Claremont Graduate University (CGU) and the Claremont Colleges’ Honnold/Mudd Library will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first printing of the King James Bible by hosting a traveling exhibition examining the immeasurable impact the book has had on American culture.
Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, will be on display at the library from November 10 to January 6.
Highlighting the exhibit will be a first edition of the King James Bible from 1611.
The traveling exhibit was organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. It is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, with assistance from the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas. The traveling exhibition was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
It consists of high-quality reproductions of rare and historic books, manuscripts, and works of art from the Folger and Bodleian collections, combined with interpretive text and related images. The Claremont Colleges' Honnold/Mudd Library will supplement the traveling exhibit with rare artifacts and treasures from its Special Collections.
The story behind the King James Bible remains surprisingly little known, despite the book’s enormous fame. Translated over several years by six committees of England’s top scholars, and first printed in 1611, the King James Bible became the most influential English translation of the Bible and one of the most widely read books in the world.
For many years, it was the predominant English-language Bible in the United States, where it is still widely read today. Even many of those whose lives have been affected by the King James Bible may not realize that less than a century before it was produced, the very idea of the Bible translated into English was 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—for example, the Bible became a place for many families to record births, deaths, marriages, and other important events in their history.
The afterlife of the King James Bible is also reflected in its broad literary influence in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Many authors have demonstrated the influence of the language and style of the King James Bible on their work: among them John Milton, William Blake, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Allen Ginsberg, and Marilynne Robinson. In the twentieth century, many poets and novelists—such as John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath, William Faulkner in Absalom, Absalom, and Toni Morrison in The Song of Solomon—allude to the Bible in ways that enrich their narratives.
The words of the King James Bible are also heard in a far broader diversity of contexts, from Handel's Messiah and Linus's telling of the nativity story in A Charlie Brown Christmas, to sermons, public speeches, and the words of the Apollo 8 astronauts—heard live by half a billion to a billion listeners—as they orbited the Moon on Christmas Eve 1968.
“Claremont Graduate University is delighted to have been selected to host this exhibition,” said Lori Anne Ferrell, professor of early modern literature and history in CGU’s School of Arts and Humanities. “The King James Bible – both in Britain, its country of origin, and in America, where it has exerted greatest influence – is a work of historic importance, enduring inspiration, and ongoing fascination. This exhibition will document its remarkable religious, educational, literary, political, and cultural impact over four centuries.”
CGU and the Honnold/Mudd Library are sponsoring free programs and other events for the public in connection with the exhibition.
ON THE WEB
IN THE NEWS
The Manifold Greatness exhibition at CGU has been featured in the following local publications. Read the articles by clicking on the sources below.
Thursday, November 10, 4:30PM
Location: Founder's Room
Exhibit Opening and Curator Lecture: "Manifold Greatness: The King James Bible at Claremont Graduate University"
Lecturer: Lori Anne Ferrell, Professor of Early Modern History and Literature, CGU School of Arts and Humanities and NEH/ALA Project Director Click here to view photos taken during the reception on opening day.
Tuesday, December 6, 4-5:30PM Location: First Floor Press, Honnold Library
Bible Printing Workshop
Presenter: Jeffrey Groves, Humanities, Harvey Mudd College Enrollment is limited; to attend please contact Susan Hampson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, December 8, 7:30PM
Location: ALBRECHT Auditorium*
Lecture: "'A Bible! A Bible! We Have Got a Bible': Mormonism's Selective Love Affair with the King James Bible"
Lecturer: Patrick Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies and Associate Professor of Religion, CGU School of Religion. Click here to watch a video of Professor Mason's lecture.