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.

On Tour

Biblical Art for a Former Church Turned Museum

Annette Rigdon Swan, Mary and Martha

Annette Rigdon Swan, Mary and Martha

The Manifold Greatness exhibit’s visit to Tifton, Georgia, is the joint effort of the Tifton-Tift County Public Library and the Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage. When I came back from the Washington, DC, training session at the Folger Shakespeare Library with my big white notebook full of information, one of the first things that a member of the museum board said to me was, “The panels take up 600 square feet and the museum is 3500 square feet. What are we going to do so it looks like we have something in the building?”

It was felt that we had a unique opportunity with this exhibit, because the museum once was a Methodist church, complete with fabulous stained glass windows and the most beautiful wooden ceiling, crafted by skilled Yankee shipbuilders a long way from home. After some discussion and phone calls and negotiating, the museum board decided that an art exhibit would be an appropriate accompaniment.  They chose three artists, all of whom are well known in the community, knowing that an exhibit containing works by these artists would attract their fans.

Minnie G. Brown's Nativity, flanked by kneelers from St. Anne's Episcopal Church

Minnie G. Brown’s Nativity, flanked by kneelers from St. Anne’s Episcopal Church

Minnie G. Brown’s works hang in the First Baptist Church and First Presbyterian here in Tifton, as well as in the United Methodist Church in Ashburn, home of the annual Fire Ant Festival. Annette Rigdon Swan was a local art teacher for many years and at 92 years of age still produces paintings to commemorate special occasions in her friends’ lives. Her twelve paintings of women in the Bible that grace the exhibit come to us from their permanent home at First Methodist Church in Tifton.

Vincent Keesee, Let the Little Children Come to Me

Vincent Keesee, Let the Little Children Come to Me

Vincent Keesee’s oil paintings are an interesting contrast to traditional Biblical art. Dr. Keessee is inspired by parables and Bible stories and puts them in rural Georgia settings and he did some of the paintings especially for this occasion.

These paintings are amusing, often provocative, and make an offbeat and quirky contribution to a display that could have become quite heavy and pedantic. Most of the characters in his paintings are inspired by people he knows. Two of the congregants in the painting “Let the Little Children Come to Me” came to the museum to see themselves and explain to me who the other people in the picture were.

To contrast with the vertical surfaces created by the panels and the hanging paintings, three small displays, each containing a wonderful object, were created that sit on pedestals. Fabulously hand-worked kneelers borrowed from St. Anne’s Episcopal Church add more texture (see photo above).

Swedish pulpit Bible from a Swedish Lutheran congregation in Naugatuck

Swedish pulpit Bible from a Swedish Lutheran congregation in Naugatuck

Music from the period is played while the exhibit is open to the public to provide “ear candy.” We set up a touch-activated kiosk that works exactly like the one at the Folger Shakespeare Library did and you can sit and watch the Manifold Greatness YouTube videos in a little nook we made in the back.

It all fills the space very nicely.

To see how the Manifold Greatness panels and the art exhibit work together, take a look at the second photo (scroll down to see it) in our recent quarto-making blog post.

Vickie Horst is the Manager of Tifton-Tift County Public Library in Tifton, Georgia.


Let’s Make a Quarto: Crafting Books by Hand

The quarto workshop was in the Tifton Museum, where Manifold Greatness is on display.

Advertised as a family activity, the workshop attracted a wide range of ages.

Modern book making is a highly mechanized business. In the most common case, sheets of paper are piled together into a block, the spine edge might be sanded or notched, glue is applied, and a cover attached. There is little handcraft in the process, and when you consider the adage, “Good, cheap, and fast—you get to choose two,” modern glue binding is mostly cheap and fast.

On April 25, some Tifton-Tift County library patrons got an opportunity to see how book production might have occurred in 1611. Jerry Walker, a retired educator with a lifelong interest in the arts and a highly skilled crafter, led a workshop that we titled “Let’s Make a Quarto: a type of book made in the Renaissance era.” The workshop was held in the museum that houses the Manifold Greatness exhibit, so anyone who had not seen the exhibit got the opportunity to see it then, as well as make their own little book.

The quarto workshop was held in the Tifton Museum, where Manifold Greatness is on display.

The quarto workshop was held at the Tifton Museum, where Manifold Greatness is on display.

The basic idea behind a quarto is that a large sheet of paper is folded to make four smaller pages (hence the “quarto”). It was a very common way of producing books during the time of the King James Bible, allowing eight pages to be printed with only two trips through the press and using only one sheet of paper.

Some of our participants found out the hard way what this folding does to the orientation and the numbering of the pages. We suggested folding the paper, marking the page numbers and the bottom of the pages with a pencil, and then unfolding the page before decorating the pages with a story, stamps, stencils, pictures, and other decorations. (There was no glitter—we had used it all at the Renaissance Faire.) We got some great little stories and pictures. Some of them were upside down and in the wrong order, but we decided that you learn from mistakes, too.

Our amateur bookbinders learned how pages were made into “gathers” and then sewn together to make a finished book, ready to be bound. On the 16th of May, Tracy Iwaskow will be coming from Emory University’s Theology Library and will be bringing some selections from their special collections. Many of the participants are looking forward to seeing examples of the professional bookbinder’s craft.

Vickie Horst is the Manager of Tifton-Tift County Public Library in Tifton, Georgia.

You can find additional information about Making a Quarto, including a video, on the Manifold Greatness website.


A Rousing Renaissance Kickoff for Manifold Greatness

Manifold Greatness, Tifton, Georgia

Library employees Trina Jones and Mack Freeman pose with artist/student worker Jesse Carpenter.

What do you do when you have an exhibit celebrating the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James Bible? What do you do to get a small, rural community in south Georgia in the right mindset for an exhibit and an onslaught of information on the politics and history surrounding a book that most people know very well, but probably have never thought seriously about? Well, in Tifton, Georgia, we put on a Renaissance Faire and partied like it was 1611!

This event gave a lot of people an opportunity to get in touch with their inner RenRat. Attendees were encouraged to attend in costume and were given handouts instructing them on how to speak “The King’s English.” The library staff and our amazing volunteers lavished endless attention on costumes and pavilions. Jesse Carpenter, one of our student workers, was recruited to produce cutouts that included King James himself. Members of the Literacy Volunteers and the Rotary Club were cajoled into selling era-appropriate food to our visitors. One of the interesting facts we discovered while researching the time is that gingerbread men were invented during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I!

Manifold Greatness in Tifton, Georgia

A children’s tent was dedicated to the production of quill pens, swords, shields, and crowns. It is hard to know how long the street will be glittered. We also had a volunteer that taught a steady stream of people how to play Nine Man Morris, a game that we discovered was popular during the time. Wagering on outcomes was not encouraged during our faire.

One of the highlights of the faire was the participation of the Society for Creative Anachronism. These talented individuals came and set up tents and demonstrated blacksmithing, illumination, dancing, sewing techniques, and FIGHTING! Knights fought for the honor of fair maidens picked from the audience and to advance their status in their shires. It was loud and exciting and very, very popular with our visitors. Cameras were encouraged and the fighters were probably the most photographed characters on Faire day.

RenFaire 018

Costumed volunteers added ambiance to our Manifold Greatness opening day!

Why did we open the exhibit this way? It was important for us to have a strong kickoff event for the exhibit. We were looking for something that would appeal to a large number of people, people who might not have thought to come to the exhibit, but might come to the Faire, eat a smoked turkey leg, and then decide to go and see what was happening with the exhibit. We believe that the Faire did this for us. The exhibit had a very strong opening day and we hope that, because we were able to promote the rest of the programming surrounding the exhibit more personally with the Faire-goers, we have good turnouts for what is to come.

Vickie Horst is the Manager of Tifton-Tift County Public Library in Tifton, Georgia.


Biblical History and Ideas at Centre

Manifold Greatness at Centre College

Course visit to Manifold Greatness, Centre College

Visiting Manifold Greatness, Centre College

Manifold Greatness, Centre College

On Wednesday, April 17, the Manifold Greatness display arrived at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. To kick off the exhibit, the college hosted a talk by Professor Bart D. Ehrman, entitled “Misquoting Jesus: Scribes Who Changed the Scriptures and Readers Who May Never Know.” The talk was a great success, attended by an estimated audience of 700 people, and students and community members began to observe the exhibit in Centre’s Grace Doherty Library.

The exhibit also offers many teaching moments in the life of the college. My religion course, entitled “Biblical History and Ideas,” explored the exhibit. The course examines the historical context surrounding the composition and reception of the Bible, and the translation of the King James Version directly relates to elements in the course.

Manifold Greatness, Centre College

On view at Centre

After studying elements of the original Hebrew text that were “lost in translation,” such as Jerome’s translation in his Vulgate of Exodus 34:29, the radiant face of Moses (cornuta esset facies), the students were able to witness the legacy of such translations on the original title page of the King James Version, featuring a Moses with “horns.” The exhibit is able to visually express details involving biblical translation in a vibrant and memorable way.

Lee Jefferson is Assistant Professor of Religion at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

See this announcement and this list of programs for more information on Manifold Greatness at Centre College. 


Three New Looks at Manifold Greatness

Manifold Greatness banner

Tifton Museum, Tifton, Georgia

Looking for a new way to explore the King James Bible and its history and influence? As Manifold Greatness opens at a trio of new locations, all three continue the traveling exhibit’s growing tradition of impressive—and highly varied—programming (scroll down for a look at some standout events at our most recent host sites, as well):

Today, April 17, marks the opening of Manifold Greatness at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, including a convocation by Professor Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Tomorrow, April 18, Centre presents a talk by Amos Tubb, associate professor of history, on “The History of Publishing in England and the King James Translation,” with several more lectures in the weeks ahead.

Or, you could visit the Renaissance. This Saturday, April 20, the Tifton Museum and the Tifton-Tift Public Library in Tifton, Georgia, welcome Manifold Greatness with a “Renaissance Faire in Library Lane,” including period crafts and foods, weapons and armor displays, and a look at Manifold Greatness! Upcoming Tifton events (same link) include a multimedia presentation by Dr. Brian Ray, a family quarto-making event, a talk by Reverend Earl Steffens on “the translator’s dilemma,” and a family Bible workshop featuring some of the jewels of Emory University’s Bible collection.

Scott Fisk on letterpress printing

Scott Fisk on letterpress printing, Tuscaloosa

On Monday, April 22, Manifold Greatness opens in Bel Air, Maryland, at the Hays-Heighe House on the Harford Community College campus. An event-filled opening includes a talk by religion and philosophy professor Gary Owens on “Catholicism, Protestantism, Blood, Guts, Ink, and the King James Bible” and theatrical readings from Shakespeare and the Bible. Hays-Heighe House has extended its regular hours throughout the Manifold Greatness run and more talks, readings, and a salon are planned.

But for just a moment before we embark with enthusiasm on these new events, we’d like to bid farewell to the most recent Manifold Greatness host libraries, too, whose doings you’ve been reading about on this blog thanks to their writing and photography:

  • Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh, North Carolina, mounted a Scottish-themed opening, followed in subsequent days by a family Bibles workshop, a talk on the Bible in Art, and a closing lecture on Bible translation.
  • Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri, kicked off the exhibit with a presentation a “best-seller like no other,” then followed up with talks on Shakespeare, Blake, and the Bible, and on American literature and the King James Bible. They concluded with a delicious-sounding Last Feast exploring foods of biblical times and the King James Bible era.
  • Tuscaloosa Public Library began Manifold Greatness with a family-friendly opening event that included pen and ink crafts and a talk on early Bible translator William Tyndale. The library offered its own curated displays on  books and printing and held public events that included a letterpress printing lecture and demonstration and more.

A Month of Manifold Greatness in Tuscaloosa

Curated display presenting the history of books. Tuscaloosa Public Library.

Curated display presenting the history of books. Tuscaloosa Public Library.

Books: The History and Art of Letterpress Printing presented by Scott Fisk

Books: The History and Art of Letterpress Printing presented by Scott Fisk

After a successful month of hosting specialized events, scholarly presentations, and tours, the Tuscaloosa Public Library said farewell to the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit on Friday, April 5. Bringing in over 2,500 visitors, Manifold Greatness proved to be a successful addition to the library and gave patrons a new perspective on how books influence the past, present, and future.

We wrote an earlier blog post about our Opening Reception, which included a talk on the early English Bible translator William Tyndale. Our second scholarly program, pictured here, was entitled “Books: The History and Art of Letterpress Printing.” Samford University Associate Professor Scott Fisk used the history of book arts to frame a discussion of how society often forgets the importance of books and their impact on us. Attendees discussed developments in printing and were given the opportunity to witness firsthand the process of letterpress printmaking with a miniaturized printing press made for traveling salesmen in the late 1800s. Other materials such as broadsides, antique books, and wood type were available to demonstrate the form and function of early book making.

Bonnie tries  her hand at calligraphy during the New School Tuesday ink and quill program.

Bonnie tries calligraphy during the New School Tuesday ink and quill program.

A family-friendly craft program, using a craft organized for our Opening Reception, rounded out the month of Manifold Greatness programming. Kids and their parents were given the chance to create blackberry ink and feather quills. They were then given the chance to use their ink and quills to practice some calligraphy and create name plates for an ongoing bestiary project.

Through the Manifold Greatness exhibit and the five corresponding displays curated by library staff, the Tuscaloosa Public Library was able to present a cohesive timeline beginning with the development of writing, the invention of paper, the migration from scrolls to codices to present day books, and how these inventions have influenced the world, made the creation of the King James Version possible, and had a major impact on authors, artists, and musicians.

Susana Goldman is Reference Librarian at the Tuscaloosa Public Library in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


Food and the Bible at an Informative “Last Feast”

Missouri Valley College event

Passover food variety

Missouri Valley College event

Professor Beverly Katz explains what each food represents for Passover

Missouri Valley College event

Library Director Pamela Reeder serves pottage from meat

Missouri Valley College’s Murrell Memorial Library held its final event for Manifold Greatness on Tuesday, April 2. The Last Feast featured foods from the time of the Bible along with dishes from Shakespeare’s era, when the 1611 King James Bible was translated.

Beverly Katz, assistant professor of business at the college, kicked off the event with a presentation of the different foods and how they are important to the Jewish faith during Passover. She also explained how the types of Passover foods changed as Jews moved from the Mediterranean area to central Europe. As some Jews moved north, hardier foods such as potatoes, noodles, and soups were introduced to the diet. For the Missouri Valley College event, items representing this later period included pottage from meat, Toastees, and King James biscuits. (At the time of the King James Bible, Jews were excluded from England, however, having been expelled in 1290; the ban was not lifted until the mid-1650s.)

Missouri Valley College students sampling food

Missouri Valley students sampling food

With such foods on the menu as hummus, Curacao haroset, King James biscuits, moretum, pottage from meat, Toastees, Passover crackers, figs, dates, almonds, oranges, matzo, pickled fish, cucumber salads, and bulgur and parsley salad, attendees had plenty of Passover samplings.

Missouri Valley College event

Reference Librarian Mary Slater laughs as a student tries the soup

The Last Feast was also a reminder that food is a very important part of traditions. Food brings families and communities closer during celebrations, holidays, weddings and funerals. The Bible is no stranger to relating food and gatherings, as in this verse from First Corinthians 10:31 as it appears in the King James Bible: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

Jae Steinkuhler is the special events coordinator at Murrell Library, Missouri Valley College.


Changing Images of the Bible in Art

David Steel talks about biblical images in art at Cameron Village Regional Library

David Steel talks about biblical images in art at Cameron Village Regional Library

On March 19, the Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh, North Carolina, played host to North Carolina Museum of Art curator David Steel, who presented an illustrated lecture about masterpieces of art based on stories from the Bible.

For example, The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man (ca. 1617) was painted by two giants of the art world. Peter Paul Rubens painted the figures of Adam and Eve, and Jan Brueghel painted the animals and the nature elements. Brueghel specialized in these subjects and often collaborated with figure painters. Steel noted that in this work the tree of knowledge contains several different fruits, and that some scholars make a good case for the forbidden fruit being an orange, not an apple.

The story of David and Bathsheba is another popular subject for artists—perhaps because it’s a good excuse to put a female nude in the center of a painting. But Rembrandt’s 1654 Bathsheba at Her Bath is different from others. Bathsheba is not a great beauty, as in earlier versions. That’s because Rembrandt was using his mistress as a model. Bathsheba dominates the canvas, and possibly because Rembrandt’s personal and professional life was in a shambles at the time, she is reflective and sad. The canvas for this painting, unusually, is almost a perfect square.

Curator David Steel speaks on The Bible in Art

Curator David Steel of the North Carolin Museum of Art speaks on biblical images in art

We saw three versions of the story of Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes. The first, by Caravaggio, is Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598-99). Steel compared this dramatic version to another painting on this subject by Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, completed between 1611 and 1612. Gentileschi’s portrayal is much more violent and brutal than Caravaggio’s. Perhaps Gentileschi was expressing her anger at men after being raped by her art teacher. The third version, Judith and Holofernes, is a 2012 painting by Kehinde Wiley. In Wiley’s depiction, the model for Judith is an African American Rikers Island prison guard, attired in a Givenchy dress. The head she holds in one hand is that of a white woman.

All in all, the evening was one of both beauty and enlightenment.

Sue Scott is Arts and Literature Librarian at Cameron Village Regional Library, Raleigh, North Carolina.


A Lively Opening at Missouri Valley College

Professor David I. Roberts reading a passage from a 20th century Bible.

Professor David L. Roberts reads a passage from a 20th century Bible.

The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit opened to great fanfare March 19 at Missouri Valley College’s Murrell Memorial Library in Marshall, Missouri. David L. Roberts, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at the college, presented his slideshow, “A Best-Seller like No Other: The King James Bible and Its 400 Years of Influence.”

Students, faculty and community members attended the event and enjoyed not only the displays of historical Bibles, but also the displays of nativities, song books, and other church-related items.

Professor Roberts began his slideshow with the prose of the King James Bible. Comparing it to other and later versions of the Bible, the King James Version is poetic and sounds “pretty” when read aloud. One of the main points was that words sound better with an “eth” at the end. “Maketh,” “sayeth,” even “asseth!”

Professor Roberts presenting his slideshow.

Professor Roberts presents his slideshow.

In the slideshow, Professor Roberts also pointed out some key elements of the Manifold Greatness exhibit. The influence of the King James Bible in popular literature, movies and music spans from children’s programming (A Charlie Brown Christmas) to more adult music (The Byrds.) Also, the King James Bible reached new heights when the creation story was read by Apollo 8 astronauts as they rounded the moon.

Murrell Library is looking forward to several more speakers, fun activities, and even hosting a Last Feast reception during the Manifold Greatness exhibit.

Jae Steinkuhler is the special events coordinator at Murrell Library, Missouri Valley College.


Tyndale, Quills, and Ink: Manifold Greatness Opens at the Tuscaloosa Public Library

Young community members make feather quills and sign their names with blackberry ink. Photo Vince Bellofatto.

Young community members make feather quills and sign their names with blackberry ink. Photos by Vince Bellofatto.

On March 8, the City of Tuscaloosa welcomed the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit to the Tuscaloosa Public Library, a highly anticipated event in a region that lies in the heart of the Bible Belt.

Five displays, which were curated by the library, are scattered throughout the building to enhance the Manifold Greatness experience. These displays offer visitors the chance to experience physical representations of the topics discussed within the Manifold Greatness exhibit, such as the history of books, papermaking, bookmaking, the literary influence of the King James Bible, and what the Bible has become today.

Dr. L. Jeffrey Weddle giving his presentation during the Manifold Greatness Opening Ceremony. Photo Vince Bellofatto

Dr. L. Jeffrey Weddle’s presentation during the Opening Ceremony.

Our family-friendly opening reception was held Sunday, March 10. Attendees were given the chance to peruse the exhibit while enjoying the classical music of Handel’s Messiah and partaking of light refreshments. The keynote speaker, Dr. L. Jeffrey Weddle, Associate Professor at the University of Alabama, introduced the history of the first English Bibles through William Tyndale’s version during his presentation, entitled “William Tyndale: How His Bible Translation Changed the Reformation and Led to the King James Version.”

As an added bonus, the Children’s Department gave patrons a guided tour through the history of bookmaking, starting with a discussion of early bookmaking and the various materials that have been used to make books, followed by a feather quill making activity. After reading the story The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane by C.M. Millen, participants saw a demonstration of making blackberry ink and were able to use their new quills to sign their names.

Members of the Tuscaloosa community view the Manifold Greatness exhibit in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Photo Vince Bellofatto

Tuscaloosa community members view the Manifold Greatness exhibit.

From there, they were offered the opportunity to hear from Christopher Davenport and Laura Rowley, students from the University of Alabama Book Arts Department, with lessons and hands-on activities on letterpress printing, bookmaking, and papermaking.

In the coming weeks, the library is looking forward to the many special groups scheduled to attend the exhibit and will be hosting two additional programs geared towards engaging our community in the history and influence that the creation of the King James Version had on the world.

Susana Goldman is Reference Librarian at the Tuscaloosa Public Library in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.