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Exhibits in RBML

Sep 7, 2011

The current exhibition in the Rare Books & Manuscript Library, A to Z to ! : An Alphabetical Exhibit of Alphabets and Writing closes at 5 p.m. this Friday, September 9. One of the most popular recent exhibitions in RBML, this all-ages exhibition presents examples of alphabets and calligraphy from the collection of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. A catalog designed for young readers is also available. The exhibition is curated by Marten Stromberg, the new Curator of Rare Books.

Out of many good ones, one principal good one:” Celebrating the King James Bible at 400 (14 September through 15 December, 2011) opens on Wednesday, September 14 at 3:00 p.m. with remarks and a tour by the exhibition curator, Valerie Hotchkiss and is the opening event for this year’s No. 44 Society schedule of presentations.

The history of the Bible in English is one of censorship, intrigue, politics, and, ultimately, glory. To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the great King James Version (1611), the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois will exhibit some of its rare Bibles to tell the fascinating story of the making of the English Bible and to look at the many books behind the magisterial and influential 1611 English translation of the Bible.

From 1604 to 1611 six teams of scholars worked on the translation under strict guidelines from King James himself. Their purpose, they wrote, was not to make a new translation of the Bible but "to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one." This exhibition surveys those "many good ones" to understand the context from which the literary masterpiece that is the King James Bible arose. After suppressing the Bible in their vernacular for more than 130 years, the English made up for lost time by creating no fewer than fifteen different translations of the Bible between 1535 to 1600 in a variety of forms and formats—248 editions in all. In this exhibit we illustrate the complex history of the Bible in English, from the earliest banned translations to authorized translations of shifting religious partisanship under Henry VIII, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, to the literary triumph of the King James Version.

Hundreds of millions of copies of the King James Version have been printed and sold. And though the translation has been revised and even surpassed by more modern English versions based on sources discovered since then, the language of the King James Bible has had an enormous impact on the English language and its rhythms and cadences still rings in our ears.

Looking at the scholarship, language, format, confessional polemics, and presentation of the English Bible translations that preceded the King James Version not only provides the visitor with insight into the political and religious history of England, but also offers a glimpse into the creation of a literary masterpiece.

All are invited to the opening on September 14 at 3:00 p.m. and refreshments will be served.


[Re-posted from an email from Dennis Sears.]