Exhibit celebrates 400th anniversary of King James Bible

Image courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library

A unique traveling exhibition celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first printing of the King James Bible in 1611 is coming to the University of Mississippi.

“Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible” will be on display at the J.D. Williams Library beginning May 29. The exhibit examines the little-known story behind one of the most widely read books in the world.

“We are delighted to have been selected as a site for this exhibition,” said Julia Rholes, dean of University Libraries. “The captivating history and influence of the King James Bible will interest many viewers.”

The library is one of only 40 locations throughout the United States selected to host the exhibition. The successful application benefited from the support of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Department of English and Department of History.

“The library hopes that this exhibit will help viewers gain a better understanding of how the book influenced 400 years of our culture in surprising ways,” said Melissa Dennis, outreach and instruction librarian and assistant professor. “This is not an exhibit designed for just one discipline. People from various departments on campus and members of the local community may examine the display in different ways.”

The exhibit consists of high-quality reproductions of rare and historic books, manuscripts and works of art from the collections of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., and the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. Full of rich images and information, the exhibition comprises 14 graphic panels combining narrative text with numerous high-resolution images on double-sided, freestanding banners. It not only looks at the fascinating story of the bible’s creation but also examines the book’s afterlife and its influence on personal lives and local communities.

“While I love the history of the translating and writing of the King James Bible, the most fascinating aspect to me personally is how the language and worldview represented there are still influencing our world today,” said Christina Torbert, head of serials and associate professor. “We hear echoes of well-loved phrases in sermons, literature, politics and casual conversations. As a society, we are still having similar conversations about the power of government and the church’s role in politics and law.”

The King James Bible influenced literary works in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Many authors have demonstrated the influence of the language and style of the bible in their work: Among them are John Milton, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

In tandem with the exhibit, Archives and Special Collections will display some interesting bibles from its own collections and other materials related to religious and biblical influences in Southern history and culture.

The traveling exhibit was organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. It is based on an exhibit of the same name developed by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Bodleian Library with assistance from the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas. The exhibit was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible” will be on display on the first floor of the library during regular hours through June 29. For more information on the exhibit, visit http://www.manifoldgreatness.org/.