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.
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.
Yesterday was March 15, the anniversary of the death of Casiodoro de Reina (ca. 1520–1594). And that made us think of the Bear Bible, or Biblia del Oso, first published in 1569. The translation was largely the work of de Reina, a Spanish Reformer who began his religious life as a monk in the monastery of San Isidoro outside of Seville.
Persuaded by the writings of Martin Luther, de Reina fled Spain when he aroused the suspicions of the Inquisition. After a brief stay in Geneva, which he found uncongenial, de Reina traveled to England. In 1559 he became the pastor of the Spanish Protestant exile community in London, who worshipped at the church of St. Mary Axe, named after a neighboring tavern whose sign bore the image of an axe.
Seemingly trumped up due to the machinations of Spanish agents, accusations against de Reina included an astonishing array of crimes, among them dishonesty, embezzlement, immoral conduct with female congregants, and sodomy, as well as doctrinal and ecclesiastical errors. He fled England with his family in 1563 and devoted himself to the translation of the Bible, as well as to writings criticizing the Inquisition.
There had been earlier Bibles in Spanish, but de Reina’s, first printed in Basel, was the most influential. The de Reina Bible was revised in 1602 by Cipriano de Valera, originally a member of the same monastic order as de Reina, who was, from 1559, a professor at the University of Cambridge.
Though it was revised again several times up to the twentieth century, this Spanish Protestant translation is still known, and still in use, as the Reina-Valera Bible. It has a status among Spanish Protestants somewhat equivalent to that of the King James Bible among English speakers. The charming printer’s mark of the bear climbing a tree for honey identifies the work of the Bern printer Mattias Apiarius, whose name (in his native German, “Biener”) means “beekeeper.”
Hannibal Hamlin, associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, was co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
The Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Winfield Public Library displayed two rarely-seen pulpit Bibles, and these items drew considerable attention over the course of the exhibition. The Bibles are associated with two prominent men—Colonel Henry C. Loomis and John Peter “J.P.” Baden—who shaped the early history of Winfield, KS.
Soldier, Pioneer, and Gentleman: Colonel Henry C. Loomis
Born in Cattaraugus County, NY in 1834, Henry Loomis grew up in a farming family and inherited an interest in military life from his grandfather, a veteran of the Revolutionary War.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Loomis served in Company C., 64th N.Y. Infantry and was commissioned as a first lieutenant. At the Battle of Fair Oaks in June 1862, Lt. Loomis received severe wounds while leading his company in a charge against Confederates soldiers.
Loomis was ordered home to convalesce, and during his recovery, he helped recruit and organize the 154th N.Y. Infantry. He eventually received a commission as a Lieutenant Colonel before leaving the Army and heading West.
As he traveled westward in search of new opportunities, Loomis heard of a perspective opening of the Osage Indian Reservation in the new state of Kansas. Loomis found the valley near the Walnut River near present-day Winfield attractive, and paid the Osage chief $5.00 to stay on his squatter’s claim of 160 acres. Winfield now occupies 100 acres out of the original 160 settled by Henry Loomis.
As one of the founders of the town, Loomis has been first and foremost in every enterprise that would build up and improve Winfield. Loomis helped organize the county, served as its first county clerk, became a member of the first board of trade, helped secure railroad lines through Cowley County, and served two terms as mayor in 1896. Loomis was made a Master Mason in 1862 and remained a member for forty-three years, advancing to the thirty-third or highest degree. He died in Winfield and is buried in the town’s Union-Graham Cemetery. His copy of the King James Bible, along with a photograph of Loomis in his Templar uniform, was displayed.
Enterprising Industrialist and Founder of St. Johns College: J.P. Baden
John Peter Baden was born 1851 in Elsdorf, Germany. At the age of 15, he sailed on the Richard Reihe and landed in New York City in 1866. He went to live with his brother in Hannibal, MO to learn the English language and to become a United States citizen. After working and saving money, J.P., as he came to be know, traveled to Kansas and opened a business in Winfield in 1879.
As a young entrepreneur, Baden operated a packing plant that became one of the largest in the West and handled the bulk of poultry, game, eggs, butter and produce of southern Kansas, Oklahoma, and what was then a part of the Indian Territory. He also owned an ice plant and cold storage facility, and a roller mill and elevator for processing grain. His business ventures proved very successful, as Baden possessed notable talent in making money while simultaneously leading a modest lifestyle. He poured his profits back into trade, stimulating business and giving work to the unemployed.
J.P. Baden and his wife, Adelaide, brought the first Lutheran church services to Winfield and also established St. John’s College. The college was founded in 1893 and was the first Evangelical Lutheran College of higher education to admit women. It operated for over a century before closing in 1986. The City of Winfield later purchased the St. John’s College site and renamed it Baden Square. The Winfield Public Library now occupies one of the buildings on Baden Square, and it seems fitting to display a Bible owned by the college’s founder on the very site that he played such a role in creating.
Sue Birney is the Adult Special Services Librarian at Winfield Public Library in Winfield, KS.
Whenever a librarian or curator begins working at a new library, he or she is given the overwhelming, though gratifying, challenge of getting to know the collection. When I was in library school, my advisor John Ellison gave me sound advice that when I start any new job to spend time afterhours and during breaks just browsing the stacks until I felt comfortable in my new surroundings. I’ve since made this a habit.
When I first arrived at RIT’s Cary Graphic Arts Collection last September, a great many books called to me from the shelves, but one book in particular really beckoned. Here’s what I saw:
I happen to love books that are missing their binding material. Though they can be a challenge to handle, they are great examples to use when teaching bookbinding and the anatomy of books. From a distance, the book looked early to me, perhaps sixteenth-century. When I opened it, however, I quickly realized it was a later German Bible. Its title page was missing (a common ailment in early Bibles), so I moved forward to the beginning of the New Testament, which often has its own title page.
Two things jumped off the New Testament title page: “Saur” and “1743.”
How exciting! This book was a copy of the first edition of “The Sauer Bible.” In an earlier post, Hannibal Hamlin mentioned John Eliot’s missionary Bible translated into the Native American language Massachusett and Robert Aitken’s “Revolutionary” Bible produced during the American Revolutionary War.”
Printed in 1663 and 1782, respectively, these were the first and third Bibles printed in the United States. Both appeared in the Folger’s Manifold Greatness exhibition. The Sauer Bible could have as well. Historically, it rests between Eliot’s Massachusett Bible and Aitken’s “Revolutionary” Bible, as the second Bible printed in the United States and the first Bible printed in America in a European language.
The Sauer Bible takes its name from Christoph Sauer, a German immigrant and printer in Germantown, PA who in 1743 sought to publish a Luther Bible in German for the waves of immigrants that were making their homes in Pennsylvania.
When in the fall of 2013, the Cary Collection attempts its own Bible exhibition, this copy of the Sauer Bible will certainly be featured as an important artifact in the history of the Bible in America. For more on this topic, I would recommend Hannibal Hamlin’s essay “The King James Bible in America” from the Manifold Greatness exhibition catalog.
Steven Galbraith, Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
As part of the Mobile Public Library’s recent showing of the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition, local residents and universities lent rare Bibles that were included in the display.
Mobile resident Robert S. Edington provided a 1583 Geneva Bible, which is also known as the “Breeches Bible.” “Breeches Bible” is a book collector’s term for the Geneva Bible, which was first printed 1560. The term derives from the reference in Genesis iii: 7 to Adam and Eve clothing themselves in “breeches” made from fig leaves.
The Geneva Bible was one of the results of the persecution under infamous Queen Mary I, popularly known as “Bloody Mary” (1553-1558). Several of the Protestant reformers had fled to Geneva, Switzerland, to escape persectuion in England. Geneva was a free city, politically and religiously, dominated by Calvinism, the “cradle of the Reformed Faith” and a haven for religious reformists.
The Geneva Bible offered the first new English translation of the Bible in nearly 20 years. Many of the previous translations also had their inceptions under duress, such as William Tyndale’s work producing the New Testament at a time when English translations of the Bible were prohibited. Tyndale suffered execution as a result. For more information on the volatile history of English translations of the Bible, visit The Crown and the Bible on the Manifold Greatness website.
Spring Hill College contributed several Bibles to the exhibition, including a Gutenberg Bible facsimile that was produced in 1961. The Gutenberg Bible, known also as the Mazarin Bible and the 42-Line Bible, is a Latin edition of the Bible, printed at Mainz, Germany, sometime between 1450 and 1456. Although German bibliographers claim that it was printed by the German printer Johann Gutenberg, the edition may have been finished and perfected by Johann Fust, a wealthy financier who gained Gutenberg’s share of the business in a lawsuit; and Peter Schöffer, Gutenberg’s assistant. The book is the first volume known to have been printed with movable metal type.
The College also provided a 1512 Vulgate Bible, a 1546 Hebraica Biblica (Hebrew-Latin Bible), and a 1871 Luther Bible. The Vulgate is a early translation of the Bible into Latin, originally undertaken in the 4th century. It remained the standard translation of the Bible for centuries, and was widely used throughout the middle ages. The Luther Bible is based on a translation by Martin Luther and was first published in 1534. Over 300 years later, his translation remained important enough for an edition to be printed in 1871.
In addition, the University of Mobile lent several Bibles. Local residents Clyde and Ira Jenkins displayed their 1949 New Standard Reference Bible, and Robert Hyde showed his grandmother’s 1869 American Bible Society version.
Amber Guy is a public relations officer at Mobile Public Library, which hosted the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition from February 29 to March 30, 2012.
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.
Manifold Greatness arrived at the William Carey University Library in Hattiesburg, MS , in January. One of the highlights of the exhibition to date has been a “Family Bibles Road Show.” The program featured a workshop on the care and preservation of family Bibles. Community members brought about a dozen family Bibles to be photographed for the exhibit. These treasured heirlooms, held together with tape, bound with faded ribbon, or enclosed in a box, were carefully opened and examined. And what interesting things we discovered!
Two of the Bibles contained Family Temperance Pledge documents, designed to be signed by family members who “solemnly promise by the grace of God to abstain from the use of all intoxicating drinks as a beverage.” Neither of the Family Temperance Pledge documents in our Bibles was signed, but we heard rumors of a temperance pledge in another family Bible which was signed by two individuals, who, upon further reflection or perhaps after a nice apertif, crossed out their names!
Another family Bible, an 1815 American imprint, had multiple pages of family birth, death, and marriage dates. Clearly visible water stains in the text were explained by a family legend, which held that the ancestor who acquired the Bible was forced to flee from pursuing Indians as he returned home with his new purchase. At the height of the chase, he dropped his Bible into the creek, but fortunately, was able to retrieve it.
Still another family Bible was noted to have won the Highest Prize Diploma of Merit at the International Cotton Exposition in Atlanta in 1881. And another, found in the Clarence Dickinson Collection in the William Carey University Library, was Dickinson’s family Bible. Dickinson, who was a pioneer in the training of church musicians in the early 20th century, was a cousin of poet Emily Dickinson.
The “Road Show” revealed fascinating local lore in family Bibles. Photographs of these treasured Bibles have become a popular supplement to the Manifold Greatness panels at William Carey University.
Sherry Laughlin is Director of Libraries at William Carey University.
Like all of Shakespeare’s plays, Othello contains many significant allusions to the Bible, the book he could count on most members of his audience knowing best. Shakespeare most often alludes to the Geneva Bible, a copy of which he surely owned, but he also knew the Bishops’ Bible and the Coverdale Psalms from the Book of Common Prayer, since he heard them in church. (As noted in our Manifold Greatness website FAQs, Shakespeare was not influenced by the later King James Bible.)
Most people today think of Othello as a play about race. This has been a common view for decades. Indeed, U.S. President John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) thought the play a failure because of its representation of a young Venetian girl making “a runaway match with a blackamoor.” The play was a hit in the pre-Civil War South, since it offered, so it was believed, a lesson in the dangers of miscegenation. Audience react to the play differently today, but they still focus on race.
In Shakespeare’s day, before the expansion of the transatlantic slave trade, what was most risqué about Othello was not race but religion. Othello is a Christian, it’s true, but he is descended from Muslims. Shakespeare’s subtitle The Moor of Venice would have suggested Islam as well as blackness. And the conflict that threatens Venice in the play is with the Muslim Turks.
One of the most overt biblical allusions in Othello is in Iago’s early speech, when he says to Roderigo, “I am not what I am.” At first hearing, this sounds like Viola’s coy remark in Twelfth Night, “I am not that I play.” But it’s more complex.
Iago’s statement is actually logically impossible. How can anyone not be what they are? The key is that Iago is parodying God’s naming of himself to Moses in Exodus: “I am that I am.” It’s not a name, really, but a statement of God’s eternal sameness and essential being. Iago inverts this, which implies something essential unstable or even empty about him.
Another important reference to the Bible comes at the end of the play when Othello says that he, “like the base Judean, threw away a pearl richer than all his tribe.” (Though some editors argue for “Indian” rather than “Judean.”) The “Judean” in question is Judas, who, according to the note in the Geneva Bible (with the later “Tomson” New Testament), was of the tribe of Judah. The “pearl” Judas threw away was Jesus, whom he betrayed, and who was also of the tribe of Judah. Because he has betrayed and murdered Desdemona, Othello is thus likening himself to the greatest betrayer in Christian history.
Othello later says to Desdemona’s body, “I kiss’d thee ere I kill’d thee.” A biblical literature audience might hear this as an echo of Judas’s kiss, which identified Jesus to the chief priests and elders.
The Folger Theatre production of Othello opens October 18 and runs through November 27. Othello was performed at James I’s court in 1604, the year that work began on the 1611 King James Bible; scholars believe Shakespeare wrote the play in 1603 or 1604.
Hannibal Hamlin, associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.