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 “Library of Congress

Arlington National Cemetery and the King James Bible

World War I chaplains memorial, Chaplains Hill, Arlington Cemetery. Esther Ferington, 2013.

World War I chaplains memorial, Chaplains Hill, Arlington Cemetery.

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.

Confederate Memorial, Arlington Cemetery

Confederate Memorial, Arlington Cemetery

Ploughshares

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.


The KJB at a Folger Neighbor

Robert Reid, Understanding. Library of Congress. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith.

Last weekend’s blog post about the Martin Luther King Memorial highlighted the newest addition to the list of Washington monuments, memorials, and official spaces which include at least one inscription from the King James Bible—and inspired us to think of some others.

Religious images and references to God are fairly common in “white-marble Washington,” but written texts from the King James Bible can be harder to find. One place to look is just across the street from the Folger Shakespeare Library, in the magnificent Great Hall of the Library of Congress’s Jefferson Building. (The Folger Shakespeare Library, unlike the Library of Congress, is a private, nongovernmental research library. Henry and Emily Folger placed it on Capitol Hill next to the Library of Congress, which has always been a Folger neighbor.)

The image shown here, depicting Understanding, is from a group of four paintings by the artist Robert Reid on the north wall of the Great Hall’s second floor. Below Reid’s painting is a verse from Proverbs 4:7, in the words of the King James Bible: “Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

The Great Hall at the Library of Congress also famously exhibits the Giant Bible of Mainz (1452-53), one of the last great handwritten Bibles, and the Gutenberg Bible (about 1455), the first book printed in movable metal type in western Europe.

The quotations in the Great Hall are both numerous and varied, reflecting the nineteenth century’s fascination with science and engineering as well as art, literature, philosophy, religion, and more. For additional information, see librarian and historian John Y. Cole’s On These Walls: Inscriptions and Quotations in the Library of Congress. Cole is also director of the library’s Center for the Book.