Inside take on a Folger, Bodleian, and Ransom Center exhibition on the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible on the 400th anniversary of its publication.

Posts tagged “Harry Ransom Center

A Curator Looks at 400

Steven Galbraith. Photo by Ryan Jenq.

Thinking about the one-year anniversary of Manifold Greatness takes me back to August 2009 and a balcony overlooking the ocean at Bethany Beach, DE. Miles from the Folger, my mind was more in Margaritaville than Jacobean England, but I owed Hannibal Hamlin a phone call regarding the King James Bible. A few days earlier we had met with my Folger colleagues regarding plans for the KJV’s 400th anniversary. We agreed to co-curate a Folger exhibition in 2011, but as ideas flew around the room, the scope of the exhibition grew and grew. There was talk of partnerships, grants, websites, and traveling exhibitions.

In some ways this is the most exciting moment in the life of an exhibition: the moment when you think as creatively as you can, without yet worrying about what might not be possible. The KJV anniversary was clearly going to be a bigger project than we had first imagined. I think that I can speak for both Hannibal and myself in admitting that although it was exciting, it was also pretty overwhelming. We agreed to talk everything through in a few days. I left the library for the beach.

Fast forward to this past fall. Like Hannibal, who recently shared his reflections on the one-year anniversary of the exhibition, I was inspired by our meeting last fall with representatives from the exhibition’s host sites. As I stood before this amazing group of people and heard their plans for their exhibitions, it really dawned on me that the exhibition on which we all had been working was really about to launch. With the Folger Shakespeare Library, the NEH, and all of these dynamic librarians, curators, and educators putting their efforts behind the exhibition, I knew things could only go well.

A year in and I am thrilled by the reach of Manifold Greatness. So far the exhibition has traveled to eighteen sites (counting the larger exhibitions at the Folger, the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin).  The Folger exhibition broke previous attendance records and the turnout at the exhibition sites has been very impressive. We are so thankful for all the support. The blog itself has been visited 30,948 times. Thank you for reading!

I couldn’t have seen any of this three years ago from my perch looking out over the ocean. When I did phone Hannibal we talked at length about how fun it was going to be to work together and agreed that we wouldn’t let things get too overwhelming. We were right on one count!  But from my vantage point the future looked pretty promising.

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.


Q and A With Bible Translator Robert Alter

The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New: newly translated out of the originall tongues: & with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by his Majesties speciall commandement. Appointed to be read in churches. London, 1611. New Testament internal title page. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Last week, Dr. Robert Alter, a professor of Hebrew language and comparative literature, spoke at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas on translating scripture and the influence of the King James Bible. This interview originally appeared on the Harry Ransom Center’s Cultural Compass blog.

In several interviews you have stated that you appreciate the King James Version. You have also created your own translations of many books of the Hebrew Bible. Are your goals in translating different from  the King James Version translators’?

For me, the power of the Hebrew Bible is inseparable from its stylistic virtuosity—its strong, compact rhythms; its expressive use of syntax; the subtlety and liveliness of its dialogue; the fine precision of its word-choices; the purposeful shifts of levels of diction. Though the King James Version often has its own stylistic beauty (though not as consistently as people tend to remember), the 1611 translators paid attention to none of these considerations and probably were unaware of most of them. Their goal was to provide as exact an equivalent as they could, according to their own understanding, of each word in the original. I share their commitment to a certain literalism but as part of a tight weave of stylistic effects in the Hebrew.

In your book Pen of Iron you examine the influence of the King James Bible on famous American writers such as William Faulkner and Herman Melville. Do you see the same influence in the work of any contemporary American writers?

Fewer American writers now, for rather obvious cultural reasons, are drawing on the King James Version, but its influence has far from disappeared. Two contemporary novelists I discuss in Pen of Iron who reflect the language of the King James Bible are Marilynne Robinson and Cormac McCarthy. Another is the late Barry Hannah.

With so many new translations available, is the King James Version still important and relevant today?

Translations that cast the Bible in up-to-the-minute American English are definitely cutting into the constituency of the King James Version because they are easier to read and seem more “accessible.” My own sense is that such translations lack any literary grace and distort the feeling and the meaning of the Bible. Though we are distanced from the 1611 version now because of its archaic language, its beauty is undiminished, and I think it will always have readers as a great literary achievement that altered the course of the English language.

Kelsey McKinney is an undergraduate intern at the Harry Ransom Center and a regular contributor to the Cultural Compass blog. The King James Bible: Its History and Influence, a companion exhibition to Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, is on view at the Ransom Center until July 29, 2012.


The Truth Shall Set You Free

The Main Building at the University of Texas, Austin with the inscription “Ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free.” Photo by Marsha Miller.

This week the Manifold Greatness exhibition is once again on the road, traveling to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin; Hope College in  Holland, MI; Mid-Columbia Library District, in Kennewick, WA ; and Mobile Public Library in Mobile, AL.  

Danielle Brune Sigler of the Harry Ransom Center is co-curator of “The King James Bible: Its History and Influence,” a variation of the Manifold Greatness exhibition.  This week, she blogs on common phrases from the King James Bible and how the book has influenced contemporary culture, from the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Robert De Niro’s tattoos in the film Cape Fear.

“The King James translation has left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of English-speaking people throughout the world,” she writes.

Read her complete blog post here.

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

 


Show and Tell

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

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

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

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

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

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


Happy New Year! Manifold Greatness in 2012… and 2013!

On the road: Franz Hogenberg after Georg Hoefnagel. Elizabeth I arriving at Nonsuch Palace (detail). Civitates Orbis Terrarum, 1582. Folger.

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:

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.


Drumroll, please… announcing the Bodleian Libraries Manifold Greatness exhibition!

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Great excitement this morning with the official announcement of the Bodleian Libraries exhibition opening (April 22) of Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible. Hurray and huzzah!

Manifold Greatness is a collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries and the Folger Shakespeare Library with the assistance of the Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. It will include the Bodleian Libraries exhibition announced here and a subsequent NEH-funded exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library in September and the Harry Ransom Center in early 2012, as well as a major companion website, a traveling exhibition throughout the United States produced by the Folger Shakespeare Library in partnership with the American Library Association, and more. Also look for Manifold Greatness: The Making of the King James Bible, from Bodleian Library Publishing.

From this morning’s announcement: “The Bodleian Libraries Summer 2011 Exhibition opens on Friday 22 April 2011. It celebrates the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible and sheds new light on its creation by examining the working process of the two translation committees based in Oxford at Merton and Corpus Christi Colleges.”

Included in the exhibition are the three key surviving working materials brought together for the first time: from Bodleian Libraries, the only surviving copy of the 1602 Bishops’ Bibles used by the translators; from Lambeth Palace Library, a unique document containing an interim translation of the New Testament epistles; and — on display for the first time ever — translator John Bois’s notes from the General Meeting of 1610 at which the work of the committees was reviewed and the translation finalized.


Why “Manifold Greatness”?

Dedication to King James I, King James Bible

Bible. English. Authorized. 1611. Folger.

If you visit the King James Bible Trust website, as we often do, you may notice that the words “manifest,” “great,” and “greatness” come up fairly often in its events list. At the University of Toronto, “Great and Manifold: A Celebration of the Bible in English,” is on display through June. At Cambridge, “Great and Manifold Blessings: The Making of the King James Bible” wraps up that month as well.

And then, of course, there’s our own Manifold Greatness project, a major, two-continent endeavor that includes a new book from Bodleian Library Publishing, a Bodleian Library exhibition opening at Oxford on April 22, and, funded by the NEH, an exhibition this fall at the Folger Shakespeare Library, an early 2012 exhibition at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, a major website that’s now launching within weeks, and a traveling exhibition produced in partnership with the American Library Association.

But why “manifold” and why “greatness”? The answer lies in the King James Bible’s dedication to King James I, not always printed in modern editions, which begins, “great and manifold were the blessings” when James became king.  (“Manifold” here means both “varied” and “abundant.”) Today, the same words describe the King James Bible itself.


In the beginning …

It seems amazing how far we’ve come since I first broached the subject of doing something on the KJB at the Folger when I was a fellow back in 2007-2008.

What started out as an idea for a Folger exhibition has snowballed into a joint exhibition with the Bodleian and the Harry Ransom Center, a traveling panel show, and a major website, funded by the NEH, and a collection of essays to accompany all this, The Making of the King James Bible, published by the Bodleian. Since I was already organizing a conference at Ohio State and editing a book for Cambridge – The King James Bible after Four Hundred Years – before the Folger events were even thought of, the last few years of my life have become pretty much all KJB, all the time.

But these many months of labor are starting to bear fruit. I’m excited to see the fabulous website now in its final stages, ready to launch in mid-April, to hear about libraries and colleges across the country that are applying to the ALA to host the panel exhibition, and to see, with my co-curator Steve Galbraith, and Caryn Lazzuri, Exhibitions Manager, the exhibition itself start to take shape, as decisions are made, texts are written and rewritten, and loans secured from across the country and overseas. One of the panel titles is “Many Forms for Many Readers,” referring to the variety of shapes and sizes in which Bibles were printed. We could say the same about the whole exhibition – many forms for many readers, viewers, listeners, and visitors at the Folger and beyond. Amazing!

Hannibal Hamlin, an associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.