I’m writing this from Borough High St. in Southwark (London), a few blocks from Southwark Cathedral, and in the vicinity of what used to be Winchester Palace, the London residence of the Bishop of Winchester. Lancelot Andrewes, translator of the King James Bible and perhaps supervisor of the First Westminster Company, was granted the bishopric in 1618. He is buried in Southwark Cathedral and is represented in effigy lying on top of his tomb.
London is full of reminders of the translation of the English Bible. Across London Bridge, which is just up the road and on the right, is the church of St. Magnus Martyr. Miles Coverdale, who translated the first complete English Bible (apart from the Wycliffites), is buried there, since he served for a time as rector.
William Tyndale, translator of translators, is buried in Vilvoorde in the Netherlands, where he was strangled and burned, but his sculpted head is included as a decorative architectural feature at St. Dunstan-in-the-West, where he lectured. John Donne later preached at St. Dunstan’s. A little south of St. Paul’s, where Donne was dean, stood the church of Holy Trinity the Less, destroyed in the Great Fire. John Rogers, the man responsible for Matthew’s Bible (1537), was rector there a few years earlier. He was later burned alive as a heretic at Smithfield, a 10 minute walk north, near the church of St. Bartholomew the Great. Benjamin Franklin worked briefly for a printer in the Lady Chapel of St. Bart’s.
Of course, Westminster itself, the location of two companies of the King James Bible translators, is down the Thames to the west. Thomas Bilson, Bishop of Winchester (before Andrewes), member of the Second Cambridge Company, and one of the revisers of the final King James Bible text, is buried in Westminster Abbey, as is, of course, King James I. Archbishop Matthew Parker, who supervised the translation of the Bishops’ Bible (1568), is buried at Lambeth just across the Thames.
The celebrations of the King James Bible anniversary have died down here. There are no upcoming events listed on the website of the King James Bible Trust. And in the United States, the tour of Manifold Greatness comes to end on July 12—oddly enough, my birthday. Perhaps more appropriately, it is the date of the death of Erasmus (1536), who produced the Greek text of the New Testament that became known as the Textus Receptus, an essential resource for translators from William Tyndale to the King James Bible companies.
As I reflect on the long history of Manifold Greatness, from its inception and planning, to the years of research, to the exhibition at the Folger, to the long journey of the panel exhibitions, I wonder what lies ahead for the King James Bible in 2111. Will the 500th anniversary be celebrated as were the 400th and the 300th? Will the King James Bible still be in use in some churches? Will American presidents still be sworn in on it? Will the King James Bible have an afterlife in the 21st century? Will some lecturer refer back to the 2011 anniversary celebrations at the Folger, as I referred in my opening lecture to celebrations in New York and London in 1911? Few of us will know. As Matthew writes, “of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
Hannibal Hamlin, associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, was co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
You may have noticed that Hannibal Hamlin’s recent post on Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, and the King James Bible began “Happy Birthday Walter!” And with good reason. As we look back on the Manifold Greatness blog since its own birth announcement on March 15, 2011, birthdays and other anniversaries have been an enormous help to us in tracing the origins and cultural influences of the 1611 King James Bible, from its time to the present day. Many of our posts have been quite different, of course, with no anniversary connotation. But again and again, we’ve found that anniversary dates are a welcome and frequent part of the mix.
A special date, like Whitman’s birthday, not only gives a blog post an easy-to-understand reason for appearing when it does; it often means that there will be other links and resources elsewhere for readers to explore on the same day on the same topic. For our blog, paying attention to such dates has also created, in effect, a real-world immersion in the width and breadth of the King James Bible’s influence, so that we find ourselves noting the anniversary of the first Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) one day, the death date of reggae superstar Bob Marley another day, and the death of King James Bible translator John Rainolds on yet another. Others in an almost endless list of examples include the anniversaries of the reading from Genesis from Apollo 8 in lunar orbit, the death of William Blake, and the death of Elvis Presley.
Anniversary dates can be tough deadlines, too. Behind the scenes, we’ve occasionally found ourselves scrambling to create a post on or near belatedly discovered date. Steve Galbraith produced that post on the anniversary of Bob Marley’s death in a matter of hours; Helen Moore, at the Bodleian, wrote the Rainolds tribute in very short order; and, quite recently, Hannibal Hamlin marked the rarely noted anniversary of the death of Casiodoro de Reina, a crucial early Spanish Bible translator, with just a few hours’ notice. For all of which and more, many thanks to all three!
King James Bible-influenced poems, songs, movies, television shows, and other creative works have anniversaries to celebrate, too, from the release of the 1956 film version of Moby Dick to the debut of the Byrds’ Turn, Turn, Turn. Handel’s Messiah has given rise on this blog to posts on Handel’s birthday, the anniversary of the oratorio’s original Dublin premiere, and the modern custom of performing it in the days before Christmas rather than during Lent, the period before Easter. Christmas and Easter, of course, are among the annual holidays—religious and secular, fixed-date like Christmas and moveable feast like Easter—that we have marked on the blog, too, which has also included posts tied to Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving, among others.
Ultimately, the impulse to celebrate anniversaries led to the entire Manifold Greatness project, inspired by the 400th anniversary of the 1611 King James Bible, and to countless other projects around the globe in the anniversary year of 2011. But the same impulse has also inspired a modern King James Bible myth. The natural desire to link the King James Bible to a specific date, as well as to the year 1611, has led to the widespread, but false, idea that the King James Bible was first published on May 2, one of several King James Bible myths debunked on this blog over time.
King James himself, of course, is inevitably linked to several anniversary dates, including the date of his coronation. On June 19, 2011, we first wished him “Happy Birthday, King James!” You can wish him the same next Wednesday, as June 19 rolls around once more.
Since this blog began in the spring of 2011, the 400th anniversary year of the King James Bible, we’ve examined inscriptions from the King James Bible in several locations around Washington, DC, home of the Folger Shakespeare Library. We took a look at the Library of Congress and at biblical influences on Martin Luther King’s rhetoric, including a biblical inscription at the Martin Luther King Memorial, which we revisited recently as part of our Washington, DC, cherry blossoms entry.
On this Memorial Day weekend, Arlington National Cemetery, just across the Potomac, seemed like a good place to look for King James Bible inscriptions. Two examples on the Arlington memorials and monuments are perhaps the best known, in addition to some private citations on individual tombstones. (Robert E. Lee’s former home, Arlington House, still stands at the highest point on the grounds; in yet another KJB connection, you can see Lee’s own King James Bible here.)
One of the two King James Bible inscriptions is on the World War I chaplains memorial, dedicated in 1926. The memorial includes a line from John, 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Located on the brow of Chaplains Hill within the cemetery, the memorial is now accompanied by memorials to Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish chaplains that include later wars; the Jewish chaplains memorial was dedicated relatively recently, in 2011.
The Confederate Memorial was unveiled in 1914, almost half a century after the end of the Civil War, in a section of the cemetery that was set aside for Confederate graves in 1900. Both the graves section and the memorial were seen as symbols of national reconciliation.
The memorial is encircled near the top with the line from Isaiah 2:4, “and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks.” Above this inscription, a female figure representing the South lifts a laurel wreath southward with one hand; she holds a pruning hook in her other hand, which she rests on a plow. The pruning hook and plow are meant to illustrate the King James Bible passage.
Learn more about the King James Bible in American history, including Confederate and Union copies of the King James Bible, in our Historic American Bibles image gallery.
Curious about the post-Civil War origins of Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day? Try this recent blog post from the Smithsonian American History Museum.
It’s May 2 today, and that makes it the anniversary of… a classic May 2, 2011, blog post by Manifold Greatness co-curator Hannibal Hamlin, explaining just why May 2 isn’t and couldn’t be the anniversary of the King James Bible’s publication date.
But the curious tradition of May 2 is not the only King James Bible myth that he’s discussed on this blog. One of our all-time most popular blog posts (with a fairly self-explanatory title, we think) remains Shakespeare did not write the King James Bible, no way, no how. Nor did the King James Bible influence Shakespeare’s plays: the timing was wrong, as explained here.
Dealing with another common misconception, King James didn’t write the King James Bible, either. See this blog post for that explanation.
Curious to learn more? These and other questions are included as Myth or Reality? FAQS on our Manifold Greatness website, too. What makes the King James Bible so subject to myths, stories, and misconceptions? Perhaps, in part, it’s just a sign of its cultural and religious importance. As for May 2, it’s an unusually prosaic “myth” about a book publication date, rarely the stuff of legend or romance. As Hannibal Hamlin suggests in his original “May 2” blog post, perhaps just having a definite date—any date—helps satisfy our perennial desire for certainty.
The Manifold Greatness project, including this blog, began in 2011, the 400th anniversary year of the 1611 King James Bible. To learn more about the origins, creation, and broad influence of the King James Bible, explore our Manifold Greatness website. To try our coloring game, select “Coloring” from the Games and Activities section of the website’s “Kids Zone.”
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.
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.
Washington, DC, the home of the Folger Shakespeare Library, is reveling in the National Cherry Blossom Festival (March 20 to April 14) as the Japanese cherry trees around the Tidal Basin and elsewhere are now approaching their glorious but short-lived “peak bloom.”
We thought we’d revisit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, first discussed in this blog post by Manifold Greatness curator Hannibal Hamlin around the time of the memorial’s original (but storm-delayed) dedication in August 2011.
Martin Luther King often quoted from the Bible, including the King James Bible, in his speeches, including a line from Amos evoking a time when justice runs down “like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” You can see that quotation in the inscription here from a 1955 speech in Montgomery, Alabama. And yes, those are cherry blossoms at the top of the picture!
Over the past year and a half of the Manifold Greatness exhibit’s continuing travels, some of the Manifold Greatness host sites have included special events that touched on King’s use of the King James Bible as well as the connection between the King James Bible and the black church tradition. For more examples of the role of the King James Bible in American public life, you may want to explore the Modern Life image gallery on our Manifold Greatness website.
The King Memorial is located directly on the Tidal Basin, which is encircled by those blossoming Japanese cherry trees. King’s statue looks across the water at the Jefferson Memorial, which has its own historic associations with the King James Bible. One of Thomas Jefferson’s post-presidential projects was to assemble, from scripture, an account of Jesus’ teachings that excluded supernatural elements, producing what he called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. You can see one passage in the Historic American Bibles image gallery on the Manifold Greatness website, or learn much more about it at the Smithsonian’s Thomas Jefferson’s Bible, which includes a complete online facsimile.
In between the Jefferson and King memorials along the edge of the Tidal Basin is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Unlike many American presidents, however, Roosevelt does not offer us a simple King James Bible connection through his inauguration ceremonies. Franklin Roosevelt followed the tradition of being sworn in on a Bible, and he used the same one for all four inaugurations (he had also used it when he was sworn in as governor of New York in 1928 and 1930). But it was not the King James Bible. Roosevelt was sworn in on his family’s 1686 Dutch Bible (scroll down to see photos), the oldest Bible used at any presidential inauguration to date, and the only inaugural Bible in a modern foreign language, Dutch.
The traveling exhibit Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife appears next in mid-April at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky; the Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage in coordination with the Tifton-Tift County Public Library in Tifton, Georgia; and the Hays-Heighe House at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland.
This Sunday is March 24, the date in 1603 when Queen Elizabeth I died, and James VI of Scotland became king of England. When James succeeded Elizabeth to the English monarchy, he also inherited the crown of Ireland.
Although a high king of Ireland was both a legal and historical reality, the concept of an Irish crown was innovative in this period. The bardic poet Fearghal Óg Mac an Bhaird may be the first to have articulated the notion of ‘the crown of Ireland’ as part of a triple monarchy, which he did in his famous poem “Tri coróna i gcairt Shéamais” (Three crowns in James’s charter), an inaugural poem celebrating James’s accession to the triple monarchy of England, Scotland, and Ireland.
The current Folger exhibition, Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland, which I curated with Thomas Herron, Associate Professor of English at East Carolina University, includes a facsimile manuscript of Mac an Bhaird’s poem, in the original Irish language. The poem is one of several Irish-language works on display. A fundamental, and immensely interesting, part of the exhibition, these works have been a way for us to show how the Irish language itself was a powerful cultural and social force in the world of Renaissance Ireland. You can hear a spoken passage from the poem, in Irish, in this online audio stop from our exhibition audio tour (the passage from the poem begins after my spoken introduction) and see an image of the poem here as well.
The poem’s fame derives in part from its seeming curiosity: why would a Gaelic Irishman welcome a “British” king? One answer is that Gaelic intellectuals were not absolutely averse to political connection to the monarchy in London, and currying favor with the new king was simply good politics.
On a more basic level, the bardic class hoped to enjoy greater protection and rights under a Scottish king than they had under an English queen: Elizabeth may have had an interest in the Irish language, but she did next to nothing to arrest the destruction of Gaelic culture. James, by contrast, had successfully ruled Scotland for decades and had managed his Gaelic and Catholic subjects with relative tolerance. Many Irish—bards, lords, and even churchmen—held out hope that his reign would usher in better days.
Mac an Bhaird’s poem details the grounds of James’s claim for all three kingdoms. In the case of Ireland, legitimacy derived from blood (Scottish kings having been descended of Irish Gaels) rather than conquest. In traditional motif, then, Ireland was portrayed in the poem as the feminized ‘spouse’ of the rightful king, a union that would bring peace and plenty to the land.
Great hopes, however, were quickly dashed. A mere six years later, in 1609, James’s government would commence the largest and most ambitious of English/British colonial schemes in Ireland, the Plantation of Ulster, and thus the repeopling of Ireland’s northern province with English and Scottish settlers.
Brendan Kane is Associate Professor of History at the University of Connecticut, Associate Director of the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, and the curator, with Thomas Herron, of the Folger exhibition Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland, January 19 to May 19, 2013.
Because North Carolina has a strong Scottish heritage, we decided to highlight King James’s own Scottish heritage in our Manifold Greatness opening celebration at Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The afternoon began with a performance of highland dancing by the Triangle Scottish Dancers, a local group that is part of the Scottish Cultural Organization of the Triangle (SCOT). Highland dancing differs from country dancing in that the latter is performed by couples who walk around each other in patterns, much like American square dancing. Highland dancing, in contrast, is performed by individuals and involves very intricate footwork. It is similar to the Irish dancing that was popularized by the “Lord of the Dance”.
Most highland dance groups are made up of girls and young women, as is the case with our group. More than one attendee remarked on how nice it was to see a group of girls performing together in such an accomplished way. Even the bagpipe player is a teenage girl.
After the dance performance in the atrium, the piper played while the dancers led the crowd upstairs to the exhibit room. There refreshments were served while North Carolina Symphony harpist Anita Burroughs–Price performed music from the Jacobean era, and told attendees about the history of the harp from its beginning as an outgrowth of the hunter’s bow to the modern harp we know today.
During the harpist’s break, SCOT member George Birrell gave a talk about kilts and read some Scottish poetry. George and Anita then collaborated on an impromptu duet, Anita playing the harp while George recited the words to “Auld Lang Syne,” a Scottish song with words by the poet Robert Burns. An earlier version of the song has been attributed to Sir John Ayton, a scholarly advisor to King James.
Eventually, the afternoon of music, food, and dance drew to a close. One of the comments left on the white board in the exhibit room summed it up: “Great display. Absolutely spiffing!”
Sue Scott is Arts and Literature Librarian at Cameron Village Regional Library, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Each library hosting the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition offers a unique set of resource for its viewers. At Eastern Mennonite University, the Hartzler Library has had on view a number of Bibles from its Menno Simons Historical Library, a special collection of Anabaptist/Mennonite materials. Manifold Greatness was on view at EMU from January 26 through February 21, 2013.We’ve selected some unique items from the Menno Simons Historical Library to share in this post. Please scroll down to see these remarkable, historic Bibles.
Also on display is this New Testament from 1527 with the text in Greek, Latin which was translated by Erasmus and the Latin Vulgate.
The collection has a number of German Bibles since many Anabaptist groups who settled in the Eastern United States spoke German.
The collection also includes a copy of an 1853 Chinese New Testament.
One newer item we made available was a facsimile St. John’s Bible, a handwritten and hand-illuminated Bible commissioned in 1998. The uniqueness of each location is seen in their resources and programing. We are happy to share these works with our community, and with the readers of the Manifold Greatness blog.
Jennifer Ulrich is a Technical Service librarian at Eastern Mennonite University.
On February 2, central Pennsylvania welcomed the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit to the High Library at Elizabethtown College. The reception has been overwhelming and we could not be happier with the enthusiasm and support for the exhibit. Even the weather has worked out in our favor and the programs have gone on without a hitch!
Our opening reception was attended by over 200 people, and attracted visitors from outside the area, including individuals from New Jersey and Maryland. To quote our keynote speaker for the event, Jeff Bach, the reception provided “a feast for the eyes in the exhibit and items from our special collections, a feast for the ears thanks to the glorious music provided by our student group Camerata who performed ancient acapella musical selections, a feast for the soul as the Word was read aloud, and our minds through the opening lecture.”
We also hosted a panel discussion on February 6 as scholars discussed “Shakespeare, Literature and the Language of the King James Bible.” Speakers included Professors Christina Bucher, Louis Martin and Suzanne Webster. On February 7, we were mesmerized by our Elizabethtown’s own Professor Patricia Likos Ricci who lectured on “The Bible as a Work of Art.” Professor Ricci will replay this lecture on February 19 at the Elizabethtown Public Library. We will also hear from our own Professor Jean-Paul Benowitz on Family Bibles. It has been wonderful to see and experience all the diverse backgrounds and generations who have visited the exhibit. We have had young, old, Mennonite, Brethren, Catholic, Baptist, and Protestant visiting the exhibit. Our youngest tour thus far has been a group of middle school students who really enjoyed hearing about the Wicked Bible from our student docent, Annemarie. We also hosted a group of Old Order Amish who toured the exhibit with Professors Jeff Bach and Don Kraybill.
The Manifold Greatness exhibition has also provided an opportunity for the High Library special collections to be featured. We have displayed the High Library copy of the 1599 Geneva Bible, the rare 1712 Marburg Bible, and the Berleburg Bible. In addition to the unique displays, the visitors have also enjoyed using iPads we have setup to connect them directly with the audio tour of the exhibit provided by the Folger Shakespeare Library. We hope to continue to reap the rewards of the amazing exhibit and are looking forward to another fantastic 2 weeks with the King James Bible.
Louise M. Hyder-Darlington, M.S.L.S. is Access Services Librarian and Project Director for the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition at the High Library, Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA.
Less than a year after becoming king of England, James I met with clergy from the Church of England on January 14, 16, and 18, 1604 at Hampton Court Palace. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the state of the Church itself. While the Church of England was the established church, initiated by Henry VIII in 1533 after he broke from the Roman Catholic Church, religious practice was not uniform throughout James’ kingdom. James believed that getting all of his subjects on the same page, religiously speaking, would support his own authority.
Although some of the clergymen present at the conference hoped to succeed in further reforming aspects of the Church of England, such as removing the Book of Common Prayer and arguing against church hierarchy that privileged bishops over lower-ranking clergy. To their disappointment, King James had no desire to support a reformist agenda. He did enjoy theological debate, however, and vigorously participated in discussions with the conference attendees. In this regard, James was very unlike his predecessor Queen Elizabeth I, who famously declared, “There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith. All else is a dispute over trifles,” and generally avoided prolonged discussion of religious issues.
On the second day of the conference, John Rainolds, a leading theologian and President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, directly addressed the king. Unlike the majority of clergy present at the conference, Rainolds had Puritan sympathies. He hoped to convince King James to reform what the Puritans perceived as abuses within the Church of England. James did not grant these requests. In fact, at one point, the king grew so angry with Rainolds that he left the room. It was from these less than auspicious beginnings that the King James Bible translation was conceived.
Although King James rejected many of the requests made by John Rainolds and the other Puritans, he did agree to one of Rainold’s suggestions; specifically, a new translation of the Bible in English. James believed that the project would unite the various factions of clergymen by giving them a common project to work on. He was also convinced that a new Bible translation, free from commentary that supported either Catholic or Puritan dogma, would bolster the authority of the monarchy and create greater religious harmony among his subjects.
While King James did not play a personal role in creating the translation that bears his name, John Rainolds did. A group of translators met in Rainold’s rooms in Oxford, and Rainolds remained deeply involved in the project until his death in 1607. After years of work by dozen of men in three different locations, the King James Bible was printed in 1611. The rest, as they say, is history.
Click here to watch a short video about the process of creating the King James Bible.
Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.
As we approach Thanksgiving, images of the Pilgrims assembled around an autumnal feast may pop into mind as we stock our own cupboards with cranberries, stuffing, and canned pumpkin. Although the Pilgrims did bring food supplies with them on the Mayflower, these items ran out during their first winter in the New World; a successful harvest the following year prompted a celebration of “thanksgiving.”
In addition to foodstuffs, weapons, farming supplies, 102 passengers, and two dogs, the Mayflower also carried a copy of the King James Bible belonging to John Alden. In an earlier post, curator Hannibal Hamlin notes that this may have been the first King James Bible to arrive in America.
Alden was not a Pilgrim himself; rather, he was a cooper, or barrel-maker, hired by the Pilgrims at Southampton, where the Mayflower was docked before beginning her trans-Atlantic voyage. William Bradford, leader of the Pilgrims, described the 21-year-old Alden as a “hopefull yong man.” Alden may also have been a man of faith, choosing to carry a Bible with him as he journeyed to the New World.
Alden’s youth and skill must have impressed Bradford, for the future governor of the colony also noted that the Pilgrims very much wished that Alden would join them, although they left the final decision in his hands. Upon arrival on the shores of Massachusettes in November 1620, Alden opted to stay with the Pilgrims and added his signature to the Mayflower Compact, signed on November 21, 1620.
Alden soon had another tie to the Pilgrim settlement. Sometime between 1620 and 1623, he married Priscilla Mullins, a young woman in her late teens or very early 20s. Priscilla had sailed with her parents and older brother Joseph on the Mayflower. However, her parents and brother died soon after their arrival in Massachusetts, leaving Priscilla to fend for herself in the new colony. According to folk tradition, her beauty attracted the attention of Miles Standish, the colony’s military adviser, as well as John Alden, and the two men were deep rivals for her affection. This story prompted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish.
The historical record offers no evidence of a Mullins-Alden-Standish love triangle. However, Priscilla did end up marrying John Alden (the younger man) and over the course of their long marriage, the couple had 10 children, with a possible 11th child dying in infancy. Several of their descendents became notable figures in their own right; their oldest son, John, escaped being tried for witchcraft in Boston, and a daughter, Sarah, married Alexander Standish, son of Miles Standish and his second wife, Barbara. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was descended from another Alden offspring, and helped immortalize his ancestors through his literary output.
Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.
The year 2011 constituted the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Originally created by England’s Anglican Church, it became widely used by all Protestant denominations in America until the twentieth century, as both a pulpit and a personal Bible.
Despite the increasingly old-fashioned character of its language, it was not until the 1950s that a second translation, the Revised Standard Version, gained a foothold in American Protestantism.
Today, the King James Bible, also known as the KJB or KJV (the “V” is for “Version”), still has a revered place among Evangelical Protestantism. The Scofield Reference Bible, widely used among Evangelicals, relies upon it. And although the New International Version has recently gained popularity as a personal Bible, the KJB remains the pulpit Bible for many churches.
Of course, the Gideons continue to place a copy of the KJB in every hotel room in the United States. They believe that an individual alone can read the Bible and by themselves gain an understanding of God.
This attitude derives from the sixteenth-century declaration by the Reformer Martin Luther that the authority for true Christianity rested on “Scripture alone.” Since that time, Protestantism has envisioned each individual believer knowing the Bible. The ideal Christian became someone who read and studied their Bible extensively. Today, most devout Christians own a personal Bible, which they read regularly by themselves.
The achievement of this ideal within modern Evangelicalism has made us forget that for most of Christianity’s history, this ideal was impossible for all but a few. During 95% of its history, the overwhelming majority of Christians could not read.
Until the twentieth century, near universal literacy existed nowhere on earth. Only then, in Europe, did 90% of adults acquire the ability to read. In 1675, 64 years after the KJV’s publication, only about 45% of adult males in England could sign their name at their marriage; for women the percentage was significantly lower. Even in 1850, the best estimates put adult literacy in Europe at no more than 50%. American literacy rates were similar.During most of its history, then, the KJV functioned quite differently from the personal, private use so widespread today. When it was published, it was intended to be read aloud, and that was its primary use until the end of the nineteenth century.
People who can read the Bible gain a sense of its organization as a text and of its character as a physical object. They know how large it is, whether considered in number of words (lots), number of books (66), or just its size (fat). Those who become familiar with it learn the order of its books and develop a sense of the total amount of stories, moral tales, parables, law codes, admonitions and prophecies the book contains.
Those who only hear the Bible read and cannot read it for themselves learn about much of it contents, but they never gain a sense of the book as a written text. Because they are always dependent on a reader, they never acquire any direct access to the text itself.
They know its contents as the material is read to them over the years, in whatever order it is read and whatever passages are selected. They may develop a sense of organization from some of its longer stories, but most oral readings present shorter passages. Just reading a few chapters out loud can take nearly an hour. Hearers will not gain understanding of the Bible’s structure; it will seem an unorganized collection to them.
Moreover, hearers will rarely gain a sense that they know everything in the Bible. They can always be surprised by some passage they have not heard before. Although many churches have a liturgical calendar that guides regular scripture reading, such calendars present selected readings rather than the entire Bible.
Furthermore, liturgical calendars often feature different readings from different places in Scripture together. The Anglican approach for each Sunday includes an Old Testament passage, a reading from the New Testament letters, and a selection from the Gospels.
So until the twentieth century, the success of the King James Bible came much more from its use for oral presentation of Scripture than from its use as a personal Bible. This is not surprising, for the poetic beauty of much of its language was intended to be heard. The oral hearing of the Bible gave Christians a different sense of Scripture from individual private reading. It is only by the mid-twentieth century, when most Christians can read the Bible by themselves, that a translation whose language is more up-to-date can make headway against the long-standing popularity of the KJB.
Paul V.M. Flesher, Ph.D. is the Director of the Religious Studies Program at the University of Wyoming. The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition is on view at UW from October 7-31, 2012.
While the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition was at Oklahoma State University, local scholars presented on topics related to the King James Bible and its impact on American culture. Dr. Cristina Cruz Gonzales, OSU assistant professor of art history, provided the opening lecture. After her talk, “King James Bible: Towards a Visual and Transatlantic History,” she shared her insights about the KJB and America. Here’s a recap of the interview.
Why were you interested in joining us to talk on this topic?
Because I’m not an English Bible expert, but I am an expert in 17th century religious material in America, not the United States, but rather Spanish America. The topic seemed strangely familiar. I didn’t know much about it, but I wanted to know more. It seemed that I should know more, and I thought I could approach it in a comparative way that I found fruitful for both myself and the audience.
Did you learn anything surprising as you researched this talk?
Absolutely. I had no idea the author of our American dictionary, that’s Noah Webster, was also an author of an American Bible, and he really pushed his Bible project on an America that was just starting to get into a sort of Bible mania.
You told us about a number of different versions of the Bible. Which one did you find most interesting?
I really enjoy the 19th century versions, these large, lavish, family Bibles mostly because you realize it’s not just about text, but about the materiality and the object-ness of these items. They were kept in American homes on tables as showpieces, so they are not just informing American piety or serving American piety at that time, but also reflecting American taste and what that implies in a secular and non-secular way.
You mentioned a number of Bibles that are arguably more American than the King James. Why does KJB remain the most popular in the US?
The King James Bible was by far the most popular Bible in the late 17th century, and I think that longevity means a lot. If Noah Webster had been born a century earlier and had this wonderful idea and the American Revolution had broken out and it was time to publish an American Bible, maybe his Bible would have taken off. But, by the time Webster comes around, the King James Version is too engrained in early American culture, and Americans aren’t going to give it up.
Misty D. Smith is an Assisstant Professor and Catalog Librarian at the Edmon Low Library, Oklahoma State University.
After opening our local Manifold Greatness exhibition on August 24, we were contacted by a local collector, Stuart Rose, who offered to lend to us his first edition Coverdale Bible. The Coverdale Bible was printed in 1535 and is the first complete English Bible ever printed, as well as the first full Bible in modern English.
We removed the 1838 reprint edition that we had planned to show for the exhibition, featured in our case of early translations of the Bible, and replaced it with the real thing. The following information is from the Sotheby’s catalog listing for this particular book.
BIBLIA: The Bible, that is, the holy Scripture of the Olde and New Testament. 1535. First Edition in English of the Complete Bible, 307 x 197 mm. Handsome 19th century morroco gilt by Francis Bedford. The Earl of Crawford-John William Pease-Lord Wardington Copy.
Such copies of the Coverdale Bible have appeared for sale in the past 50 years are invariably incomplete. This copy is in fact one of the most complete copies offered during this time period — lacking only one leaf of text proper (the other lacking leaves being prelims).
The Coverdale Bible is much rarer than the first printing of the 1611 King James Bible and is known to be 3 or 4 times rarer than the First Folio of Shakespeare. University of Dayton Libraries is excited to present this rare and magnificent book. Special thanks to Mr. Stuart Rose for sharing this early translation with Manifold Greatness visitors.
Katy Kelly is communications and outreach librarian at University of Dayton Libraries and project director for the University of Dayton Manifold Greatness exhibit.
Manifold Greatness opened at the University of Dayton Roesch Library in Dayton, Ohio on Friday, August 24. One of the highlights of our local exhibition is a first edition Douai-Rheims Bible, the first English translation of the Catholic Bible. For the exhibit period, it is sharing a case with a first edition King James Bible, on loan from Denison University in Granville, Ohio.
In this post, we compare the two Bibles and their unique history.
The origins of the Douai-Rheims translation were much different than the KJV. Due to anti-Catholic legislation and persecution during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (a Protestant), English Catholics, led by William Allen, established a college and a mission seminary in Douai (Flanders) in 1568 and later at Rheims (France). The translation by English Catholics, known as Douai-Rheims, was published in several parts: at Rheims, the New Testament was published in 1582, and in 1609 the Old Testament was published in two volumes at Douai. The Douai-Rheims was not intended for use at Catholic liturgical services (where the language was Latin), although it did meet many needs. English Catholics could read it instead of Protestant English translations, and Catholic writers could use it to counter or refute Protestant adversaries who often quoted Scripture as part of their arguments.
The Douai-Rheims was scrupulously faithful to the Latin Vulgate, the translation made by St. Jerome in the fourth century. In the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent considered Latin a quasi-sacral language: it was the lingua franca, for more than thirteen centuries, in all churches, monasteries, and councils; for all services, theological discourse, and biblical commentaries. The King James Bible translation relied upon original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts rather than the Vulgate, and freely incorporated a “few dignified or felicitous phrases” from previous translations, including the Douai-Rheims.
At the time of its introduction, the King James Bible was not universally accepted; some desired a more literal translation. However, its language was incorporated in the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church, and it eventually became widely known as the Authorized Version in England – one that had the approval of its royal sponsor, King James I, and was “appointed to be read in churches.”
Katy Kelly is the Communications and Outreach Librarian at the University of Dayton.
After an educational and entertaining series of programs at the Sumter County Library, the traveling exhibition for Manifold Greatness has moved to the next destination. During its display at the library patrons attended scholarly lectures, a King James Bible Quiz, a documentary film presentation, an art show and a King James Choir concert.
Seven local artists submitted works for the “Expressions” Art Show. Each piece drew inspiration from a passage in the King James Bible. Four local artists judged the gallery displayed in our Main Meeting Room. A Grand Prize overall winner and 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners were announced for those 18 and older and 17 and younger. Linda Hogon and Josie Holler won the grand prize, an Amazon Kindle, for their quilt inspired by the Book of Isaiah.
Soulful selections of music inspired by the King James Bible were sung by a King James Choir at Patriot Hall, a local concert hall in the historic neighborhoods of downtown Sumter. Led by Jacquetta Boone, the choir consisted of local talent ages 7 and up who inspired the audience with their performance. Tiger Productions Choir from Wilson High School in Florence, South Carolina opened the concert.
On Thursday, August 9th, the Sumter County Library wrapped up the Manifold Greatness exhibit with a lecture by Dr. Patrick Scott of the University of South Carolina – Columbia. For many years, Dr. Scott oversaw the Rare Books collection at the University. Luckily for everyone in attendance that evening, Dr. Scott brought a 1611 King James Bible for display. Patrons were thrilled to experience such a historical text in person. In addition to the 1611 Bible, Dr. Scott distributed reproductions of pages from a historic King James Bible for everyone in attendance. These keepsakes provided material to ponder as Dr. Scott lectured on the formation and development of the King James Bible.
We thank Ms. Deloris Pringle for submitting the grant application on behalf of the Sumter County Library as well as our local partners the Sumter County Cultural Commission and the Sumter County Museum, which loaned historic family Bibles for display.
Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible traveling exhibition was an intellectually stimulating and thought provoking presentation, affording Sumter County the ability to think and speak in a new light about such a historic text.
Ford Simmons is the Reference and Information Services Coordinator/Webmaster at Sumter County Library.
As part of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James Bible in 2011, the library at Norwich Cathedral in Norwich, England prepared an exhibition. During this exhibition, they planned to conduct demonstrations of letterpress printing, the method used to print the first editions of the King James Bible in 1611.
In order to do the demonstrations, the library at Norwich needed authentic type of the kind used 400 years ago. The librarian there, the Rev. Peter Doll, contacted me because he didn’t know of anyone who could find/make all of the letters needed to re-set these pages. I am presently one of the few practicing punchcutters in the world.
For this project, we decided to make type forms of the first two pages of the book of Genesis.
In order to make the forms, I enlarged digital scans of pages from the original 1611 edition of the King James Bible until they were exactly the correct size. I then compared the founts (fonts) with a variety of type specimens to determine which kinds of type had been used in 1611.
I quickly determined that some of the type was made from the matrices of Francois Guyot, a Flemish typefounder. Other founts were ‘Garamond,’ named after another 16th century punchcutter and still seen in many word processing programs today. A few lines remain unidentified, but are close to Garamond’s types. The black letter fount (also known as Old English) is a widely-used design that originated in Paris in the 15th century and continued to be used through the 18th century.
These formes presented a challenge as they would require the acquisition of actual, three-dimensional metal types in the correct type designs–Goyot, Garamond, and black letter–that were used by the London printer, Robert Barker, 400 years ago. Finding authentic types would have been a demanding task a century ago, when letterpress was ‘king’, but today, commercial typefounding resources are nearly gone. The solution to getting the correct printing letter was a collaboration between members of the American Typecasting Fellowship, a loose organization of amateur type founders who have worked to preserve antique type making materials. These type makers provided a great deal of the types needed.
Matrices for the black letter survive in several museums, but were not available for casting. For black letter, a modern re-cutting provided the ‘bare bones.’ The Guyot types are not extant. Modern recuttings of many versions of Garamond exist and could be used on this project. But all of these designs would have to be specially cast for these pages, and many sorts had to be purpose made.
Of course, some printing types simply cannot be found outside of a few European museums. For example there are the old, long s characters that look like f’s. Some of these were custom made with a pantographic engraver. Also, Barker’s King James Bible used numbers that do not exist today. These sorts were engraved by hand, in steel, and used to make the dies (matrices) from which types were cast by hand in a specially fitted early style type mould – just as the original types were manufactured.
I made twenty of the special characters primarily by engraving original punches in steel, from which special dies were stamped and the types cast in hand held moulds. These are the oldest techniques for type making, a subject that has been the focus of much of my work. While all of the text fount could have been hand made, time constraints made this impractical. But great care was taken to make the pages very authentic, such as hand casting special spacing pieces for the project and completely eliminating any modern materials.
A friend and fellow type maker, Mike Anderson used his engraving machine to cut some of the needed letters in brass plate, from which types could be cast. Rich Hopkins and Bill Riese, also experienced casters, made various founts of the Garamond. Some of these had to be altered by hand engraving to make the letters more like the original.
Jim Walczak used his Monotype caster to make the bulk of the black letter fount using modern matrices of a design that is extremely close to the original fount, with the exception of the capitals and some of the lower case. Instead of the modern body size this large fount was cast on the slightly smaller body, seen in the original fount, so that the pages match the original line for line. Jim also made some of the Garamond types.
Type setting of the first two pages of Genesis proceeded in the traditional manner, letter by letter, line by line, taking special care not to use any anachronistic materials. Special spacing was cast in order to avoid using distinctively modern hollow spaces.
The insistence upon using actual metal type, instead of a plastic photo-polymer plate, rests in its role as a teaching tool. In this digital age, most people have lost touch with the work of previous centuries. They deserve an opportunity to understand and appreciate the processes and skills employed by printers of the past.
The pages traveled to England in specially made cases, designed to prevent any accidents. My biggest concern was with the customs agents — known for damaging curiosity. I put photos of the contents on the outside and special handling instructions to these officials, in hopes that they wouldn’t drop my type on the floor. Both pages arrived safely.
I later traveled to Norwich for the opening of the exhibit and to present three lectures about the project. The type formes remain in the library’s collection, to be used as reference objects for years to come.
Stan Nelson is a master typographer and a scholar on the history of type. He is also a practicing punchcutter.
During the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics, Scottish vocalist Emeli Sandé performed a stirring rendition of the classic hymn, “Abide With Me.” The hymn is often sung at Christian funerals, and this performance was dedicated to victims of a series of bombings in London in 2005, in which 52 people lost their lives.
Those familiar with the lyrics and the King James Bible may notice several striking similarities. Henry Francis Lyte, the author of the hymn, was certainly familiar with the King James Bible. “Abide With Me” arguably takes its inspiration from a passage in the gospel of Luke , in which disciples ask Christ: “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.”
Many of the phrases in “Abide With Me” are close variations of passages in the King James translation. For example, “healing in Thy wings” is a variant of Malachi 4:2, and “Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?” is a variant of 1 Corinthians 15:55.
Other lines draw from Biblical imagery. The final verse of the song describes the evening shadows in a way that is very similiar to a description in Song of Songs: “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.” (Song, 2:17)
In the hymn, however, the coming of evening is an allegory for death:
“Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”
Lyte wrote many religious poems and hymns throughout his life. As a student at Trinity College, Dublin, he won numerous prizes for poetry. “Abide With Me” is his best-known work, and was written shortly before his death from tuberculosis in 1847. The hymn is often performed to the music of “Eventide,” composed by William Henry Monk in 1861 to replace Lyte’s original tune.
Although the hymn has many somber associations, it has enjoyed many livlier uses in popular culture. “Abide with Me” has been sung at the Football Association Challenge Cup (FA Cup) finals in England every year since 1927. Jazz musician Thelonious Monk recorded an instrumental version of the hymn with John Coltrane in 1957, and soldiers during WWI created an irreverent parody of the lyrics, singing “We’ve had no beer, we’ve had no beer today.”
Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is grateful for the excellent information from Hannibal Hamlin, one of the Manifold Greatness curators, on the history of “Abide With Me.”
The traveling exhibition for Manifold Greatness is still on view in Sumter, SC, and many exciting events have taken place since our last blog post. The Sumter County Library held a King James Bible quiz on Saturday, July 21st. Three teams competed to see who could name the Book, Chapter and Verse of popular, everyday phrases that originated from the King James Bible. At the end, the team from Cornerstone Baptist Church won the quiz and received copies of the King James Bibles as their prize. In fact, all three teams won Bibles!
On Tuesday, July 24th, Dr. Harry Singleton of Benedict College discussed the influence of the King James Bible and other scholarly works upon Dr. Martin Luther King’s civil rights beliefs. While the King James Bible was the foundation upon which King preached and believed, other texts affected King deeply, including Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disenchanted, Paul Tillech’s Systematic Theology and Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”. “Civil Disobedience” declared one must shame the person you are confronting by passivity. Dr. King believed that being arrested and sent to jail would eventually shame those persecuting the oppressed.
In addition to important theological and philosophical texts, Dr. King deeply believed in the poetry of the King James Bible. During slavery, slave owners used the Bible to legitimize that institution. Dr. King rejected that view, instead seeing Biblical figures such as Amos, Paul and Jesus as leaders of social transformation. Amos believed ritualistic religion is not positive, but justice and social transformation is something for which we all should strive. Paul and Jesus claimed man must suffer for God in order to change what is wrong around him.
Dr. Singleton used the term “zeitgeist” to summarize Dr. King’s beliefs and actions during his lifetime. “Zeitgeist” means “spirit of the times.” Dr. King believed the time was always right for social justice and transformation. While most humans do not want change, the Bible, through its messages of hope and justice, calls for a righteous path to free all people from oppression.
On Monday, July 30th, Dr. Valinda Littlefield of the University of South Carolina – Columbia discussed the use of the King James Bible within the context of rap music. To begin the lecture, Dr. Littlefield played two music videos; “E Pluribus Unum” by the Last Poets, and “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio. Dr. Littlefield examined the poetic beauty of the King James Bible. Rap music is a form of poetry, and rappers use the King James Bible to espouse their competing views of life.
The Last Poets were the earliest influence of hip-hop in the late 1960s to the 1970s. Common themes in “E Pluribus Unum” include life, truth and the light. The Last Poets used many biblical references including “living the lie leads to sin” and John 14:6 which states “Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.”
Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” discusses how the “gangsta” life is a lie. Dr. Littlefield believes Coolio’s issue is not living a life in the presence of God. Coolio directly lifts Psalm 23:4 which states “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” In “Gangsta’s Paradise”, Coolio raps “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I take a look at my life and realize there’s nothin’ left”. Dr. Littlefield also stated in the song Coolio raps “how nobody is here to teach me”. In the Bible, David had God beside him to lead the way, but those stuck in the “Gangsta’s Paradise” do not. The lack of hope in street life is the opposite of the King James Bible, where hope is found.
The Sumter County Library will continue to host events into early August, includng hosts events through the beginning of August, including a King James Bible Choir Concert, an “Expressions” Art Show, and the Closing Reception featuring Dr. Patrick Scott. Dr. Scott will display a King James Bible dating back to the 1600’s.
Ford Simmons is the Reference and Information Services Coordinator/Webmaster at Sumter County Library.
After a great deal of planning, the traveling exhibition for Manifold Greatness is currently on view at the Sumter County Library in Sumter, SC. On Friday, July 13th, the Library presented an opening reception with remarks by Dr. Harry Singleton of Benedict College and Dr. Larry Watson of South Carolina State University. The two scholars led a discussion focusing on the religious and political aspects involved in the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible. Dozens attended the event, including State Representative David Weeks and Sumter Mayor Joe McElveen. The Friends of the Sumter County Library graciously provided the funds for a wonderful spread of refreshments.
Dr. Larry Watson returned on Monday, July 16th to discuss Dr. Martin Luther King’s use of the King James Bible in his speeches and sermons, including the “I Have a Dream Speech” and his allusion to Amos 5:24 and Isaiah 40:4-5. (More on Dr. Martin Luther King and other examples of the King James Bible’ influence on contemporary culture can be seen on the Manifold Greatness website’s “Modern Life” timeline). During and after the discussion, Dr. Watson fielded numerous questions from an attentive audience. In addition to these events the Sumter County Library created a display of Family Bibles. These Bibles, which include a Greek New Testament Pocket Bible from 1822, were loaned courtesy of the Sumter County Museum.
In addition to the both the Manifold Greatness exhibit and Family Bible display, the Sumter County Library will put on a variety of events until the Closing Reception on Thursday, August 9th. These events include lectures by Dr. Valinda Littlefield and Dr. Harry Singleton, a King James Bible Quiz Bowl, King James Choir concert and an “Expressions” Art Show.
We look forward to these upcoming events and will send an update soon. In the meantime, please see our Photobucket account for pictures and YouTube channel for videos from this project:
Ford Simmons is the Reference and Information Services Coordinator/Webmaster at Sumter County Library.
Two years ago, I was in the midst of developing content for the Manifold Greatness website. During that summer, I also embarked on a cross-country road trip that had been on my bucket list for years. I drove from Washington, DC, south to Texas, then north to Montana, and then all the way back.
In the weeks leading up to my departure I spent hours thinking about what I would need and what should make the final cut for my packing list. I was traveling relatively light, my goal more in line with being a modern-day pioneer than with bringing along every comfort of home. I had camping gear, an ultra-light stove, a laptop and camera to record my experiences, and a few choice books. One of them was a copy of the King James Bible.
As an earlier post noted, many settlers carried family Bibles with them as they traveled westward. For my own personal journey, I wanted a book that reflected that period and the leaps of faith that traveling to a new destination required.
Admittedly, I did not own a copy of the King James Bible before my trip. And I wasn’t looking for just any copy – I wanted one that had existed in the 1870s and 1880s, the heyday of the Western frontier. In order to find one, I visited antique book stores and browsed online.
I finally located the Bible that would travel nearly 6,000 miles with me at an antiquarian bookseller based in New York City. (Thank you, AbeBooks.) It had been printed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1858. Inside, a woman has signed her name. Part of the signature is difficult to read, but it looks like “Mrs. Anne Pattison.”
With its tooled black leather binding and a perfect size for transporting, I was instantly convinced that I had found the right Bible. The little book piqued my curiosity as well. Who was Anne Pattison, and how had her book come to the United States? Had she herself moved to America? Was it passed along through a family member? Or was it merely another old book traveling between sellers’ inventories?
Regardless of how it got here, having it with me seemed fitting. One evening at a campground in Oklahoma, as the families around me were settling in for the night, I took it out and read a passage. 140 years ago, had someone done the same? Holding that artifact in my hands, I felt uncannily connected to the past, and to my pioneer doppelganger, if she had existed.
If you’d like to know more about my 2010 roadtrip, please visit my trip blog, the Outside Fringe, here.
Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website. She is a communications associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library.