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 “University of Oxford

The Bible in Old English Verse

MS. Junius 11. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

I really wish that I had been there when Bodleian Library MS. Junius 11 arrived at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Dating from around 1000 CE, this manuscript contains Old English verse adaptations of Genesis, Exodus, and Daniel. These biblical poems were originally thought to have been authored by the seventh-century poet Cædmon. Thus the manuscript is often referred to as the “The Cædmon Manuscript,” though the true author or authors remain unknown.

The page that is being highlighted in the Folger’s Manifold Greatness exhibition (first image, at left) presents the creation of Eve. On the right side of the drawing God takes a rib out of Adam’s side. On the left, God holds the hand of newly born Eve.

MS. Junius 11. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

The image from MS. Junius that I personally find captivating is the depiction of Noah’s ark as a kind of Viking ship (the second image in this post, at right). At first glance you might not realize that you are looking at Noah’s ark, but if you take a good look in the small space in the center of the ship—click on the image to see it a little larger—you can see what appears to be two peacocks and two deer standing two-by-two. Noah is at the back of the ship holding the rudder.

A world of thanks is owed to the Bodleian Library for their willingness to loan this amazing artifact to the Folger. It really is a privilege to have such an incredible piece of history on view in the United States.

To examine the Bodleian Library’s MS. Junius 11 online, visit Early Manuscripts at Oxford University.

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.


Record attendance for Bodleian Manifold Greatness exhibition

The Bodleian’s Manifold Greatness exhibition closed its doors on Sunday 4 September, with visitors still savouring their chance to encounter its exhibits right up to the last moment. The final attendance figure was 58,024 – a record for a Bodleian exhibition – and the whole team here is delighted at the response the exhibition has drawn. Many local people have enjoyed the chance to learn more about Oxford’s connections with Bible translation – from Wyclif, to Tyndale, the KJB translators, and beyond – and early in the exhibition’s run this connection was given a slot on the prime-time local TV news. The exhibition has also been covered in the Oxford Times and on BBC Radio Oxford. Visitors have been drawn from all over the globe, and comments have been left in the visitors’ book in many different languages.  The meeting of different cultures and languages through the act of Bible translation was one of the themes of the exhibition, and so it is very apt that the exhibition itself should have become a place of so many local, national and international encounters with the story of the KJB.

Helen Moore is Fellow and Tutor in English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.  She chaired the Oxford ‘Manifold Greatness’ curatorial committee.


KJB on the go! The Bodleian’s new mobile app

The Making of the King James Bible (Toura), Bodleian Libraries app

It’s hard to envision what the original King James Bible translators would have made of it, or exactly how one would even begin to explain it to one of them if a time machine were available, but the Bodleian Libraries have just released their first mobile app: “The Making of the King James Bible,” available for iPhone, iPad, and Android-based devices.

To quote the Bodleian’s own press release: “The app is being launched to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the Bible’s publication and the Bodleian’s summer exhibition, Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible (until 4 September).” Like the exhibition, the app “brings together, for the first time, many of the books and documents that lay behind the King James Bible translation.”

Among numerous highlights, including images of many items from the exhibition, the app includes comments from the Oxford curators, readings from the King James Bible translation, and Evensong performed by the choir at Corpus Christi College.


The Wicked Bible


Folger exhibitions draw primarily on Folger collections, but are often supplemented with items loaned from other libraries and museums. Most of the time the process goes smoothly, but every exhibition has its challenges. Manifold Greatness has had a few challenges, ranging from chasing down Bibles belonging to presidents and reggae musicians, to finding a pulpit and pew to put in the Great Hall.  Then there’s the Wicked Bible…

Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) edition of the King James Bible is an edition from 1631 that has come to be known as the “Wicked Bible” due to a rather outrageous typo in the ten commandments. Instead of having “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” the Wicked Bible has “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Quite a difference!  Even the King, Charles I, took notice and saw to it that the book’s printers, Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, were severely fined. Copies of the book were recalled and thus very few survive.

That very few copies survive made it a challenge for us to find one for the Folger exhibition. Finding a Wicked Bible turned out to be a rather wicked endeavor. After a few failed attempts, we finally found a copy with a willing lender: our partner in Manifold Greatness, the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford!

Steven Galbraith, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Books, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


Arts, crafts, and the KJB

Folger flowers: Papers from the Lada-Mocarski Decorated Paper Collection, Folger Shakespeare Library.

If you follow Manifold Greatness on our Twitter account and  our Facebook page, you already know that the celebration of the King James Bible this 400th anniversary year has taken some creative turns, in everything from drama, music, and art to crafts as ephemeral as flower arranging and scarecrow making.

A quick round-up of some recent highlights reveals—in the last week alone—two new, live-theater productions based on the King James Bible, both in Oxford. A one-night performance at Merton College, University of Oxford, The Full 1611, used lines from every book of the KJB to fashion a 100-minute drama. An Oxford theater troupe, meanwhile, is staging Tales of King James, an original two-actor play, in St. Barnabas Church.

On Wednesday, the King James Bible Trust announced the winning new choral works for its King James Bible Composition Awards, out of eight finalist pieces—both to be aired June 19 on BBC Radio 3’s The Choir: “Out of the South Cometh the Whirlwind,” by Zachary Wadsworth and “The Mystery of Christ,” by Christopher Totney.

In the visual arts, a juried exhibition of modern mosaics on the theme of the King James Bible remains on view through May 30 at Lichfield Cathedral. (In the US, contemporary artist Mako Fujimura has produced a commissioned series of paintings in honor of the King James Bible 400th; they’ll be in the On Eagles’ Wings KJB exhibit, opening in July at New York’s Museum of Biblical Art.)

And, as mentioned, some local crafts are responding to the anniversaryas well. A flower festival in Belfast this weekend marks the anniversary with floral displays evoking Bible verses. Nor is this the only KJB flower arranging this weekend alone; there’s another in Stoke Row. Last week’s Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser even reported that this year’s scarecrow festival in Underwood included “biblical characters” made by residents “to mark the King James Bible’s 400th anniversary,” although a non-KJB George and the Dragon won the contest. You can see the slingshot-wielding David scarecrow here.


May 21: Commemorating John Rainolds

Rainolds monument bust, Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Photo (c) Tim Rawle.

John Rainolds, President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford from 1598 to 1607, was the leader of the Puritan delegation to the Hampton Court Conference in 1604. It was at this conference that Rainolds suggested to King James I that there should be a new translation of the Bible.

Rainolds was born on September 29, 1549, in Pinhoe in Devon. His father was a farmer, and his five brothers all studied at Oxford University. In 1572 Rainolds became reader in Greek at Corpus Christi, where he had studied as an undergraduate, and in 1588 he moved to the Queen’s College, where he lectured in theology. Amongst his surviving papers in Oxford are his lecture notes on Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and notes he made concerning the study and interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures.

Rainolds was a member of the First Oxford company that translated the Old Testament prophets for the King James Bible. This company met weekly in Rainolds’s lodgings in Corpus. Despite being afflicted by failing eyesight and gout, Rainolds continued the work of translation to the last, even being carried into the meeting room. He died on Thursday 21 May 1607, and was remembered as a leading figure of reformed theology, an accomplished Hebraist, and a man of remarkable learning. Rainolds is buried in the chapel of Corpus Christi.

Helen Moore is Fellow and Tutor in English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and chair of the curatorial committee for the ‘Manifold Greatness’ exhibition at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.


Bodleian Library Manifold Greatness exhibition opens today!

Copyright Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

As reported in our recent post, Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible opens today at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford!

Helen Moore, chair of the curatorial committee, says, “The exhibition reunites some of the books and manuscripts actually used by translators and we hope that it will give a unique insight into the aims and methods of the countless committee meetings that were held in Oxford and elsewhere as the translation took shape.

“It is an enormous privilege that we are able to breathe life back into the translation process for a modern audience, by showing these books and documents in public, some of them for the first time.”

Shown here is the page from the Gospel of Luke headed “Christ is crucified, and riseth againe.” from the unique Bodleian 1602 Bishops’ Bible, on public display for the first time in this exhibition. The handwriting shows the editing comments of the King James Bible translators.

For more information on the Bodleian Manifold Greatness exhibition and the extraordinary and fascinating rare materials on display, consult this announcement.

You can see more about the marked-up 1602 Bishops’ Bible and other rare documents of the translation process (many of which are also in the Bodleian exhibition) in the video Reconstructing the Process on the Manifold Greatness website.


Praise for Manifold Greatness, the book

Named “Pick of the Day” on the Bookshop page of the London Times last Friday, Manifold Greatness: The Making of the King James Bible also got a nice review from the Times earlier in the week, on April 9, which described it as: “the beautifully presented and scrupulously edited Manifold Greatness… erudite but never dull,” memorably adding, “Go thou forth and buy it!’” (Update: Sorry, we couldn’t include the direct link here, given the Times site’s restricted paid access.)

Just out from Bodleian Library Publishing, Manifold Greatness is a richly illustrated, accessible account of the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible, told through chapters written by leading scholars who include the curators of the Bodleian and Folger Manifold Greatness exhibitions.

Chapters include the context for the translation, its impact in England, and its reception and cultural influence in America, from the 1600s to the present day. There’s also a chapter on rare KJB-related materials at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Images range from rare early English Bibles to the Algonquin Bible of 1663, Harper’s Illuminated Bible of 1846, and much more.

The book’s editors are Helen Moore and Julian Reid. Contributors include Moore and Reid, Valentine Cunningham, Steven Galbraith, Hannibal Hamlin, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Peter McCullough, Judith Maltby, Christopher Rowland, and Elizabeth Solopova.


A Tale of Two Pelicans

Bible binding with Folger pelican. Bodleian Library Shop.

Embroidered binding. 1633 KJV. Folger Shakespeare Library.

We got our first look today at this great plum Bible binding (left), to be offered at the Bodleian Library Shop during the  “Manifold Greatness” exhibit there, which opens April 22. It’s directly inspired by a stunning 1633 KJV in the Folger collection, with an embroidered binding of a pelican. Said to draw blood from its own chest to feed its children, the pelican is a traditional symbol of Christ. The new binding comes in a granite color, too.


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.