Through materials from the year 1000 to 2011, Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible offers a "biography" of one of the world's most famous books, the King James Bible of 1611, which marks its 400th anniversary this year.
Given the interest in the King James Bible this anniversary year, the Folger is adding Sunday viewing hours from noon to 5pm. Manifold Greatness can also be seen Monday–Saturday, 10am to 5pm and one hour before performances and readings.
A blockbuster, NEH-funded exhibition, Manifold Greatness tells the story of this landmark book through a remarkable assemblage of rare books, manuscripts, and works of art, including the Folger's own first edition of the 1611 King James Bible. Through these materials, curators Hannibal Hamlin of The Ohio State University and Folger curator of rare books Steven Galbraith trace the centuries-long narrative of the King James Bible and the English Bibles that came before it. The exhibition also shows how its words have played out over the centuries since 1611, from Handel's Messiah and countless works of literature to the Apollo 8 astronauts' reading of Genesis as they orbited the Moon.
“The legacy of the King James Bible is actually too huge to articulate in a brief sentence or two, because its influence is astronomical," notes exhibition curator Steven Galbraith. Fellow curator Hannibal Hamlin adds, "It influenced English-speaking writers, not just in Britain and America, but all over the world, everybody from John Milton in Paradise Lost to Charles Schultz in A Charlie Brown Christmas."
First printed in 1611, the King James Bible remains a towering landmark—a shared point of reference across the cultural landscape, from The Simpsons to William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell to the most traditional Anglican hymn.
Its familiar words and cadences have influenced writers from Milton to Melville, T.S. Eliot to Toni Morrison. The words of the King James Bible ring out in Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech and, every holiday season, in performances of Handel’s Messiah.
The story behind this influential book, however, is less well known. It includes earlier Bible translators who worked at the risk of their lives; meticulous seventeenth-century scholars; and generations of King James Bible owners—among them, families who recorded births, marriages, and deaths in treasured copies.
The Folger’s Manifold Greatness exhibition is part of a major collaboration between the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford, which recently produced a related exhibition, Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible. The project also includes a website and blog, a Bodleian Library publication, Manifold Greatness: The Making of the King James Bible, and a traveling panel exhibition, inspired by the Folger exhibition and produced by the Folger in partnership with the American Library Association (ALA), which will tour to 40 libraries around the country over the next two years. After the Folger exhibition closes in January 2012, a version of it will be on exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The Manifold Greatness project is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Beginning with tenth-century Anglo-Saxon biblical poems, the exhibition moves swiftly to the dramatic story of the early English Bibles, for which translators sometimes risked and even lost their lives. Rare books, manuscripts, and portraits then tell the stories of the tense conference at which James I agreed to a new Bible, and the four dozen or more top English scholars who created it over several years. A look at the centuries-long "afterlife" of their famous text in public life, literature, entertainment, and the arts takes up the second half of the display.
Some of the not-to-be-missed items on exhibition include:
• The ‘Caedmon manuscript,’ an Anglo-Saxon manuscript (c. 1000 CE), that retells biblical stories in epic verse; the manuscript's drawing shows God creating Eve from Adam's rib
• A rare Wycliffite Bible from the 1380s; such manuscripts, linked to the reformer John Wyclif, were the first full English Bible
• A fragment from William Tyndale's contraband translation, 1520s to early 1530s: Tyndale was executed in 1536 for his attempts at translating the Bible into English
• Queen Elizabeth's copy of the Bishops' Bible, 1568
• The Bodleian copy of the Bishops' Bible annotated by translators at Oxford with their changes
• The Folger’s copy of the first edition of the King James Bible
• Prince Henry Bible, an elaborately-bound copy of the King James Bible owned by James I's son
• A copy of the "Wicked" Bible (1631) in which the printer omits a key word from the Seventh Commandment on adultery
• The John Alden Bible, the first copy of the King James Bible in America; it came over on the Mayflower
• Copies of the King James Bible owned by Frederick Douglass and Elvis Presley
ABOUT THE CURATORS
Steve Galbraith, the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Rare Books (2007–2011) and now Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology, is an expert on the history of the book. Before coming to the Folger, he was Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts as well as a Visiting Professor of English at The Ohio State University. His publications include The Undergraduate's Companion to English Renaissance Writers and Their Web Sites (Libraries Unlimited, 2004) and articles in Reformation and Spenser Studies. He is currently working on a critical edition of Thomas Drue’s Duchess of Suffolk, a book on Edmund Spenser’s printing history, and a textbook on rare book librarianship. He earned his MLS from the University of Buffalo and his PhD in English Renaissance Literature from the Ohio State University.
Hannibal Hamlin, Associate Professor of English at the Ohio State University, studied English at the University of Toronto and completed his doctorate in Renaissance Studies at Yale University. Renaissance literature and culture, especially Shakespeare, Donne, the Sidneys, and Milton, the Bible as/and/in literature, metrical psalms, and lyric poetry are among his scholarly interests. His publications include Psalm Culture and Early Modern English Literature (Cambridge, 2004), The Sidney Psalter: Psalms of Philip and Mary Sidney, co-editor (Oxford World Classics, 2009), The King James Bible after 400 Years: Literary, Linguistic and Cultural Influences, co-editor (Cambridge, 2011), along with numerous journal articles, book chapters, and reviews. A book on the Bible in Shakespeare is Hamlin’s major current project, in support of which he has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies (a Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship), and the National Humanities Center, among other grants. He is editor of the journal Reformation and guest editor of a forthcoming forum on Poetry and Devotion for Religion and Literature.
Manifold Greatness: The Making of the King James Bible
Edited by Helen Moore and Julian Reid. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Paperback, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-8512-4349-5. 224 pages, 65 color plates.
Manifold Greatness: The Making of the King James Bible is a richly illustrated, accessible, and meticulous account of the creation and afterlife of the 1611 King James Bible. Through chapters written by leading scholars, including the curators of the Bodleian and Folger Manifold Greatness exhibitions, the narrative explores the cultural, religious, and material contexts for the translation, its impact in England, and the reception and cultural influence of the King James Bible in America, from the 1600s to the present day. The book also features a chapter on the King James Bible and related rare materials at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Scores of colorful images closely integrated with the text include rare printed books, manuscripts, and artifacts, from the notes of the translating committees and pages from the Wycliffite and Tyndale translations of the Bible to the Bishops’ Bible owned by Elizabeth I, the Algonquin Bible of 1663, and Harper’s Illuminated Bible of 1846.
Available in the Folger Gift Shop and online at www.folger.edu/shop, $35.
A comprehensive companion to the exhibitions as well as a stand-alone resource, the website includes photo galleries, eleven original videos, timelines, audio, and activities and educational resources for children.
Curators and project staff share their discoveries, highlight areas of particular interest, update on programs and activities around the exhibitions, and share the ongoing influence of the King James Bible today.
Connect with Manifold Greatness on Twitter (@manifoldgr8ness), Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube.
Monday–Saturday, 10am–5pm; Sundays, Noon–5pm
Closed all Federal Holidays
Monday–Friday at 11am & 3pm and Saturday at 11am & 1pm
Folger Docents offer guided tours of the exhibition, as well as the Folger’s national landmark building, free of charge. No advance reservations required.
Docent-led tours of the exhibition, as well as the Folger national landmark building, are offered for groups of 10 or more. To arrange, please call (202) 675-0395.
Visitors, using their own cell phones, can call (202) 595-1844 and follow the prompts for 200# through 213# to hear the exhibition staff share personal comments on exhibition items.
Shake Up Your Saturdays!
Saturday, September 24, 10–11am
Through crafts and a scavenger hunt learn about the translation of the most famous book in the world, and how it still influences us today! Age 6–12.
KJV in the USA: The King’s Bible in a Country without a King
Thursday, September 29, 6pm; $15
Noted scholar and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore discusses the influence of the King James Bible in the United States.
An Anglo-American History of the KJV
Thursday, September 29–Saturday, October 1
This scholarly conference, chaired by Lori Anne Ferrell (Claremont Graduate University) and Kathleen Lynch (Folger Institute), with plenary lectures, panels, and round tables, explores the Bible’s role in provoking, defining, and then, in a sense, outlasting the English Reformation as an essential template for life, letters, art, politics, and culture.
A New Song
Friday, September 30–October 2
Musical settings of biblical verse and other sacred works from the reigns of James I and II are complemented by instrumental fantasies and lively dances by Coperario, Locke, and Purcell. With period strings, organ, and Washington National Cathedral's chamber vocal ensemble Cathedra, under the direction of Michael McCarthy.
O.B. HARDISON POETRY SERIES
Tuesday, October 4, 7:30pm, $15
Pinsky, who served an unprecedented three terms as U.S. Poet Laureate, reads from his collections of poems and from his non-fiction prose book, The Life of David, a biographical account of the biblical warrior, poet, and king.
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Robert Richmond
Featuring Owiso Odera & Ian Merrill Peakes
October 18–Novement 27
This gripping tale of jealousy and betrayal, in which Iago turns Othello against Desdemona, stands apart among Shakespeare’s tragedies. Othello was first performed as King James I came to the throne.
Poetics and the Bible
Friday, December 16, 7pm, Free
Poet and professor Jacqueline Osherow discusses what makes the King James Bible “one of the best poetic translations.” Her sister, Folger dramaturg Michele Osherow, moderates the conversation.
UPCOMING FOLGER EXHIBITIONS
February 2–May 19, 2012
Georgianna Ziegler, Curator
* * * * *
About Folger Shakespeare Library
Folger Shakespeare Library is a world-class center for scholarship, learning, culture, and the arts. It is home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection and a primary repository for rare materials from the early modern period (1500–1750). The Folger is an internationally recognized research library offering advanced scholarly programs in the humanities; an innovator in the preservation of rare materials; a national leader in how Shakespeare is taught in grades K–12; and an award-winning producer of cultural and arts programs—theater, music, poetry, exhibits, lectures, and family programs. By promoting understanding of Shakespeare and his world, the Folger reminds us of the enduring influence of his works, the formative effects of the Renaissance on our own time, and the power of the written and spoken word. A gift to the American people from industrialist Henry Clay Folger, the Folger—located one block east of the U.S. Capitol—opened in 1932. Learn more at www.folger.edu
Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol Street, SE, one block from the U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20003
METRO: Union Station (red line) or Capitol South (orange / blue line)
HOURS: Monday through Saturday, 10am – 5pm. Sundays, Noon – 5pm
Closed federal holidays.
Daily Free Guided Tours of the exhibition and building by Folger Docents:
11am and 3pm, Monday – Friday; 11am and 1pm Saturdays.
CONTACT: (202) 544-7077 or www.folger.edu