Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible

Friday, 23 September 2011 - Thursday, 12 January 2012
Location: Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC, United States
Organisation: Folger Shakespeare Library
Topic: Bible


A landmark, broadly inclusive exhibition, Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible is the American portion of a shared endeavor by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Bodleian Library at Oxford University to mark the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James Bible. The exhibition assembles and interprets an extraordinary selection of rare books, manuscripts, and works of art from several libraries' extensive collections, telling the story of the King James Bible in richly personal terms, from its origins and creation to its wide-ranging cultural, social, and literary impact in the United Kingdom, the United States, and beyond.

Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible will include the exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library, which will travel to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. A text and image panel version of the exhibition will travel the United States and both the exhibition of rare materials and the traveling panel exhibition will be accompanied by a comprehensive website.

About the exhibition:

Despite the long reach of the King James Bible, its fascinating and complex history remains surprisingly little known. Even many of those whose lives have been affected by the King James Bible may not realize that the very idea of the Bible translated into English was once considered dangerous and even criminal. Equally compelling is the story of the book’s afterlife—its reception in the years, decades, and centuries that followed its first printing, and how it came to be so ubiquitous. Essential to this story is the profound influence that it has had on personal lives and local communities. Beyond the text, copies of the King James Bible often survive as cultural artifacts. For many families, the Bible became a place to record births, deaths, marriages, and other important events in their history (some nineteenth-century editions were even printed with blank pages or forms to hold this information). The afterlife of the King James Bible is also reflected in its broad literary influence in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Among authors from John Milton to Allen Ginsberg, direct quotation is surprisingly common. Many of the same writers also allude subtly but distinctly to the King James Bible in ways ranging from paraphrase to metaphor and allegory.

An illustrated publication produced by the Bodleian Library will accompany the British and American versions of Manifold Greatness. The publication includes contributions from established British and American scholars across the disciplines of history, theology, English literature, and Biblical Studies.

Museums, Libraries, Archives - London Society of Biblical Literature Bush Theatre Wallspace Gallery Nida