Manifold Greatness may have left the Folger Shakespeare Library this week, but a traveling banner version of the exhibition is currently in full force. Forty libraries across the United States will receive the display – the traveling tour began in fall 2011 and will run through summer 2013. The American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office is coordinating the tour to public and academic libraries, who are all presenting a variety of free humanities programs in conjunction with the exhibition.
Program highlights so far include:
- Kennessaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia presented a program titled, “Music, Text, and the 1611 King James Bible,” in which Dr. Tamara Livingston, Associate Director of Museums, Archives & Rare Books, discussed the interplay between early 17th century music, text, and the production of books, as exemplified by the King James Bible.
- At Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Oregon, Dr. Jim Earl, professor of English at the University of Oregon, spoke on “The King James Bible and the Invention of Readable English.” Dr. Earl’s lecture explored the influence of the King James Bible on the development of the more direct style of language that is commonplace today.
- And the Burke Theological Libraryat Union Seminary at Columbia University, New York, hosted “The King James Bible at 400: A Conversation with Dr. David Burke,” Emeritus Scholar, the NIDA Institute, American Bible Society.
The traveling Manifold Greatness exhibition provides host libraries with the opportunity to connect with their communities in new and fun ways – through lectures by scholars, panel discussions, book and film discussion series, school and college class tours, concerts, and more.
We look forward to seeing the creative ways the remaining tour sites will engage with Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible!
Jennifer Dominiak is a program officer in the Public Programs Office at the American Library Association. The ALA Public Programs Office has a highly regarded program of traveling exhibitions; during 2011, the Public Programs Office toured 11 traveling exhibitions to 123 public, academic, and special libraries. Visitors to these exhibits numbered more than 300,000. An estimated 46,000 library patrons attended exhibit-related public programs.
The Manifold Greatness panels were packed up and shipped from Rhodes College on Monday this past week. But their presence lingers, in part through the exhibition of Rhodes archival holdings that it helped inspire.
Last September, when I attended the ALA/NEH workshop at the Folger Shakespeare Library in preparation for our hosting these panels, I recall a moment that was almost Norman Rockwell-esque in its poignancy. We had been invited to introduce ourselves and our home institutions. One by one, forty different people stood up and expressed their eagerness for “Manifold Greatness” to visit their libraries. But what was most moving were the accounts everyone spontaneously gave of how they planned to augment the panels with local resources. Someone mentioned a copy of a Native American Bible translation that they planned to display; another person described with pride the venue in which the panels would be exhibited, a converted church sanctuary; many others detailed the extraordinary range of documents, events, and people who would be connected to this traveling exhibition. It seemed ‘American’ in all the best ways: regional riches strengthened in conjunction with federal resources.
Here at Rhodes, the arrival of Manifold Greatness occasioned some delightful discoveries. The more we sought biblically related materials, the more we found. We gathered dozens of critical studies related to the biblical translation into one nearby shelf, so that visitors could read further into this cultural history.
Based on a suggestion made by another Manifold Greatness host (Stan Campbell, at Centre College), our archivists Bill Short and Elizabeth Gates realized that we hold copies of a series of facsimile reproductions of leaves from early English Bibles, produced in 1935 by the American Bible Society.
We already knew of our copies of a Geneva Bible (1582), Fulke’s contentious refutation of the Rheims New Testament (1589), and an early reissue of the 1611 Bible by the King’s printer (1617). All three of these items from our Special Collections enriched the panels’ narrative considerably—many visitors commented gratefully that these volumes helped them appreciate the scale of the portable Geneva or the dauntingly large KJV.
But what was a marvel to encounter was the discovery that we had, decades ago, acquired an extraordinary collection of mounted pages from various biblical translations. These include a manuscript (1121) of the Bible in Armenian; a Paris Bible (c. 1240); the new edition of the Greek New Testament and accompanying Latin translation by Desiderius Erasmus; the complete Douai-Rheims Bible (1609-10); the London Polyglot (1657), edited by Brian Walton; John Eliot’s Algonquin Bible (2nd edition, 1665); and The Works [Opera] of St. Cyprian (1563).
Our colleague Michael Leslie was teaching a seminar on the pre-history of the 1611 translation, and eagerly provided explanatory commentary, further enriching the collective exhibition.
While the panels have departed our library for their next host institution, the circulating bookshelf, the facsimiles, the original volumes, and the mounted pages will all remain on display for another month. This is a tribute to the generative quality of Manifold Greatness itself and the ways in which it inspires local libraries to recognize their own great and manifold holdings.
Scott Newstok is associate professor of English at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, which hosted the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition in November and December of 2011. For more about the traveling exhibition at Rhodes College and the related symposium and programs, see Hannibal Hamlin’s previous blog post, Manifold Greatness at Rhodes.
With 2011, the 400th anniversary year of the King James Bible, now firmly in the history books itself—and with the world now turning its attention to Charles Dickens’s 200th anniversary—you might think that Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible would be wrapping up, too.
Not so! Although Manifold Greatness was created to mark the 400th anniversary of the 1611 King James Bible in 2011, the project continues throughout 2012 and into 2013. And, of course, we hope the Manifold Greatness website and Manifold Greatness publication continue to provide helpful resources to online visitors and readers even longer.
A quick overview of what’s on right now… and what lies ahead:
- The Folger Shakespeare Library’s Manifold Greatness exhibition remains on view in Washington, DC, every day through its final day on January 16. By happy coincidence, January 16 is also the federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., whose rhetorical use of biblical passages and cadences is noted in the Manifold Greatness exhibition itself, as well as our online Modern Life gallery, and curator Hannibal Hamlin’s blog post on Washington’s new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
- After closing at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the exhibition travels to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, where it will be on view from February 28 to July 29, 2012, incorporating rare works from the Ransom Center collection as well.
- In Claremont, California, the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition may be found at Claremont Graduate University through January 6 (see CGU’s Manifold Greatness web page for visitor info, video links, and photos); until just before the recent holiday break, it was also displayed at Arizona State University (ASU Manifold Greatness web pages, student reporter video) and Rhodes College in Memphis (Rhodes 1611 web page with many links, our earlier blog post).
- In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Manifold Greatness programs will begin well in advance of the traveling exhibition opening on January 19, with two film screenings this Thursday—and a family Bibles consultation and workshop next Thursday—at Hattiesburg Library; the traveling exhibition itself opens at William Carey University on the evening of January 19, with more free, public programs to follow, including talks, panel discussion programs, a book discussion of Adam Nicolson’s God’s Secretaries (on the King James Bible translators), and a final film screening.
- Two other complete traveling exhibitions will also be on view by mid- to late January at the University of Minnesota (opening January 25), which is hosting a February 3 colloquium, its own exhibition “The Word Made Flesh,” and other public programs, and the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
And that’s not all! During 2012 and 2013, the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition will be displayed at another 31 libraries around the United States, each of which—like all of the host institutions so far—plans multiple public programs. Many are exhibiting rare works from their own collections as well. Try our traveling exhibition schedule to follow the travels of the panel exhibition in the months and years ahead.
Poet Robert Pinsky read from his poems and from his prose book The Life of David on Tuesday evening, October 4, 2011, as part of the O. B. Hardison Poetry Series at the Folger Shakespeare Library, an event introduced and moderated by Folger director Mike Witmore. The Life of David is an imaginative portrait of David, the biblical warrior, poet, and king.
It was my editor Jonathan Rosen’s idea for me to write The Life of David. I protested that I lacked scholarship, couldn’t even read Hebrew. Jonathan said that was irrelevant: the goal was not a work of scholarship but a writer’s understanding of that greatest of lives.
So, along with embracing David’s life story as it is told in Samuel I and II, the book needed to be informed by how that story and its telling had become part of the English language itself, embedded there by the hundreds of writers who had inspired me to write. Implicitly, I needed to respect how the biblical text had formed Milton, Swift, Keats, Austen, Lincoln, Dickinson, Joyce, Faulkner, Stevens, as well as others, great and less great—and how the writers in turn had formed our understanding of David’s story and of the Psalms that are designated as being “of” David.
These are the considerations that compelled me to decide, in a book published in 2005, that all the quotations must be from the King James translation, with its countless and still increasing echoes.
Robert Pinsky, who served an unprecedented three terms as United States Poet Laureate, teaches at Boston University and is the poetry editor of Slate. His books of poetry include Selected Poems, Gulf Music, Jersey Music, and The History of My Heart. He is also the author of the prose book The Life of David and is a well-known and award-winning translator. He has written several books about poetry including Poetry and the World, which was nominated for a National Books Critics Circle Award, and The Sounds of Poetry.
Just in time for today’s opening of the Folger exhibition, this wonderful new video, The Making of a Folger Exhibition: Manifold Greatness:
This video is a production of Alabama Public Television (APT) in partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library. Thanks to APT Executive Producers Heather Daniels and Mark Fastoso who manage a production studio at the Folger which produces original educational videos like this one.