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 “rare books

Seven Speakers, Exhibits, and Community: Manifold Greatness at Centre

Bible, ca. 1880s, Cassell, Peter, and Galden, 2 volumes. Illustration by Gustave Dore. Centre College. Exhibited with Manifold Greatness.

Gustave Dore, “The Angel Appearing to Balaam.” Bible, ca. 1880s, Cassell, Peter, and Galden, 2 volumes. Centre College. All Bibles pictured here were exhibited with Manifold Greatness.

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.

Manuscript inscriptions, Geneva Bible, 1594. Centre College. Exhibited with Manifold Greatness. (Click any image to see it larger.)

Manuscript inscriptions, Geneva Bible, 1594. Centre College. (Select the image to see it larger.)

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.

Manuscript inscription, Geneva Bible, 1594. Centre College. Exhibited with Manifold Greatness.

Manuscript inscription, Geneva Bible, 1594. Centre College. (Select the image to see it larger.)

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.


A Skillful Facsimile Page in a 1611 King James Bible

There’s an intriguing tradition of a “crocodile mystery” on the Folger Shakespeare Library blog, “The Collation,” which periodically posts the mystery in question, awaits comment, and then posts an explanation a few days later. Earlier in May, we were intrigued by a crocodile mystery image that looked like a page from the 1611 King James Bible. What was so mysterious about this image? Was something not as it appeared? The answer, from Collation author Sarah Werner, Undergraduate Program Director at the Folger, concerned a fascinating nineteenth-century phenomenon, the “pen facsimile.” We wanted to share the following excerpt from her Collation blog post, which you can read in full here:

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Pen facsimile page, 1611 Authorized Bible (King James Bible), Folger

Pen facsimile page, 1611 King James Bible, Folger

As the commenters on our May 3 crocodile guessed, the mystery image shown there, and repeated here, shows writing masquerading as print or, to use the more formal term, a pen facsimile. (Click on any image in this post to enlarge it).

The book in question is the Folger copy of the 1611 Authorized Version of the Bible, also called the King James Bible. The last leaves of the book are increasingly damaged—the corners are missing and repaired with blank paper—until the final original leaf is entirely gone. In its place is a pen facsimile, a hand-drawn copy of what the original leaf would have looked like.

As you can see by comparing the facsimile with the original leaf, shown here from a copy at the University of Pennsylvania, the facsimilist did a very good job. But you can also see, when you’re looking for it, that the pen facsimile is just a bit wobblier than the print original. The kerning (the adjustment of spacing between letters) is just slightly irregular; some long-s’s are missing their crossbar; and the three capital-G’s starting the instances of “God” in the third verse are all just slightly differently shaped.

Once you know which is which, it’s hard to “unsee” the details that reveal it as a facsimile.

At left: Pen facsimile of final page from Folger copy. At right: original printed page from 1611 King James Bible, University of Pennsylvania

At left: Pen facsimile of final page from Folger copy. At right: original printed page from 1611 King James Bible, University of Pennsylvania

Adding pen facsimiles of missing or damaged leaves was not unusual in the nineteenth century for collectors who preferred their works to be pristine and perfect, a common preference. Adding such a facsimile was referred to as a way of perfecting the copy. The verb “to perfect” is one of those odd bibliographical terms that shows how much standards and tastes have changed since we’ve been studying rare books and similar objects. To perfect a book was to supply any missing or damaged leaves with leaves from another copy of that book or with facsimiles of those leaves. By our modern-day standards, of course, this is far from a perfect practice and one that libraries today don’t follow.

Shakespeare First Folio, 1623. Damaged and "perfected" title page. Folger.

Shakespeare First Folio, 1623. Damaged and “perfected” title page. Folger.

It’s not clear who the facsimilist was for the Folger’s King James Bible, or when the work was done. There’s a note in the catalog of the former owner, W.T. Smedley, from nineteenth-century Bible expert Francis Fry, attesting to the book’s good condition and noting that “The last leaf is repaired. It is very rare. They are so often lost.” Either Fry was using “repaired” as a euphemism for “facsimile” (although this seems unlikely, since he accurately describes the volume’s title page as a facsimile) or it was done after Fry examined the book.

Facsimilists, including the unknown figure who created the final page of the Folger’s KJV, were not intending to deceive anyone by passing off copies as originals. Rather, the intent was to make as close to complete as possible copies of works that were missing leaves. While I’m astounded by the talent of such a facsimilist as we just saw, my favorite pen facsimile, shown here, reveals not remarkable skill, but remarkable desire. This title page is from one of the 82 copies of the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare in the Folger collection. It’s not what I would do if I owned a First Folio with a torn title page, but then again, I can’t begrudge the desire of this long-ago owner to make clear what this book is.

Sarah Werner is the Undergraduate Program Director at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

To read the rest of this article, including additional amazing images of pen facsimiles and their print equivalents, read the full blog post on The Collation. For more information about another facsimilist, John Harris, and a bibliography of books and articles related to the practice, consult this interesting page from the British Library.

To explore more of the Folger first edition of the 1611 King James Bible, complemented by notes and read-aloud audio, consult our online feature Read the Book. Since the Folger copy lacks an original title page, as co-curator Steve Galbraith explains in his title-page audio comment, Read the Book uses the original 1611 title page from a Bodleian Library copy.


Describing a Cantankerous Scholar

Exhibition visitors, Folger Shakespeare Library.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been putting the final touches on the panels of the traveling exhibition. I recently saw the proofs and they looked amazing! Studio A in Alexandria, Virginia, has done a fantastic job as always.

We also learned that a very strong number of libraries have applied to host the Manifold Greatness panel exhibition. That’s wonderful news. Now it’s time to write the case and item labels for the Folger exhibition. This is an exciting challenge.

Not only do you have to describe the artifacts in the case and tie them together as a group, you must also situate the case within the larger exhibition narrative. All the while you must be sure that you are really engaging the reader. Tricky business!

Broughton. Folger.

I’m about halfway through my share of the work and finding that it’s a very rewarding process. One of my favorite moments has been deciding how to describe the scholar Hugh Broughton. Thus far I’ve gone with “equally famous for his erudition, as he was infamous for his cantankerous personality.”

In response to the King James Bible he wrote, beginning with the page at right, “Tell his Majestie that I had rather be rent in pieces with wilde horses, then any such translation, by my consent, should bee urged upon poore churches.” He did not mince words.

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


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