"Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible," a traveling exhibition opening at the Hays-Heighe House at Harford Community College on Monday, April 22, celebrates the 400th anniversary of the first printing of the King James Bible and examines its fascinating and complex history.
The traveling exhibit, which runs through May 17, 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 exhibit is traveling to 40 locations across the country, and Harford Community College is the only host site in Maryland.
The opening reception, from 3 to 7 p.m. on April 22, will feature several events including a lecture and theatrical reading. Gary Owens, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy and religion at Harford Community College, will discuss "Catholicism, Protestantism, Blood, Guts, Ink and the King James Bible," at 2:15 p.m. Ben Fisler, Ph.D., associate professor of theatre, and students from the college and the college's theatre program, will read works from Shakespeare and the King James Bible from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Hays-Heighe House hours have been expanded for this exhibit and will be Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesdays, 3 to 7 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The College is partnering with Harford County Public Library, Historical Society of Harford County and Spirits of Tudor Hall in developing and presenting several of the programs.
Other special events include:
• "Jesus and Mary Magdalene – Married? Kids? Grandkids?: A Biblical Investigation – What Did Jesus Do Before His Ministry Started?" presented by Gary Owens, Ph.D., May 2, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Hays-Heighe House Room 201 (Presented with grant support from the American Library Association and National Endowment for the Humanities).
• "The Politics of Bible Translation in the 16th Century: From William Tyndale to King James I of England," presented by Laura Wright, lecturer, philosophy and religion, at Harford Community College, May 8, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Hays-Heighe House Room 201 (Presented with grant support from the American Library Association and National Endowment for the Humanities).
• Theatrical readings and reception: "A Great Feast of Languages: The Language of Shakespeare and of the King James Bible," presented by Ben Fisler, Ph.D., Harford Community College students, including theatre students, and Mike Brown (as Junius Booth), reading works from Shakespeare and the King James Version of the Bible, May 9, from 6 to 9 p.m., Hays-Heighe House Room 201 (Presented with grant support from the American Library Association and National Endowment for the Humanities).
Due to limited seating, members of the community interested in attending these events should reserve a seat in advance by calling 443-412-2539 or sending an email to email@example.com.
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.
Ben Fisler, associate professor of theatre in the visual, performing and applied arts division, will be directing several companion performances. "The students and community will be exposed to an unusual take on the language of Shakespeare and 17th Century England," he explained.
The story behind the King James Bible remains little-known, despite the book's enormous fame. Translated over several years by six committees of England's top scholars, 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. 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 20th 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.
"We are delighted to have been selected as a site to host an exhibition of this caliber," said Iris Leigh Barnes, coordinator of the Hays-Heighe House. "The captivating history and influence of the King James Bible will interest many viewers. This exhibition shows how important this book has been in history and helps audiences to develop a new understanding of its social, cultural, literary and religious influence over four centuries. We have significantly expanded our exhibit hours to attract new audiences."
For more information about Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, call 443-412-2539, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.harford.edu/library/haysheighehouse/about/.