Yes, The King James Bible!



What do Madeleine L'Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, R. Crumb’s The Book of Genesis, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, the Apollo 8 flight to the moon and A Charlie Brown Christmas have in common?

The King James Bible!  If you don’t believe me, read on. Everyone knows about the KJB but few actually know its significant history.  That’s why the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Bodleian Library and the Harry Ransom Center have collaborated on a fascinating exhibition celebrating its 400th anniversary.

Manifold Greatness: the Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible is a beautiful exhibition currently at the Folger Library.  If you don’t happen to be planning a trip to our nation’s capitol however, you can enjoy its fabulous and fun website from the comfort of your own home. At the site, you can actually practice letterpress printing, hear selections from Handel’s Messiah and listen to the Apollo 8 astronauts read aloud from Genesis while orbiting the Moon.You will also discover how The Book of Eli, Bob Marley and the Byrds are related to the KJB.

If you want to see authentic pages from the King James Bible come up to the Marjorie G. and Carl W. Stern Book Arts and Special Collections Center to see our three leaf books*, published in 1937 by the Grabhorn Press. Each contain one page from the actual 1611 King James Bible. They contribute to the “manifold greatness” of our special collections center here at the library.
A leaf from the 1611 King James Bible with “The noblest monument of English prose” by John Livingston Lowes & “The printing of the King James Bible” by Louis I. Newman. Printed for the Book Club of California by the Grabhorn Press in 1937.
A leaf from the 1611 King James Bible with “The noblest monument of English prose” by John Livingston Lowes & “The printing of the King James Bible” by Louis I. Newman. Printed for the Book Club of California by the Grabhorn Press in 1937.
A leaf from the 1611 King James Bible with “The noblest monument of English prose” by John Livingston Lowes & “The printing of the King James Bible” by Louis I. Newman. Printed for the Book Club of California by the Grabhorn Press in 1937.

















For more information on the historical significance of the King James Bible, read the New York Time’s exhibition review, Edward Rothstein’s review of Wide as the Waters by Benson Bobrick and Simon Winchester’s review of Wide as the Waters and In The Beginning by Alister McGrath.

* "Leaf Book": A leaf book is (or was--they are out of fashion) a way of making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. A seriously imperfect copy of a famous book presented the opportunity: some suitable authority on the book would be asked to write an essay on it, a distinguished printer would be asked to give it typographic form, choosing a page slightly larger than that of the book in question, and printing as many copies as there were surviving leaves.  The whole would be handsomely bound, with one LEAF of the original laid in.  A Noble Fragment 1921, in which this treatment was bestowed on over 200 leaves (about a third of the whole) of a copy of Gutenberg's 42-line Bible, was the original leaf book.  The evidential (not to say monetary) value of a single leaf of that Bible is now so great as to make this seem deplorable vandalism; at the time, no doubt, it was regarded as an honest way to bring to a larger market something in itself virtually unsaleable. Hard cases make bad laws: a leaf book is always in some way a hard case.  But BREAKING-UP is not to be condoned, even in a good cause.  ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter.

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