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 “National Endowment for the Humanities

Kennesaw State University Welcomes Manifold Greatness

The Kennesaw State University Department of Museums, Archives & Rare Books is delighted to be a part of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s traveling exhibition, Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the American Library Association (ALA). As one of the first institutions to host the exhibit, we are looking forward to the educational events, lectures, and hands-on workshops we have planned for the month of October.

Tony Howell, Exhibit Specialist, installing the Manifold Greatness panels.

The Department of Museums, Archives & Rare Books is housed in the Horace Sturgis Library at Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Kennesaw, GA. We are composed of many different divisions including the Bentley Rare Book Gallery, the University Archives and Special Collections, the Museum of History & Holocaust Education, and the Arts Collection. Manifold Greatness will be displayed in the Athenaeum Gallery of the Sturgis Library alongside our own exhibition commemorating the 400th anniversary, How God Became English: The Making of the King James Bible. If you’re interested in learning more about our exhibit, visit www.kennesaw.edu/kingjamesbible.

Under the direction of Dr. Catherine Lewis (Executive Director, Museums, Archives & Rare Books) and Dr. Tamara Livingston (Associate Director), our team of faculty, staff, and students has been working around the clock to put the finishing touches on the exhibit space in preparation for the opening date of October 4, 2011. We are thrilled to be able to showcase Manifold Greatness simultaneously with our own exhibit and are excited about the prospect that our visitors will be able to learn from both in the coming month. Our opening lecture, “The History and Language of the King James Bible,” will feature a faculty panel presentation exploring the importance and complicated history of one of the most influential books in history.

These two exhibits reflect the kind of engaged scholarship that Kennesaw State University has become known for, and the Department of Museums, Archives & Rare Books is proud to be a part of the dynamic community of academic and community libraries hosting Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible.

To learn more about our Department or upcoming events, please contact Anna Tucker at atucke20@kennesaw.edu or 770-420-4699.


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.


The Aitken Bible: Preventing Fatal Confusion and Alarming Injuries

Aitken Bible. Library of Congress.

The year was 1781. The war between the colonies and the crown had been dragging on for years. America was still six years from adopting a constitution. Robert Aitkin, a Scottish immigrant, sensed a religious need—and a commercial niche. The Revolutionary War had choked off the supply of Bibles to the colonies. He petitioned the “United States in Congress” for permission to publish an authorized edition of the King James Bible to prevent “fatal confusion that would arise, and the alarming Injuries the Christian faith might suffer.” Such evils might occur, he said, because of “Spurious and erroneous Editions of Divine Revelation.”

Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado holds a replica of the 1611 King James Bible. A panel version of the Manifold Greatness exhibition will travel to East Library in Colorado Springs in 2012. R. David/ National Endowment for the Humanities.

A year passed before Aitkin’s prayers were answered when Congress’s two chaplains endorsed his undertaking. Within days, the Continental Congress resolved to “recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States.” The grateful publisher printed 10,000 copies of the King James translation, placing an abstract of the congressional testimonial in the preface of his Bibles.

Aitkin’s King James Bibles were produced singly and in two volume sets. About fifty remain in existence, including one the Library of Congress has lent to the Folger Shakespeare Library for its exhibition Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible.

Representative Daniel Webster of Florida previews the Manifold Greatness exhibition. R. David/ National Endowment for the Humanities.

The exhibition, supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, has also been turned into a traveling exhibit to be displayed and discussed in forty libraries across the country over the next two years. The Folger also produced a rich website full of material for a wide range of audiences of all ages.

NEH hosted a preview reception on September 21 for Members of Congress to showcase the results of its 2010 grant. (See photos)

NEH Chairman Jim Leach and Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey discuss the King James Bible. R. David/ National Endowment for the Humanities.

Alas for Aitkin, the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783 reopened trade between the new United States and Europe. Aitkin’s version of the King James Bible, despite being the only Bible ever recommended by Congress (the First Amendment to the Constitution, which said that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” wasn’t ratified until 1791), couldn’t compete.

Practicality triumphed over ideology. The Aitkin Bible, with pages only 3 1/8 inches wide, almost no margins, and inferior paper, was undersold by higher-quality foreign imports. Americans bought the English version, whether the product of their colonial overlords or not. No act of any Congress could convince them otherwise.

Judy Havemann is the communications director for the National Endowment for the Humanities and is grateful for the research published on the website of the Houston Baptist University’s Dunham Bible Museum and Paul C. Gutjahr’s An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777-1880.


Manifold Greatness in The Big Easy

Manifold Greatness Panel 1 at NEH booth, ALA-New Orleans

Just before the 4th of July weekend, Panel 1 from the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition made its first venture out of its home base at the Folger, and appeared at the American Library Association’s annual meeting, which took place this year in New Orleans. I was there for committee work, and to see the panel on the road.

With its strong tradition of jazz music and its  southern sensibility, New Orleans struck me as an appropriate place to showcase the King James Bible. Biblical allusion and references run deep in much southern literature, and novelists like Kate Chopin, Tennessee Williams, and William Faulkner have made the city of New Orleans come alive for readers. But it was the music emanating from open doors down in the French Quarter and the unrelenting flow of the Mississippi that made the real connection for me. If you’ve heard any of the spirituals popularized by African American singing groups like the Fisk Jubilee Singers or the Selah Jubilee Singers (think of the song “Go Down, Moses”), you’ve heard the influence of the King James Bible’s language in America. While it’s a bit too simplistic to say that traditional spirituals, church music, the beat of drums, and the influence of European horns converged and gave birth to jazz, jazz did arise from pieces of those traditions, and some will tell you that New Orleans was its birthplace. Whether that claim can be validated or not, New Orleans certainly has carried on the jazz tradition in a way most American cities have not.

Canal Street, New Orleans

As I stepped around discarded crawfish on the Riverwalk and heard that music coming up from the French Quarter behind me, I thought this was surely an appropriate place for a piece of Manifold Greatness to appear.

Thanks to the National Endowment for the Humanities for showcasing our panel at their booth. The full traveling panel tour gets underway in early October, 2011.  Stay tuned for details on when and where you can see the show out there on the road!

Caryn Lazzuri is exhibitions manager at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


Why “Manifold Greatness”?

Dedication to King James I, King James Bible

Bible. English. Authorized. 1611. Folger.

If you visit the King James Bible Trust website, as we often do, you may notice that the words “manifest,” “great,” and “greatness” come up fairly often in its events list. At the University of Toronto, “Great and Manifold: A Celebration of the Bible in English,” is on display through June. At Cambridge, “Great and Manifold Blessings: The Making of the King James Bible” wraps up that month as well.

And then, of course, there’s our own Manifold Greatness project, a major, two-continent endeavor that includes a new book from Bodleian Library Publishing, a Bodleian Library exhibition opening at Oxford on April 22, and, funded by the NEH, an exhibition this fall at the Folger Shakespeare Library, an early 2012 exhibition at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, a major website that’s now launching within weeks, and a traveling exhibition produced in partnership with the American Library Association.

But why “manifold” and why “greatness”? The answer lies in the King James Bible’s dedication to King James I, not always printed in modern editions, which begins, “great and manifold were the blessings” when James became king.  (“Manifold” here means both “varied” and “abundant.”) Today, the same words describe the King James Bible itself.


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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