New from Bodleian Library Publishing: Manifold Greatness and the Making of the King James Bible

edited by Helen Moore and Julian Reid

27 April 2011

Manifold Greatness book jacketIn 1604 the newly crowned King James I and VI of England and Scotland commissioned a new translation of the Bible. It took fifty or so scholars six years to complete and was published 400 years ago this year, in 1611.

This new book from Bodleian Library Publishing tells the story of this remarkable achievement with outstanding images from the collections of The Bodleian and Folger Shakespeare Libraries.

The book discusses the obstacles and achievements faced by the translators, who came from a wide variety of religious and social backgrounds, and demonstrates how the finished work both reflected and united the full range of doctrinal and ideological differences current in the Church of England at the time. It also explains how the work, designed as a text that would help consolidate and set out the theological direction of the Church, went much further – going on to influence both Christianity and the English language around the world and across the centuries.

Edited by the curators of the Bodleian’s forthcoming exhibition, ithighlights the crucial role that Oxford – both in terms of scholars and texts – played and explains how the Oxford translation committees were formed and worked, with the Old Testament group led by John Harding, Regius Professor of Hebrew and the New Testament group, translating from Greek under the direction of Thomas Ravis, Dean of Christ Church.

The book brings this story to life with a rich array of illustrations, including portraits of the key figures, the very texts they consulted, the libraries in which the translators worked, the desks at which they sat, the rooms in which they lived, the colleges where they studied and taught, and the memorials erected to their achievements.

The images draw on the extensive collections of the Bodleian Library and the Folger Shakespeare Library (where the related exhibition travels in 2011) to round out the story, with superb images of bibles, for example Queen Elizabeth I’s copy of the Bishops’ Bible and the first complete Bible to be printed in America.

Manifold Greatness is a rare treat – richly illustrated and intellectually stimulating – a fitting tribute to one of the most important books in the English language, as the former Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, describes: “To read it is to feel simultaneously at home, a citizen of the world, and a traveller through eternity.”

Publicity Quotes

‘…nourishing … beautifully presented and scrupulously edited … erudite but never dull … Go thou forth and buy it!’

Salley Vickers, The Times

'This is an attractive and informative introduction to a book that has changed the world probably more than any other. Both the subject matter and the quality of the contributors ensure that this is a study which will be welcomed by thoughtful readers from very many different backgrounds. I hope it will remind many people why the King James Bible is a national treasure and a continuing source of delight.'
The Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford

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