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Manifold Greatness exhibition coming to Elizabethtown Manifold Greatness exhibition arrives Feb. 2

Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, a traveling exhibition opening Saturday, Feb. 2 at the High Library at Elizabethtown College, celebrates the 400th anniversary of the first printing of the King James Bible in 1611 and examines its fascinating and complex history. Elizabethtown College is one of 40 sites across 27 states displaying the exhibition and the sole location in Pennsylvania where the public can experience the exhibition. Visit for detailed information about the exhibition. 

In addition to the exhibition, the High Library will showcase four displays of historical texts and bibles, including the High Library c.1599 copy of the Geneva Bible,from the Elizabethtown College special collections. Additional items will be shown from the special collections of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist studies, including the 1712 Marburg Bible, a mystic and prophetic bible, as well as the Behrleburg folio, which includes a bible and related commentary from the 1730s.

The exhibitwas 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.

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, 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 Steinbeckin 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.

Title Page “We are delighted to have been selected as a site for this exhibition,” said BethAnn Zambella, director of The High Library at Elizabethtown College. 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.

Manifold Greatness 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 High Library at Elizabethtown College is sponsoring a number of free programs for the public to view the exhibition.

Saturday, Feb. 2, 2:00 p.m. - Opening Reception: Manifold Greatness: the Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible
Location: Winters Alcove , High Library, Elizabethtown College

Join us for an opening reception featuring light refreshment and live music. Guest Lecturer, Dr. Jeffrey Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies will present “In the beginning was the Word.”

Wednesday, Feb. 6, 4:00 p.m. - Shakespeare, Literature and the Language of the King James Bible

Location: Winters Alcove, High Library, Elizabethtown College

Faculty scholars will gather for a panel exploring fascinating aspects of the King James Bible. Panelists are Dr. Christina Bucher, professor of Religious Studies, Dr. Suzanne Webster, associate professor of English and Dr. Louis Martin, professor of English. Topics of the panel include the impact of the King James Bible on subsequent Bible translations, how the King James Bible influenced literature in the works of Shakespeare, as well as the cross-Atlantic echoes in English and American literature.

Thursday, Feb. 7, 4:00 p.m. - The Bible as Art
Location: The Brinser Lecture Room, Steinman Hall, Elizabethtown College

Please join Dr. Patricia Ricci, associate professor of History of Art and Director of Fine Arts Division, for her lecture on the history of the Bible as art.

Wednesday, Feb. 20, 7:00 p.m. – The King James Version: Your Family Bible Memories
Location: The Elizabethtown Public Library

Bring your well-worn, dog-eared, marked-up, under-lined copy of the King James Version with your family story of births, baptisms, and deaths recorded in the old family Bible. Tell us when you remember receiving it. Share these old examples of Bible reading and study. Bring your Bible, your story, and come prepared to read your favorite passages of scripture from the beautiful and familiar King James Version.

Thursday, Feb. 21, 4:30 p.m. - Closing Reception: Afterlives of the King James Bible
Location: Winters Alcove, High Library, Elizabethtown College
On this final day to visit the exhibition, College Librarian and Director, BethAnn Zambella will offer remarks about this unique and transforming exhibit and its impact for future generations. The Manifold Greatness exhibition closes at 5:30 p.m.

Elizabethtown College is committed to providing full access to all courses, programs, services and activities. For questions concerning access such as requests for sign language interpreters, captioning, or other disability related accommodations for any campus event please contact the Director of Disability Services at 717-361-1227 or by email

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