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.

The KJB at a Folger Neighbor

Robert Reid, Understanding. Library of Congress. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith.

Last weekend’s blog post about the Martin Luther King Memorial highlighted the newest addition to the list of Washington monuments, memorials, and official spaces which include at least one inscription from the King James Bible—and inspired us to think of some others.

Religious images and references to God are fairly common in “white-marble Washington,” but written texts from the King James Bible can be harder to find. One place to look is just across the street from the Folger Shakespeare Library, in the magnificent Great Hall of the Library of Congress’s Jefferson Building. (The Folger Shakespeare Library, unlike the Library of Congress, is a private, nongovernmental research library. Henry and Emily Folger placed it on Capitol Hill next to the Library of Congress, which has always been a Folger neighbor.)

The image shown here, depicting Understanding, is from a group of four paintings by the artist Robert Reid on the north wall of the Great Hall’s second floor. Below Reid’s painting is a verse from Proverbs 4:7, in the words of the King James Bible: “Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

The Great Hall at the Library of Congress also famously exhibits the Giant Bible of Mainz (1452-53), one of the last great handwritten Bibles, and the Gutenberg Bible (about 1455), the first book printed in movable metal type in western Europe.

The quotations in the Great Hall are both numerous and varied, reflecting the nineteenth century’s fascination with science and engineering as well as art, literature, philosophy, religion, and more. For additional information, see librarian and historian John Y. Cole’s On These Walls: Inscriptions and Quotations in the Library of Congress. Cole is also director of the library’s Center for the Book.

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