As Whitworth University Library prepares to pack up the Manifold Greatness exhibit, we have the opportunity to reflect on the community support we have received. Our community partners, and the people who visited the exhibition, have truly made Manifold Greatness at Whitworth University a success!
The Spokane County Library district , which partnered with Whitworth to promote the Manifold Greatness exhibition, hosted programs related to the Bible and Culture at two of their branch libraries. A speaker from Whitworth University asked for audience input about the Biblical themes portrayed in advertising. Audiences were surprised to learn that in some Jewish traditions, Cain is considered the son of Eve and the serpent (the serpent seed), rather than the son of Adam and Eve. This interpretation comes into play in an advertisement for Smirnoff Green Apple Twist, in which the serpent (a female) appears to be seducing Adam.
Gonzaga University Library’s Special Collections contributed items for the Manifold Greatness exhibit room. One such item is a Franklin Mint reproduction of the Thompson Medallic Bible, a group of 60 sterling silver medals depicting famous artists’ rendering of Biblical stories on one side and accompanying scripture (text from the King James Bible) on the other side.
The Spokane Public Library’s Northwest History Room hosted a display entitled “Early Religious Texts,” showcasing a collection of rare Bibles, psalm books, and other religious tools and texts. The collection includes a 1475 transcript of Peter Lombard’s Four Books of Sentences, complete with chains to ensure it would not be stolen. The Four Books of Sentences was a classic theology textbook in medieval universities.
Whitworth University Library’s Special Collections displayed a Bible used by traveling salespeople to show customers the many customizable features available to them. There are sample covers and sample leather colors in addition to the illustrations, concordances, and other features included in the Bible. The Bible contains a ledger in which the salesperson can keep an accounting of the names of people who ordered a Bible and how much they agreed to pay. One of the sample covers matches the cover of a Bible owned by George Whitworth, the founder of Whitworth University.
We have been fortunate to have church groups (some who traveled more than 100 miles!), school groups, and retirement community groups view the exhibit and attend programs. This, of course, is in addition to the campus community, including faculty, staff, and students. The exhibition’s schedule gives Whitworth University an additional opportunity to reach a wider audience on the eve of Commencement with families of graduating students, alumni groups, and trustees also on campus. The exhibit is richer as a result of the community involvement and support we have received. Thank you to all who have contributed and spread the word about Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible at Whitworth University!
Amy C. Rice is an Instructor/ Coordinator of Technical Services & Systems at Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library at Whitworth University.
Hard to believe the panel exhibition of Manifold Greatness has been traveling across America for a year! Like you, I’ve followed its progress, reading reports from Whitworth University (Spokane, WA), Winfield Public Library (Winfield, KS), Mobile Public Library (Mobile, AL), and Hope College (Holland, MI). And these are only the posts on the blog’s first page! I remember when Steve Galbraith and I, as co-curators of Manifold Greatness, met with representatives of all the host sites.
In September, 2011, the American Library Association hosted a daylong workshop, where Steve and I talked about the genesis and realization of the exhibition, and about what we saw as its most compelling stories. It was fascinating and moving to hear then from all the representatives, as they described the diverse array of events with which they would surround the Manifold Greatness panels. So many of these have now come to pass: lectures and colloquia on the translation of the Bible, on the influence of the King James Bible on American writers, on family Bibles, on rare book preservation, and much more. Through the wonders of communication technology, we’ve been able not only to read about these celebrations but to see photographs, and even watch a live stream of the colloquium at the University of Minnesota. It’s as if the conversation we started at the Folger is ongoing, being joined and carried on by other communities across the country.
In a way this reminds me of the spread of the King James Bible itself. I wrote in the exhibition book about Parson Weems, the almost legendary Bible salesman of the Philadelphia printer Matthew Carey. Weems hawked Bibles in the 1790s and early nineteenth century in Maryland, the Carolinas, Georgia, and his native Virginia. But he sold Bibles to Northerners, too. From New York he wrote to Collins that their publishing plans had “knock’d up just such a dust here among the Printers as would a stone if thrown smack into the center of a Hornet’s nest.” As an interesting aside, Weems was also the author of The Life of Washington , a collection of stories about America’s first president and the origin of the famous (but untrue!) anecdote of young George Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree.
Weems was the Johnny Appleseed of Bibles, planting them wherever he and his horse rode. Weems’s efforts were later eclipsed by those of the American Bible Society, whose goal was to put a Bible (King James Version) in every household. By mid-19th century they were printing and distributing a million Bibles a year. In the twentieth century, the Gideons took on the task of putting a Bible in every hotel room. The huge dissemination of the King James Bible in America ensured its influence on American literature and culture. The influence of Manifold Greatness will be more modest, I’m sure, but like the book it explores, it will have a wide reach. The panels have already traveled to 14 states, and they will reach 13 more before they reach the end of their road in 2013.
Hannibal Hamlin, associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, was co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.