, History, and Religion programs was of great benefit. In addition, the collaboration with the Boyle County Public Library further strengthened the bond between Centre College and the community at large. Overall, the exhibit and the accompanying program were of real significance.
Stan Campbell is Director of Library Services at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.
While the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition was at Oklahoma State University, local scholars presented on topics related to the King James Bible and its impact on American culture. Dr. Cristina Cruz Gonzales, OSU assistant professor of art history, provided the opening lecture. After her talk, “King James Bible: Towards a Visual and Transatlantic History,” she shared her insights about the KJB and America. Here’s a recap of the interview.
Why were you interested in joining us to talk on this topic?
Because I’m not an English Bible expert, but I am an expert in 17th century religious material in America, not the United States, but rather Spanish America. The topic seemed strangely familiar. I didn’t know much about it, but I wanted to know more. It seemed that I should know more, and I thought I could approach it in a comparative way that I found fruitful for both myself and the audience.
Did you learn anything surprising as you researched this talk?
Absolutely. I had no idea the author of our American dictionary, that’s Noah Webster, was also an author of an American Bible, and he really pushed his Bible project on an America that was just starting to get into a sort of Bible mania.
You told us about a number of different versions of the Bible. Which one did you find most interesting?
I really enjoy the 19th century versions, these large, lavish, family Bibles mostly because you realize it’s not just about text, but about the materiality and the object-ness of these items. They were kept in American homes on tables as showpieces, so they are not just informing American piety or serving American piety at that time, but also reflecting American taste and what that implies in a secular and non-secular way.
You mentioned a number of Bibles that are arguably more American than the King James. Why does KJB remain the most popular in the US?
The King James Bible was by far the most popular Bible in the late 17th century, and I think that longevity means a lot. If Noah Webster had been born a century earlier and had this wonderful idea and the American Revolution had broken out and it was time to publish an American Bible, maybe his Bible would have taken off. But, by the time Webster comes around, the King James Version is too engrained in early American culture, and Americans aren’t going to give it up.
Misty D. Smith is an Assisstant Professor and Catalog Librarian at the Edmon Low Library, Oklahoma State University.
The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit opened on April 11 at the Winfield Public Library in Winfield, KS and will be on view through May 11. This will be the only stop in Kansas for this exhibit.
Since its opening, Manifold Greatness has attracted a steady stream of visitors, despite the library’s brief closure while while more than 100 tornadoes passed over Kansas! The town of Winfield escaped unscathed, and Manifold Greatness opened to a wonderful reception on April 16 hosted by the Friends of the Library.
Dr. Phil Schmidt, Professor of History at Southwestern College, opened the library’s five-part program series with a lecture entitled “The Historical Role of the King James Bible and English Power Politics, 1517 to 1692.” His witty and engaging approach encouraged audience participation. Dr. Schmidt shared information on the political, theological, and dynastic power struggles which engulfed the people of England in the 1500’s and 1600’s, both before and after the publishing of the King James Bible. The speech was well received by a packed house; more programs are planned, and www.wpl.org has a complete listing of upcoming events and programs for Manifold Greatness while it is in Kansas.
Several organizations loaned historic Bibles that are displayed with the Manifold Greatness exhibit. These include Bibles written in German, Spanish, French, Navajo, Aymara, and Lao; several of the Bibles on display are treasured family Bibles that traveled to Kansas with settlers or were distributed by early missionaries. The Navajo Bible was used by a missionary in Arizona before making its way to Kansas. The Lao Bible was brought from Thailand around 30 years ago and is printed on rice paper. The French Bible has traveled with its family from Switzerland to other countries around the world before finally arriving in Kansas, while the German Bible is an heirloom passed down through generations. Bibles are on loan from the Cowley County Historical Society, The Cherokee Strip Museum, The Winfield Masonic Lodge #110 and family Bibles from the community. More information on family Bibles is available on the Manifold Greatness website.
Sue Birney is the Adult Special Services Librarian at Winfield Public Library in Winfield, KS.
Hope College recently hosted a workshop on the care and restoration of family Bibles and other rare books. Kari Miller Fenwood, of Kari Miller Restoration, spoke about the complexities involved in book restoration due to the variety of materials involved. She demonstrated several restoration techniques, and offered tips on how to properly care for old books.
- Eliminate care of dust and other surface contaminates by vacuuming. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter is preferred.
- When placing newspaper articles, flowers, leaves and other materials into a book, protect the page with glacine or other archival paper.
- Store books away from direct sunlight.
- Control moisture levels as much as possible. The guidelines for furniture apply to books – make sure the environment is neither too damp nor too dry.
- When doing repairs at home, be sure to use archival-quality materials. DO NOT use scotch or masking tape to repair tears.
- Before making any repair, clean the surface of the page with a dry cleaning pad intended for documents.
- If books are badly damaged or deteriorated, store them in acid-free boxes, or wrap them in acid free paper. This will help to protect them from further damage. You may wish to consult a conservator to determine the best course of action for books that are valuable and/or meaningful.
Fenwood emphasized reversibility, noting that any repairs should be able to be undone if necessary. Books may be permanently damaged by a well-intended “fix.”
For more information on caring for family Bibles or heirlooms books, two excellent resouces include Your Old Books, a guide sponsored by the Rare Books and Manuscript Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Care, Handling and Storage of Books webpage from the Library of Congress.
This workshop is part of a series of lectures and workshops offered throughout March as part of the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition at the Hope College Van Wylen Library. Approximately 40 people attended the hands-on workshop, which also included demonostrations on cleaning and repairing several items from the Hope College Rare Book Collection.
Kelly Jacobsma is Director of Libraries at Hope College.
You might think that exhibitions at the Folger Shakespeare Library are all about books and manuscripts and art—and you’d be right. But precisely because these types of paper-based artifacts can be challenging to display in new and engaging ways, I encourage curators to look for other types of objects to reflect the content and themes of each exhibition. For Manifold Greatness, we were presented with a rich and interesting topic, but one that was explicitly about a single book. One of the goals was to make this 400-year-old book come alive with human stories about its creation and its afterlife, so curators Steve Galbraith and Hannibal Hamlin began brainstorming with me about how to do that with a series of “touchstone moments” around the Great Hall.
Hannibal wanted a scene all about the sounds of the King James Bible, and for this, we borrowed a pew and lectern from the Lutheran Church of the Reformation. With a nineteenth-century Bible on the lectern, and a listening station with an interactive feature from the website, exhibition-goers can hear short, familiar passages read aloud by actors, as well as commentary from Hannibal and Steve.
Across the hall is a family Bible scene that brings to mind nineteenth-century households where the King James Bible was a fixture in the lives of many American and English families. Here, a nineteenth-century Bible sits open on a table, with candlesticks for light, and a pair of reading glasses. Touring the exhibition recently, a colleague said to me, “The spectacles really make this one come alive.”
A mid-twentieth-century parlor radio (photo, above) and a postcard from the Moody Bible Institute comprise a third touchstone. The Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, which began broadcasting Moody Radio in the 1920s, remains one of the largest Christian radio stations in the country. Its greatest popularity was in the 1950s and 60s, and we included it as an example of the more contemporary influences of the King James Bible in American culture.
Perhaps the most challenging touchstone in Manifold Greatness is the very first one. Our case on martyrs and heretics explores early English Bible translators like John Wyclif, William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, and John Rogers. A wall panel displays woodcuts from John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments that depict the grisly fates some of these translators met. Tyndale and Rogers were both burned at the stake, and Wyclif’s bones were exhumed and burned in the late fifteenth century.
When Steve Galbraith walked into my office and suggested it would really make a statement to have our own stake at this point in the exhibition, I wasn’t sure what to think—or how we’d manage it. But with a small tree, a few bundles of twigs, a friend at the Smithsonian who gave us access to a large freezer (to make sure nothing was alive in that small tree or those bundles of twigs), a handy technical director in the Folger Theatre, and some creative camouflage painting by our Folger conservators, we built a modest stake right there in the Great Hall.
While we don’t intend to burn anyone at our touchstone stake, we hope these vignettes make the exhibition come alive for visitors, and draw them into its unique world. Come see for yourself!
Caryn Lazzuri is exhibitions manager at the Folger Shakespeare Library and has previously written about previewing the traveling exhibit at the ALA annual meeting in New Orleans and installing the Folger Manifold Greatness exhibition.