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 “Manifold Greatness

Digital Footprints on the Sands of Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Opening This Week: The Manifold Greatness Finale

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

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

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Bibles Through the Ages: Special Items from Eastern Mennonite University

Each library hosting the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition offers a unique set of resource for its viewers.  At Eastern Mennonite University, the Hartzler Library has had on view a number of Bibles from its Menno Simons Historical Library, a special collection of Anabaptist/Mennonite materials. Manifold Greatness was on view at EMU from January 26 through February 21, 2013.We’ve selected some unique items from the Menno Simons Historical Library to share in this post. Please scroll down to see these remarkable, historic Bibles.

Oldest King James Bible in the Menno Simons Historical Library collection, and its title page. Lancaster, PA, 1793. Menno Simons Historical  Library. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

Oldest King James Bible in the Menno Simons Historical Library collection, and its title page. Lancaster, PA, 1793. Menno Simons Historical Library. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

Also on display is this New Testament from 1527 with the text in Greek, Latin which was translated by Erasmus and the Latin Vulgate.

Title page of En Novvm Testa. Basel, 1527. Menno Simons Historical Library. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

Title page of En Novvm Testa. Basel, 1527. Menno Simons Historical Library. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

The collection has a number of German Bibles since many Anabaptist groups who settled in the Eastern United States spoke German.

German Bible published by Froschauer. Zurich, 1549. Menno Simons Historical Library. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

German Bible published by Froschauer. Zurich, 1549. Menno Simons Historical Library. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

The collection also includes a copy of an 1853 Chinese New Testament.

Chinese New Testament and title page.  For the Am. & For. Bible Society, 1853. Menno Simons Historical Library.

Chinese New Testament and title page. For the Am. & For. Bible Society, 1853. Menno Simons Historical Library.

One newer item we made available was a facsimile St. John’s Bible, a handwritten and hand-illuminated Bible commissioned in 1998.  The uniqueness of each location is seen in their resources and programing.  We are happy to share these works with our community, and with the readers of the Manifold Greatness blog.

From the Gospel of Mark, chapter 3.  Collegeville, MN, 2005.  Hartzler Library, Eastern Mennonite University. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

From the Gospel of Mark, chapter 3. Collegeville, MN, 2005. Hartzler Library, Eastern Mennonite University. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

Jennifer Ulrich is a Technical Service librarian at Eastern Mennonite University.


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.


Manifold Greatness Opens at Elizabethtown College

Members of the Mennonite community view Manifold Greatness at Elizabthtown College. Photo courtesy Elizabthtown College.

Members of the Mennonite community view Manifold Greatness at Elizabthtown College. Photo courtesy Elizabthtown College.

On February 2, central Pennsylvania welcomed the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit to the High Library at Elizabethtown College. The reception has been overwhelming and we could not be happier with the enthusiasm and support for the exhibit. Even the weather has worked out in our favor and the programs have gone on without a hitch!

Our opening reception was attended by over 200 people, and attracted visitors from outside the area, including individuals from New Jersey and Maryland. To quote our keynote speaker for the event, Jeff Bach, the reception provided “a feast for the eyes in the exhibit and items from our special collections, a feast for the ears thanks to the glorious music provided by our student group Camerata who performed ancient acapella musical selections, a feast for the soul as the Word was read aloud, and our minds through the opening lecture.”

We also hosted a panel discussion on February 6 as scholars discussed “Shakespeare, Literature and the Language of the King James Bible.”  Speakers included Professors Christina Bucher, Louis Martin and Suzanne Webster. On February 7, we were mesmerized by our Elizabethtown’s own Professor Patricia Likos Ricci who lectured on “The Bible as a Work of Art.” Professor Ricci will replay this lecture  on February 19 at the Elizabethtown Public Library. We will also hear from our own Professor Jean-Paul Benowitz on Family Bibles. It has been wonderful to see and experience all the diverse backgrounds and generations who have visited the exhibit. We have had young, old, Mennonite, Brethren, Catholic, Baptist, and Protestant visiting the exhibit.  Our youngest tour thus far has been a group of middle school students who really enjoyed hearing about the Wicked Bible from our student docent, Annemarie. We also hosted a group of Old Order Amish who toured the exhibit with Professors Jeff Bach and Don Kraybill.

The Manifold Greatness exhibition has also provided an opportunity for the High Library special collections to be featured. We have displayed the High Library copy of the 1599 Geneva Bible, the rare 1712 Marburg Bible, and the Berleburg Bible. In addition to the unique displays, the visitors have also enjoyed using iPads we have setup to connect them directly with the audio tour of the exhibit provided by the Folger Shakespeare Library. We hope to continue to reap the rewards of the amazing exhibit and are looking forward to another fantastic 2 weeks with the King James Bible.

Louise M. Hyder-Darlington, M.S.L.S. is Access Services Librarian and Project Director for the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition at the High Library, Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA.


Talking About “The Book That Changed the World”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Caring for Family Bibles

Kari Miller Fenwood demonstrates a technique for cleaning old books. Courtesy of Hope College. Photo by Kelly Jacobsma.

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.

Fenwood recommends:

  • 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.


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.

 


On the Border: Manifold Greatness in Brownsville, TX

Staff with the Manifold Greatness traveling panels at the University of Texas, Brownsville. Courtesy of the University of Texas at Brownsville.

It’s been an outstanding experience hosting Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible exhibit here at the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) since January.  UTB and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin are the only institutions in the state of Texas where the exhibit can be viewed. We’ve enjoyed excellent turnout for each of the special presentations held in conjunction with the exhibit.  Our opening night presentation was delivered by UTB English Department faculty member Dr. Mimosa Stehenson, and focused on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s use of the Bible.  To date, three of the five scheduled presentations have taken place, with guests visiting from across the state and the border stopping by to learn more.

“It’s extraordinary to have an exhibit like Manifold Greatness here in the Rio Grande Valley, and the Academic Libraries of the UTB are pleased to help play a role in educating our community about the historic anniversary of this great book,” said Annabel Treviño, University Librarian for UTB.

Our area’s population truly seems to hold their faith dearly and we’re not always as well-served as other parts of the nation with world-class exhibits like Manifold Greatness.  Seeing so many guests take part in this intuitive and educational exhibit leave with a smile on their face or a desire to learn more from the Manifold Greatness website is really inspiring.

Millie Hernandez is the Special Events Coordinator for the Academic Libraries at the University of Texas at Brownsville.  The Arnulfo L. Oliveira Library is hosting the Manifold Greatness exhibit and related presentations through February 16th


Manifold Greatness in Minnesota

This afternoon, the University of Minnesota hosts a Colloquium on the King James Bible. Viewers can watch a streaming version of the program online between 4:30 and 7:30pm, CST.

Manifold Greatness opened at the University of Minnesota in January, following an exhibit on early Bibles and religious writing entitled “The Word Made Flesh.”  Here are some of the events at UMN so far:

Courtesy of the University of Minnesota.

In the image above, University of Minnesota Libraries in-house designer checks the final layout for the Manifold Greatness exhibit for its January 25 opening.

Members of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Saint Paul, MN visited the University of Minnesota Wilson Library on January 27 to explore the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit, plus the local exhibit of rare Bibles, “The Word Made Flesh.”  Librarian Susan Gangl and Curator Timothy Johnson guided the group and fielded many questions.  The preference for the Geneva Bible over the King James Bible  in early America came as a surprise to some visitors.

Courtesy of the University of Minnesota.

Courtesy of the University of Minnesota.

Also in January, Timothy Johnson, University of Minnesota Curator of Special Collections and Rare Books, spoke about the King James Bible, and showed images from our collection of earlier Bibles and manuscripts and recent art press editions of illustrated Bibles. Tim developed “The Word Made Flesh,” an exhibit of rare Bibles, to accompany the showing of Manifold Greatness at the Wilson Library. The audience was fascinated and asked many questions! Some had already seen the exhibition, while others plan to visit in the coming weeks.

Susan Gangl is a librarian at the University of Minnesota Wilson Library.


Final Days and Beautiful Sunshine for the Folger Exhibition

It will be tough to say goodbye to the Folger Manifold Greatness exhibition after this Monday (in the words of Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow”)… but we hope to see you before it goes!

The Folger exhibition is open today (Saturday), Sunday, and Monday; admission is free. And we’re delighted to have started the last weekend of the exhibition with brilliant sunshine.

Some of the many “don’t miss” items now on display in the Folger exhibition include:

Bishops' Bible. 1568. Folger.

• An Anglo-Saxon manuscript from about the year 1000 that retells biblical stories in epic verse
• A rare Wycliffite Bible from the 1380s
• A 1530 fragment from William Tyndale’s contraband biblical translations, discussed by Hannibal Hamlin in this post: Tyndale was executed in 1536
• Queen Elizabeth’s 1568 Bishops’ Bible
• A Bodleian copy of a 1602 Bishops’ Bible annotated with translators’ changes
• The Folger first edition of the King James Bible
• The Prince Henry Bible, an elaborately bound copy of the King James Bible owned by James I’s older son, Prince Henry, who died in 1612
• A “Wicked” Bible (1631) in which the printer omits a key word from the commandment on adultery
• A King James Bible that came over on the Mayflower
• King James Bibles owned by Frederick Douglass and Elvis Presley
• Early family Bibles, with century-old handwritten records of births, christenings, and other events, including the Hamlin Family Bible

Earthrise. Apollo 8, December 24, 1968. NASA.

And what story does it all tell? In the words of the Washington Post from last September:

The exhibition includes fascinating mysteries, epic battles, stake burnings and other enthralling episodes in the lives of the men involved in Bible translation. It covers the events that led to the birth of the King James, as well as the book’s influence on art, literature, popular culture, music and history—from Handel’s “Messiah” to the reading of Genesis by the astronauts aboard Apollo 8, a broadcast heard by a quarter of the people on Earth at the time, making the Bible’s reach literally astronomical.

The New York Times (also in September) put it this way:

Pay close attention to the major new exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library here, “Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible,” and you will see not only manuscripts going back to the year 1000, an early translation from the 14th century, Queen Elizabeth I’s copy of the Bible, and imposingly bound versions of the King James; you will also sense the gradual birth of the modern English language and the subtle framing of a culture’s patterns of thought… you cannot survey the riches at the Folger without realizing that you are being given a glimpse of a culture’s birth.

In his recent blog post about an American Civil War POW’s King James Bible, curator Steve Galbraith noted “the long reach of the King James Bible and how much history was covered by our one exhibition.” Another reminder of those historical KJB associations comes this weekend, with the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday on Monday and Dr. King’s actual birthday on Sunday. Curator Hannibal Hamlin wrote about Martin Luther King and the King James Bible last August, and King is recognized in the Folger exhibition as well. On Monday, the exhibition’s last day, the Folger Shakespeare Library also offers a free, family-friendly event for the King holiday on the theme of protest. And once again, the King James Bible of 1611 traces its connections to the present day.


Curators’ insights: new Folger exhibition audio and video

Scene from "The Making of a Folger Exhibition." Hannibal Hamlin, Steve Galbraith, and 1611 King James Bible.

In the month and a half since the opening of the Folger exhibition Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, curators Hannibal Hamlin and Steven K. Galbraith have appeared in a number of new audio and video features about the exhibition, all of which are available online. Herewith, a quick survey:

Hannibal Hamlin’s lively half-hour speech introducing the exhibition, delivered in the Folger Elizabethan Theatre on the night of the exhibition opening, is available as a Folger audio podcast. He and Steve Galbraith also appear in a series of three short (one or two minute) original videos, available on the Manifold Greatness YouTube channel: Mistakes and Misprints, The Dangerous World of Early English Bibles, and The Literary Influence of the King James Bible. (We’ve already posted here about the five-minute video, The Making of a Folger Exhibition, which debuted the day of the opening.)

As with other Folger exhibitions, Manifold Greatness is complemented by a cell phone tour recorded primarily by the two curators and geared to highlights from the exhibition. You can listen to the exhibition Audio Tour online—or with your cell phone in the exhibition hall!

The Manifold Greatness exhibition is open through January 16 at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. Admission is free. See our Tips for Visitors blog post for more information. 


Going on the Road!

Photo by Lloyd Wolf.

The Folger Shakespeare Library’s King James Bible exhibition is going on the road! Forty public, university, and college libraries across the United States will host a smaller traveling version of Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible beginning right away and continuing through July 2013.

From California to Georgia and Vermont to Texas, the 14-panel exhibit will criss-cross the country bringing the story of the KJB to diverse library audiences of all ages. Tour sites have fascinating programs planned to honor the 400-year history of the King James Bible and its enduring importance in world culture—and we hope you’ll be learning about some of them here on the Manifold Greatness blog as well as the Manifold Greatness Facebook page, YouTube channel and playlist, Twitter feed, and Flickr account.

There will be films, concerts, panel discussions, writing contests, lectures, plays, and readings—all dedicated to learning more about this remarkable work. A few library sites even have copies of the original 1611 King James Bible and other rare early Bibles to show their visitors.

I and my team at the American Library Association’s program development and partnerships group in the Public Programs Office have been delighted to work with the Folger Shakespeare Library in organizing the library tour. Representatives from the forty tour sites gathered in Washington, DC, on September 22 and 23 for a working session that included the opportunity to view the major Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library and talk to the curators and designers.

And now, in the months and years to come, they will present their own King James Bible programs and displays, which are sure to attract wide attention in their communities. In fact, the first sites will debut the traveling exhibit this week!

To see if the exhibit will be coming to your area, please visit the itinerary on our ALA website or call the ALA Public Programs office for more information (312-280-5045). You can also check the locations and schedule pages on the Manifold Greatness website for the same information.

The ALA Public Programs Office is grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for making this traveling exhibition for libraries possible, and to the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, with assistance from the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin, for creating such a beautiful and informative exhibition. We expect the tour to be a huge success and a catalyst for individual learning and research across the country.

Susan Brandehoff is Director of Program Development and Partnerships at the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office.


New video! The Making of a Folger Exhibition: Manifold Greatness

Just in time for today’s opening of the Folger exhibition, this wonderful new video, The Making of a Folger Exhibition: Manifold Greatness:

This video is a production of Alabama Public Television (APT) in partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library. Thanks to APT Executive Producers Heather Daniels and Mark Fastoso who manage a production studio at the Folger which produces original educational videos like this one.


Record attendance for Bodleian Manifold Greatness exhibition

The Bodleian’s Manifold Greatness exhibition closed its doors on Sunday 4 September, with visitors still savouring their chance to encounter its exhibits right up to the last moment. The final attendance figure was 58,024 – a record for a Bodleian exhibition – and the whole team here is delighted at the response the exhibition has drawn. Many local people have enjoyed the chance to learn more about Oxford’s connections with Bible translation – from Wyclif, to Tyndale, the KJB translators, and beyond – and early in the exhibition’s run this connection was given a slot on the prime-time local TV news. The exhibition has also been covered in the Oxford Times and on BBC Radio Oxford. Visitors have been drawn from all over the globe, and comments have been left in the visitors’ book in many different languages.  The meeting of different cultures and languages through the act of Bible translation was one of the themes of the exhibition, and so it is very apt that the exhibition itself should have become a place of so many local, national and international encounters with the story of the KJB.

Helen Moore is Fellow and Tutor in English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.  She chaired the Oxford ‘Manifold Greatness’ curatorial committee.


Making the ‘Manifold Greatness’ Bodleian App

Making of the King James Bible, Bodleian app

The Bodleian Library’s first app, ‘The Making of the King James Bible’, is now available to download for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The narrative and content were conceived and written by the curators, with valuable input from colleagues at the Bodleian Library and others.

From the earliest days of planning, the Bodleian’s ‘Manifold Greatness’ exhibition has had a strong narrative focussing on the KJB’s links to Oxford and the material culture of the translators’ time, particularly in the form of the books connected with the translation that survive in Oxford libraries. This narrative transferred well to a digital environment, allowing us to create an app that would both enhance the experience of visitors to the Bodleian and provide a coherent and enjoyable digital encounter for those further afield.

For me as a writer, one of the most interesting aspects of this process (my first taste of app-writing), was the three-dimensional and interactive way in which a story, images, sound and information can be presented in an app. Architectural and skeletal metaphors kept occurring to me as I worked on it.

Making of the King James Bible, Bodleian app

Like chapter headings in a book, the main menu supports the whole structure, and articulates the narrative of the app in miniature. But thereafter, the structure of the app becomes much less linear, as independent narratives branch out from the spine of the ‘Manifold Greatness’ story. The important role accorded to images and sound in an app, and the way they interact with text, has been another fascinating aspect to the project.

It certainly reminded me that the interaction of text and image has always been a key element in the physical process of Bible reading.  The artist who illustrated the Old English biblical poems in MS Junius 11; the creator of the woodcuts used in the Geneva Bible; or the cartographer John Speed, whose maps of Canaan were included in the 1611 KJB, all have an important role to play in the history of biblical reception. (These images can be viewed in the app).

Helen Moore is Fellow in English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and chaired the Oxford ‘Manifold Greatness’ curatorial committee.


A Visit to Oxford

This past Friday, Folger Librarian Steve Enniss and I had the pleasure of traveling to Oxford to attend a reception celebrating the opening of the Bodleian Library’s exhibition “Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible.” Guests gathered in Oxford’s majestic Divinity School for drinks, fellowship, and remarks from Bodley’s Librarian, Sarah Thomas, and comedian Ian Hislop, who was delightfully irreverent.

Prior to the reception, I made my way through the exhibition.  I was awestruck by the assembled artifacts.  I lingered over Anne Boleyn’s copy of the Tyndale New Testament and the Wicked Bible of 1631, with its infamous typo “Thou shalt commit adultery.” At one point I overheard someone whisper, “Have you seen the Big Three?” The “Big Three” to which she was referring are a copy of the 1602 Bishops’ Bible annotated by KJB translators, a manuscript containing working translations of the New Testament epistles, and surviving notes from translator John Bois.  “The Big Three” is a fitting title. On exhibition together for the first time, these three artifacts are primary documents recording the process behind the creation of the King James Bible.

The next day as we discussed the exhibition at the Turf Tavern, Steve noticed an ad for Manifold Greatness hung at the bottom of the tavern’s crowded wall of posters. I thought snapping a picture was in order.

We return invigorated and excited to continue work on the Folger exhibition coming this fall.

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


Shakespeare did not write the King James Bible, no way, no how.

In Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, Walter “Monk” McGinn (played by Brendan Gleason, here to the right of Liam Neeson) says, “Do you know who Bill Shakespeare was, sonny? He’s the fella that wrote the King James Bible.”

The occasion of Shakespeare’s birthday—traditionally celebrated April 23, though no one knows the precise date—is a good time to offer some reflections about a persistent myth. Since the late nineteenth century, some people have suggested that Shakespeare was involved in the translation of the King James Bible. Just to be clear,

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO. THIS IS NOT TRUE!!!

The reasons this legend developed are complex, and not entirely known, but the idea is preposterous in itself. We know the names and identities of the roughly four dozen King James Bible translators (the number is rough because over time some died or dropped out and had to be replaced). All but one of them were clergymen. The exception, Henry Savile, was included because of his prodigious learning and particularly his exceptional knowledge of Patristic Greek. Indeed, save a few political appointments, all the translators were eminent linguists, the very best scholars of ancient languages—Hebrew and Greek, but also Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic, Arabic—in England. Some, like Lancelot Andrewes and, judging from the Translators’ Epistle to the Reader, Miles Smith, were also fine writers. But this was not why they were chosen. The translators were not especially interested in what we think of as literary style, and they certainly were not aiming to produce a masterpiece of English prose. Their overwhelming concern was to produce to the most accurate English translation possible of the Bible. The many years of work involved hours and hours of discussions of the most minute details of language: points of grammar, syntax, vocabulary; careful comparison of verses, clauses, and individual words in all the ancient languages, including Latin, as well as contemporary translations in European languages, and all previous English Bible (Tyndale, Coverdale’s Great Bible, Geneva, Bishops’, Rheims); also discussion of theology, ancient history, archaeology. Not very sexy, but that’s what made the KJV!

Literal accuracy was the goal, which is why the English of the KJV sometimes sounds foreign, as in using the word “to know” for having sex (Gen. 4), or Hebrew idioms like “the skin of my teeth” (Job 19) or “the apple of my eye” (Deut. 32), which make little sense in English. Shakespeare, according to Ben Jonson, had “small Latin and less Greek.” This was a little unfair. By our standards, Shakespeare’s Latin was excellent, he just wasn’t as remarkable a scholar as Jonson. There’s no evidence, though, that Shakespeare had more than a little grammar school Greek, and he likely had no Hebrew at all. He lacked the basic skills necessary for Bible translation. He was also not a clergyman; since many clergymen considered players as next-door to brothel-keepers, it’s inconceivable anyone would have considered him as a candidate for the translation team. Finally, although Shakespeare and the King James Bible have been lauded as the twin pillars of English literature since at least the Victorians, they aren’t really much alike. Shakespeare can write fine prose, but he more often writes in verse, and what sets his style apart from other playwrights is the metaphorical density of his language and his invention of words and idioms. The King James Bible is entirely in prose and generally eschews complex metaphor. The vocabulary is also extremely limited. The language of Shakespeare and the language of the KJV aren’t the same.

The one piece of evidence often hauled out in support of the “Shakespeare wrote the Bible” argument is a bit of “code” from Psalm 46. All sorts of people mention this, from Bishops to conspiracy theorists. It goes like this. In the KJV, count 46 words from the beginning of Psalm 46: “shake.” Count 46 words from the end: “spear.” Shakespeare turned 46 in 1610. Thus, so it goes, Shakespeare has encoded his signature in the psalm to mark his secret involvement in the translation. (The more committed cryptographers delve into Kabbala and further supposed number patterns, but I’ll leave this wackier stuff aside.) So many problems with this! First the second 46 count has to leave out the word “selah.” It’s not a word from the actual Psalm but an indicator of performance (no one knows quite what it means), yet it is there on the page, and if you include it “spear” is 47 words from the end, not 46. Furthermore, “shake” and “spear” are in many earlier English Bibles as well, in roughly the same places (45-47 words from beginning and end). Spears are plentiful in the Bible, because they were in ancient Palestine, and people with spears tend to shake them. No great mystery. What’s really in evidence here is an amusing coincidence, discovered by someone with codes on the brain, probably in the 1890s. No one seems to have noticed it before then, which makes it seem rather ineffective as a signature. It’s absurd that Shakespeare would have been involved in translating a Bible, but it’s even more absurd that if he had been involved he would have left his mark in so obscure and meaningless a fashion. Some compare this to medieval stonemasons who inscribed their names on stones in place no one could ever see, presumably as a declaration to God. Shakespeare was not an anonymous craftsman, however, but a popular and successful playwright, whose name appeared prominently on his published work. The more you know about Shakespeare, and the more you know about the King James Bible, the sillier this idea becomes. Imaginative writers like Rudyard Kipling and Anthony Burgess have played around with the myth in their fiction, but that’s where it belongs. In fiction, not in reality.

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


Bodleian Library Manifold Greatness exhibition opens today!

Copyright Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

As reported in our recent post, Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible opens today at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford!

Helen Moore, chair of the curatorial committee, says, “The exhibition reunites some of the books and manuscripts actually used by translators and we hope that it will give a unique insight into the aims and methods of the countless committee meetings that were held in Oxford and elsewhere as the translation took shape.

“It is an enormous privilege that we are able to breathe life back into the translation process for a modern audience, by showing these books and documents in public, some of them for the first time.”

Shown here is the page from the Gospel of Luke headed “Christ is crucified, and riseth againe.” from the unique Bodleian 1602 Bishops’ Bible, on public display for the first time in this exhibition. The handwriting shows the editing comments of the King James Bible translators.

For more information on the Bodleian Manifold Greatness exhibition and the extraordinary and fascinating rare materials on display, consult this announcement.

You can see more about the marked-up 1602 Bishops’ Bible and other rare documents of the translation process (many of which are also in the Bodleian exhibition) in the video Reconstructing the Process on the Manifold Greatness website.


The KJV Trail in London


My trip to London (see earlier posts) wasn’t focused on the Bible but English literature—Dickens, The Beggar’s Opera, Shakespeare, Wordsworth—but we crossed paths with the KJV translators many times. Lancelot Andrewes, the prodigiously learned Dean of Westminster, was director of the first company of translators at Westminster (his ornery brother Roger was on the first Cambridge company). I and my students toured Westminster Abbey, where Andrewes and his team worked, in the “Jerusalem Chamber” where King Henry IV died, as described in Shakespeare’s play. We also went to Southwark Cathedral on the Southbank, which wasn’t a cathedral in the seventeenth century, but rather St. Saviour’s Church. The image above is of Lancelot Andrewes’s fabulous tomb in that church. Wherever you go in London, church and theater overlap. Also buried in Southwark Cathedral are playwrights John Fletcher (who collaborated with Shakespeare) and Philip Massinger, Philip Henslowe (who ran the Admiral’s Men), and Shakespeare’s younger brother Edmund. Many of the players at the Globe, the Rose, and other theaters, were members of St. Saviour’s. As Bishop of Winchester (from 1618), Andrewes’s palace was next door. He was probably often in St. Saviour’s, though after Shakespeare’s death in 1616. Long before then, however, Andrewes also preached regularly at the court of James I. Since the King’s Men often performed there too, he and Shakespeare may often have been under the same roof. James Shapiro writes about one such possible occasion at Richmond Palace during Lent in 1599. Shakespeare may not have worked on the King James Bible (more on this next week), but he certainly lived in the same city with men who did.

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


Manifold Greatness website launches today!

We are delighted to announce the launch today of Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, a major new website marking the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible of 1611.

More than a year in the making, the site includes stunning image galleries ranging from Early Bibles to Modern Life, interactive timelines, original video interviews, and still more special features that allow you to compare translations side by side, examine pages of a 1611 King James Bible in depth, and listen to excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, which takes much of its text from the KJB. (Special bonus: the recordings are from a Folger Consort / Oxford (Magdalen College) performance!) Resources for Scholars guide academic researchers to rare books and other source materials.

Children’s and family pages include a wealth of images, information, new craft videos, games and activities, and more—the screenshot we’ve highlighted here is from Making a Ruff. Trust us, we could go on… but why read about it when you can explore it for yourself? Consider this your personal invitation to jump into the new website today. We’re so happy to share it with you.

The website is part of Manifold Greatness, a multi-faceted 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 at Austin. It has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Drumroll, please… announcing the Bodleian Libraries Manifold Greatness exhibition!

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Great excitement this morning with the official announcement of the Bodleian Libraries exhibition opening (April 22) of Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible. Hurray and huzzah!

Manifold Greatness is a collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries and the Folger Shakespeare Library with the assistance of the Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. It will include the Bodleian Libraries exhibition announced here and a subsequent NEH-funded exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library in September and the Harry Ransom Center in early 2012, as well as a major companion website, a traveling exhibition throughout the United States produced by the Folger Shakespeare Library in partnership with the American Library Association, and more. Also look for Manifold Greatness: The Making of the King James Bible, from Bodleian Library Publishing.

From this morning’s announcement: “The Bodleian Libraries Summer 2011 Exhibition opens on Friday 22 April 2011. It celebrates the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible and sheds new light on its creation by examining the working process of the two translation committees based in Oxford at Merton and Corpus Christi Colleges.”

Included in the exhibition are the three key surviving working materials brought together for the first time: from Bodleian Libraries, the only surviving copy of the 1602 Bishops’ Bibles used by the translators; from Lambeth Palace Library, a unique document containing an interim translation of the New Testament epistles; and — on display for the first time ever — translator John Bois’s notes from the General Meeting of 1610 at which the work of the committees was reviewed and the translation finalized.


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.


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