New traveling exhibition tells the story of the origins, creation, and impact of the King James Bible

Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, a traveling exhibition opening at Pepperdine University’s Payson Library on August 23, 2012, celebrates the 400th anniversary of the first printing of the King James Bible in 1611 and examines its fascinating and complex history.

The story behind the King James Bible remains surprisingly 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, and Emily Dickinson. In the twentieth 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 for this exhibition,” said Mark Roosa, Dean of Pepperdine University Libraries.  “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.”

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 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 traveling exhibit 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 library is sponsoring free programs and other events for the public in connection with the exhibition.   Five lectures and a film screening will be presented around the exhibition.  The following lectures will take place at Payson Library, all free and open to the public:

Thursday, August 23, 4 p.m. – Opening Lecture and Reception

John Milton and the King James Bible

Pepperdine Provost Dr. Darryl Tippens

Thursday, August 30, 4 p.m.

The King James Bible and Early English Biblical Translations

Dr. Cyndia Clegg, Distinguished Professor of English, Pepperdine University

Tuesday, September 11, 4 p.m.

The King’s English in a Tamil Tongue: Missions, Paternalism, and Hybridity in South India

Dr. Dyron Daughrity, Associate Professor of Religion, Pepperdine University

Thursday, September 13, 4 p.m.

The Bible and the People

Dr. Lori Anne Ferrell, Chair of English and Professor of Early Modern History and Literature, Claremont Graduate University

Thursday, September 20,  4 pm.

The King James Bible in North American Churches Today

Dr. Ronald Cox, Associate Professor of Religion, Pepperdine University

There will also be a film screening in conjunction with the exhibition, also free and open to the public:

Sunday, September 16,  7 p.m.


Film Screening: KJB:  The Book That Changed the World

Discussion led by Craig Detweiler, Director of the Center for Entertainment, Media and Culture, and Associate Professor of Communication, Pepperdine University

Contact Ken LaZebnik at 310-506-6785, or visit for more information. Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible will be on display at the library until September 21.

New traveling exhibition tells the story of the origins, creation, and impact of the King James Bible