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The King James Bible: Its Background, Creation, and Influence

All-Day Program

Full Day Lecture/Seminar

Saturday, March 17, 2018 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2949
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Portrait of John Rainolds, co-editor of the Authorised Version of the Bible, 17th cent. (Corpus Christi College, Oxford)

The King James Bible of 1611 is one of the most influential books in the English language. The creation of this landmark translation was the culmination of a long and often unquiet history of the Bible in English dating back as far as 1000 A.D., when portions of the Bible appeared in Old English. It built upon the struggles of religious reformers who risked their lives by committing the “heresy” of translating the Bible into English. It borrowed freely from the labors of scholars tasked with new translations once the religious and political tides had changed. The men chosen to work on the King James Bible revised the translations of their predecessors with no idea of how influential and pervasive their results would be even four centuries later.

Spend a fascinating day with Steven Galbraith and Hannibal Hamlin, co-curators of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s 2011 exhibition Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, as they chronicle the creation and far-ranging influence of the King James Bible.

9:30–10:45 a.m.  A History of the Bible in English

An overview of the dramatic history of English Bible translation, how reformers produced translations against opposition from the Church, and an examination of the translations that influenced the King James Bible.

11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.  The Creation of the King James Bible

Why the King James Bible project was initiated, who were the companies of men chosen for the job, how the translation process was accomplished (and why Shakespeare had nothing to do with it).

12:15–1:30 p.m.  Lunch (participants provide their own) 

1:30–2:45 p.m.  The Printing of the King James Bible

A brief introduction to 17th-century printing and an examination of how the King James Bible went from a final, translated manuscript into printed form. Printing the King James Bible was a monumental task that forever changed the lives of the printers involved.

3–4:15 p.m.  The Kings James Bible’s Language and Enduring Impact

The King James Bible has shaped the style and forms of British, American, and other Anglophone literatures for 400 years. An examination of its influence on the English language and on literary works from Pilgrim’s Progress and Paradise Lost, to Moby Dick and Howl.

Galbraith is curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology. Hamlin is a professor of English at Ohio State University.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)