The Manifold Greatness panels were packed up and shipped from Rhodes College on Monday this past week. But their presence lingers, in part through the exhibition of Rhodes archival holdings that it helped inspire.
Last September, when I attended the ALA/NEH workshop at the Folger Shakespeare Library in preparation for our hosting these panels, I recall a moment that was almost Norman Rockwell-esque in its poignancy. We had been invited to introduce ourselves and our home institutions. One by one, forty different people stood up and expressed their eagerness for “Manifold Greatness” to visit their libraries. But what was most moving were the accounts everyone spontaneously gave of how they planned to augment the panels with local resources. Someone mentioned a copy of a Native American Bible translation that they planned to display; another person described with pride the venue in which the panels would be exhibited, a converted church sanctuary; many others detailed the extraordinary range of documents, events, and people who would be connected to this traveling exhibition. It seemed ‘American’ in all the best ways: regional riches strengthened in conjunction with federal resources.
Here at Rhodes, the arrival of Manifold Greatness occasioned some delightful discoveries. The more we sought biblically related materials, the more we found. We gathered dozens of critical studies related to the biblical translation into one nearby shelf, so that visitors could read further into this cultural history.
Based on a suggestion made by another Manifold Greatness host (Stan Campbell, at Centre College), our archivists Bill Short and Elizabeth Gates realized that we hold copies of a series of facsimile reproductions of leaves from early English Bibles, produced in 1935 by the American Bible Society.
We already knew of our copies of a Geneva Bible (1582), Fulke’s contentious refutation of the Rheims New Testament (1589), and an early reissue of the 1611 Bible by the King’s printer (1617). All three of these items from our Special Collections enriched the panels’ narrative considerably—many visitors commented gratefully that these volumes helped them appreciate the scale of the portable Geneva or the dauntingly large KJV.
But what was a marvel to encounter was the discovery that we had, decades ago, acquired an extraordinary collection of mounted pages from various biblical translations. These include a manuscript (1121) of the Bible in Armenian; a Paris Bible (c. 1240); the new edition of the Greek New Testament and accompanying Latin translation by Desiderius Erasmus; the complete Douai-Rheims Bible (1609-10); the London Polyglot (1657), edited by Brian Walton; John Eliot’s Algonquin Bible (2nd edition, 1665); and The Works [Opera] of St. Cyprian (1563).
Our colleague Michael Leslie was teaching a seminar on the pre-history of the 1611 translation, and eagerly provided explanatory commentary, further enriching the collective exhibition.
While the panels have departed our library for their next host institution, the circulating bookshelf, the facsimiles, the original volumes, and the mounted pages will all remain on display for another month. This is a tribute to the generative quality of Manifold Greatness itself and the ways in which it inspires local libraries to recognize their own great and manifold holdings.
Scott Newstok is associate professor of English at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, which hosted the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition in November and December of 2011. For more about the traveling exhibition at Rhodes College and the related symposium and programs, see Hannibal Hamlin’s previous blog post, Manifold Greatness at Rhodes.
Succumbing to an irresistible urge, we’ve put together this list of the most-viewed posts from our Manifold Greatness blog to date this year. Seasoned online observers may not be surprised that mentions of Elvis Presley, debunked myths, and Bible printing errors earned high viewing statistics.
1) Manifold Greatness at Rhodes College. Folger exhibition curator Hannibal Hamlin reports in this blog post on the recent 1611 Symposium at Rhodes College in Memphis, which also hosted the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition. As he notes, the trip included a keynote address by scholar and Bible translator Robert Alter—and a tour of Graceland, which lent Elvis Presley’s King James Bible to the current Folger Manifold Greatness exhibition.
2) Taking the Stage at Shakespeare’s Glove (and beyond!). The 400th anniversary year of 2011 included countless full-length readings of the 1611 King James Bible, most famously for a full week on stage at Shakespeare’s Globe, described here. We later shared a great eyewitness report from Folger Education festivals project coordinator Carol Kelly, who was there on Easter Sunday.
3) Shakespeare Did Not Write the King James Bible, No Way, No How. Curator Hannibal Hamlin debunks the common, but mistaken, belief that Shakespeare contributed to the King James Bible. In other posts, he’s taken on the idea that the King James Bible influenced Shakespeare’s plays (earlier English Bibles did, the KJB didn’t), and the notion that May 2 is the KJB’s publication date (it isn’t).
4) The King and the King James Bible. Folger exhibition curator Steve Galbraith writes on the King James Bible owned by Elvis Presley (and now displayed at the Folger Manifold Greatness exhibition, as noted above) and Presley’s love of gospel music. Other “association copies” on view include a King James Bible owned by Frederick Douglass and one made for King James’s older son Prince Henry, as well as Bibles linked to Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Anne.
5) The Wicked Bible. The commandment “thou shalt not commit adultery” just isn’t the same without the word “not”! This famous printing error is the subject of another post by curator Steve Galbraith on what may have caused it, the consequences for the Bible printer, and the “wicked” challenge of locating this rare edition.
6) Hallelujah! Handel’s Messiah and the King James Bible. The words of the King James Bible may well be most familiar to audiences today from performances of this familiar oratorio, first noted in this blog post from the April 13 anniversary of its Dublin premiere. Folger Consort artistic director Bob Eisenstein recently shared this fascinating, fresh look at the Messiah, which one early admirer said was worth riding “40 miles in the wind and rain” to hear.
7) Gregory Peck Moby Dick Released Today — 1956. One of many literary works (and subsequent movies) deeply influenced by the King James Bible is Melville’s Moby-Dick, represented in this blog post by the classic film.
8) The First King James Bible in America? This Thanksgiving week post considers the King James Bible that came over on the Mayflower (this Bible, on loan from Pilgrim Hall,is in the Folger exhibition, too!)… and the open question of Bibles in Jamestown.
9) The Bible and Othello. This fall, Folger Theatre produced Othello, first performed in 1604, the year that work began on the King James Bible; scholars believe Shakespeare wrote Othello in 1603 or 1604. Curator Hannibal Hamlin writes about biblical (though not KJB-specific) connections to the play.
10) Discovering a “Judas Bible.” Curator Steve Galbraith writes on about another classic early King James Bible printing mistake—and on making a discovery within the Folger collection as the current exhibition was prepared.
Our thanks to everyone who contributed to the Manifold Greatness blog this year (see this full list of blog consultants and contributors) and to all of you who read our blog and created these rankings, one view at a time! Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible will be open to the public, free of charge, at the Folger Shakespeare Library through January 16. (Holiday hours: The Folger exhibition will be closed on December 24 through 26, but will be open as usual on December 31, January 1, and January 2.)
I just got back from Memphis and the fabulous 1611 Symposium organized by Scott Newstok at Rhodes College. A professor of English at Rhodes, Scott organizes the annual “Shakespeare at Rhodes” Symposium. This year, Scott decided to capitalize on the KJV anniversary by combining several events into one. The symposium itself brought together five international scholars to talk about different aspects of the King James Bible and its rich history: Brian Cummings (Sussex), “In the Literal Sense: The Protestant Bible and the Theory of Reading”; Naomi Tadmor (Lancaster) “The Social Universe of the King James Bible”; Ena Heller (Museum of Biblical Art, New York), “Against the King’s Wishes: Art and the King James Bible”; Vincent Wimbush (Claremont Graduate School), “White Men’s Magic: The Black Atlantic Reads King James”; and me (Ohio State), “Reflections after 2011: What I’ve Learned about the King James Bible.” The distinguished literary critic, biblical scholar, and Bible translator Robert Alter (Berkeley) was the respondent, and he also delivered the Naseeb Shaheen Memorial Lecture, “The King James Bible and the Question of Eloquence,” at The University of Memphis the previous evening. Many audience members attended both events, and they also had the opportunity to see the panel exhibition of Manifold Greatness, which had arrived at Rhodes earlier in the week.
The Manifold Greatness panels were displayed brilliantly, fanning across a beautiful sunlit room in Rhodes’s stunning Barret Library. Hats off to the librarians, and to Scott, for this location! The exhibition, supplemented with some early English Bibles from the Barret collection, was officially opened Friday morning, with remarks by Scott, some brief background on Manifold Greatness by me, and a lovely reception. The guests included a who’s-who of Memphis, from scholars and teachers at Rhodes, U. Memphis, and other local colleges and seminaries, to the Director of Opera Memphis, board members of the Tennessee Shakespeare Company, and other civic, religious, and cultural leaders. I really had the sense that the whole Memphis community was coming together for these several days.
Robert Alter’s lecture was brilliant, delving into aspects of the KJV style and the work of its translators in a way few others could. How many scholars can legitimately speak of the KJV translators as colleagues? The symposium was a rich and exciting exchange of ideas. Brian Cummings wasn’t able to come due to a family emergency, but his intriguing paper was read by Rhodes professor Michael Leslie. The packed audience was diverse, bringing together students and faculty from several institutions, as well as members of the community.
Even after five papers and a formal response, the audience was keen, asking an array of questions for another couple of hours. At several points, we broke for refreshments, and the discussion simply spilled out into the reception area. Conversation continued among all the presenters and several faculty members at a dinner kindly hosted by Scott at his home.
The next day, we had a VIP tour of Elvis’s home Graceland, our special status owing to the Folger’s borrowing of Elvis’s Bible for the Manifold Greatness exhibition. I actually saw the Folger exhibition announced on a videoscreen in the Graceland lobby. And the gentleman who took us on the tour also knew about the Rhodes conference from an article in the local newspaper. We had lunch at the “world-famous” Gus’s Fried Chicken, and there was a “1611 Symposium” poster on the wall. Memphis definitely did Manifold Greatness proud!!
Hannibal Hamlin, associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
After a very busy first four weeks at a trio of libraries across the United States, the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition banners are packed up and on their way to three new locations, where the traveling exhibition will open in early to mid-November.
As chronicled in our Manifold Greatness tweets and Manifold Greatness Facebook page, each of the October sites (Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Oregon; Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia; and Columbia’s Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary) offered its own array of public events to go with the exhibition, including lectures, panel discussions, and—this Tuesday night, November 1—Sacred Songs for Sacred Texts with soprano Lisa Holsberg and harp at Burke Library in New York.
NCU also exhibited rare Bibles from its Bibles collection, which marks its 100th anniversary this year. KSU, which shared updates here and here on this blog about the Manifold Greatness exhibition (and its much appreciated intern-docents), opened its How God Became English King James Bible exhibit at the same time.
The traveling exhibition moves now to three new libraries around the country, each of which will open the exhibition in early to mid- November:
Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, launches its Manifold Greatness exhibition on November 9 in connection with an international King James Bible symposium that includes a keynote address by Robert Alter, talks by a number of other scholars, including Folger exhibition curator Hannibal Hamlin, and an early modern music concert (events list).
Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California, which opens Manifold Greatness on November 10 at the Honnold Mudd Library, plans four lectures, a Bible printing workshop, and a student-organized companion exhibition of rare materials (see this new video), including a first edition of the Book of Mormon (events list; video interview; image gallery of CGU highlights).
Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, which opens the exhibition on November 14, plans two panel discussions and a symposium organized by the Arizona Center of Medieval Renaissance Studies (events list).
The Folger exhibition Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible is open to visitors seven days a week through January 16 at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. Admission is free.