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.

Archive for February, 2012

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.


Happy Birthday, Handel!

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, Toronto, Canada. Photo by Gary Beechey.

Composer George Frideric Handel was born today in 1685. Famous for the “Hallelujah Chorus” and Messiah, Handel nevertheless had a prolific career as a opera composer and drew on a wide range of musical influences from German, French, Italian, and English traditions.

In addition to his distinguished musical career, which included 42 operas, as well as many shorter compositions and oratorios, Handel actively supported various charitable institutions. In fact, the first performance of Messiah was held to benefit individuals  imprisoned for debt and hospitals.  On April 13, 1742, concertgoers crowded into the Great Music Hall on Fishamble Street in Dublin; to accommodate the largest audience possible,  gentlemen were asked not to wear swords, and ladies were discouraged from wearing hoops in their dresses. The performance earned rave reviews, and a second concert was given in Dublin in June.

When Messiah made its London premiere on March 23 1743, responses were less than enthusiastic. Some felt that the venue, Covent Garden, did not suit the sacred nature of the music. Almost the entirety of the libretto is drawn from the text of the King James Bible; the sole exception is the Psalms, which are based on Miles Coverdale’s translation.  Messiah eventually became a standard part of London’s musical repertoire; in fact, Handel attended a performance on April 6 1759, just days before he died.

To hear excerpts from Messiah and learn more about its connections to the King James Bible, please visit the Handel’s Messiah interactive feature on the Manifold Greatness website.

More facts about George Frideric Handel:

1. George Frideric Handel was made a British citizen by an Act of Parliament.

2. He gave several benefit concerts in support of London’s Foundling Hospital, which provided care for abandoned and unwanted children. The hospital, now the Founding Museum, holds a large collection of Handel memorabilia.

3. Handel’s father discouraged his son’s interest in music and wanted Handel to be a lawyer instead; according to one biographer, Handel hid a clavichord in an upstairs room and practiced in secret.

4. Although Messiah is now associated with the Christmas season, it was originally performed during Lent.

5. George Frideric Handel has a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website. She is a communications associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

On Love

Title page of the first edition of the King James Bible. The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New. London, 1611. Folger Shakespeare Library.

What does the Good Book have to say about love? Plenty. Here is a selection of several well-known verses from the King James Bible on love, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Proverbs 10:12
“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”

Proverbs 15:17
“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”

Proverbs 17:17
“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Song of Solomon 8:7
“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.”

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

1 John 3:11
“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

Finally, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is commonly read at weddings. In many modern translations, the passage begins “Love is patient, love is kind.” However, the King James Bible translates these well-known verses somewhat differently:

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

For the King James Bible translators, “charity” meant benevolent, kind-hearted feelings towards one’s fellow human beings.

The King James Bible is not the only Bible translation to use charity in this sense. The Wycliffe Bible, based on the work of John Wycliffe, one of the first individuals to translate the Bible into English,  also uses “charity” where most modern translations would use the word “love.” For example, in the Wycliffe Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:13 is rendered as “Nowe forsothe dwellen feith, hope, and charite, thes thre; forsoth the mooste of thes is charite.” Today’s readers are probably more familiar with the verse in this form:

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ”

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website. She is a communications associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Living in the Belt with the Good Book

“Most people are bothered by these passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” –Mark Twain.

The poet Andrew Hudgins has identified the King James Bible as the most important work in Southern literature, and the crowd that gathered at William Carey University for the panel discussion, “Living in the Belt with the Good Book,” would agree.  William Carey faculty members Dr. Tom Richardson, Dr. Lorie Watkins Fulton, and Dr. Allison Chestnut led a wide-ranging discussion of Biblical influences on Southern literature, and in particular, the writings of Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Eudora Welty.

Richardson, chair of the Department of Language and Literature at William Carey, opened the discussion with reflections on Twain’s complicated, irreverent, and iconoclastic views on the Bible and religion. “It is full of interest.  It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”—Twain’s Letters from the Earth, published posthumously in 1962.

Fulton, author of William Faulkner, Gavin Stevens, and the Cavalier Tradition (Peter Lang, 2011), recounted the story of Faulkner’s grandfather, who demanded that each grandchild recite a verse from the King James Bible each morning before breakfast.  No Bible verse, no breakfast.  Fulton surmised that perhaps this early training directly inspired the many Biblical allusions in Faulkner’s novels.

The influence of parable on the short stories of Eudora Welty was the subject of Chestnut’s presentation.  Chestnut argued that Welty’s stories imitate both the style and structure of Biblical parables.

The “afterlife” of the King James Bible is clearly on display in the works of these great writers that we Southerners claim as our own. A timeline of the King James Bible’s literary influences is viewable on the Manifold Greatness website.

Sherry Laughlin is Director of Libraries at William Carey University.

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

Show and Tell

Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible is currently on view at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, MS; the University of Minnesota  in Minneapolis/St.Paul; and the University of Texas at Brownsville in Brownsville, TX.  Later this month, the exhibition opens at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

A family Bible owned by Tim Strand, published in 1684 in Copenhagen. Photo by Susan Gangl.

Both William Carey University and the University of Minnesota have shared photos from events related to the Manifold Greatness exhibition.  The University of Minnesota hosted two events over the weekend, including a  “Manifold Greatness Colloquium” on Friday. Over 70 people gathered to see the traveling exhibit, as well as a local exhibition entitled  “The Word Made Flesh” which showcased rare Bibles. The colloquium included presentations by scholars from the University of Minnesota, Bethel University and Luther Seminary, as well as a reception with music, tea, and scones!

On February 5, a “Share Your Bible” workshop for adults and children encouraged participants to share family Bibles and memories. William Carey University is also showcasing family Bibles, and has photographs of many of these heirlooms on display along with the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition.

To view photos of events at William Carey University and the University of Minnesota, please visit Flickr.

Amy Arden is a communications associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library. The Folger partnered with the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, to produce Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible.

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.