Posts Tagged ‘Cambridge University Library’

The Story of the King James Bible

21 February 2011

By Christina Morin

While in Cambridge a couple of weeks ago, I took the opportunity to visit the exhibition I mentioned in this month’s recommendations: ‘Great and Manifold Blessings: The Making of the King James Bible’. Just before going, I happened upon Diarmaid MacCulloch’s review piece, ‘How good is it?’ in the London Review of Books (3 February 2011). In it, MacCulloch states, ‘The story of the KJB and its influence has often been told, and we will hear it repeated to distraction in this quartercentenary year. If one wonders whether it’s worth telling again, well, like the KJB itself, it sells, and good luck to publishers who turn an honest penny by it’. If ever you’ve booked yourself into a hotel and had a rummage through the bedside table drawers, you’ve probably found yourself a KJB. I have a copy or two of the KJB myself, as I imagine lots of Irish households do, and though its language can be excessively formal, flowery, and archaic, especially in an atmosphere in which there is an ever-increasing number of translations that target twenty-first century readers with twenty-first century language (here I’m thinking specifically of The Message), the KJB remains a bestseller today, four hundred years after it was first produced.

Part of the KJB’s continued attraction is the transformation it effected in seventeenth-century English social, religious, and cultural life as well as the ongoing effect it arguably still has on many facets of twenty-first century life. In an article published in The Guardian last November, Robert McCrum calls the KJB ‘a number one bestseller of unprecedented literary significance’ that has fundamentally ‘shaped our imaginative landscape’. With stronger language still, McCrum claims, ‘As well as selling an estimated 1bn copies since 1611, the KJB went straight into our literary bloodstream like a lifesaving drug’. He further notes that many well-used words – ‘scapegoat’ and ‘long-suffering’, for instance – as well as favourite idiomatic sayings – ‘fighting the good fight’, for example, or ‘see the writing on the wall’ – come directly from the KJB. Read more

Counting the Costs

18 February 2011

By Christina Morin

It was with a great sense of eagerness and anticipation that I headed off for Cambridge last Monday for a full week of uninterrupted research. My reading list in hand, I arrived at Cambridge University Library bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, nothing daunted by the airline’s loss of my luggage or the taxi-driver’s surly insistence that the long way around was the only way to go at that hour, or even the resulting exorbitant taxi fare. I’ll admit my enthusiasm was slightly dampened by the consternation with which my request for a certain printed catalogue was met. And, my fervour received a further, harsher blow when I was sent away with the words, “leave it to me”. Luckily, said catalogue had been located by the next morning, and I settled to work with a sigh of relief.

Halfway though the first triple-decker Gothic novel I’d requested, all contentment and delight had vanished in the face of rising panic. If it was taking me this long to read one novel, how was I ever going to read all of the titles on my list? What had seemed like an ambitious but viable goal in the rosy glow of enthusiastic academic zeal now appeared horribly naïve in the cold glare projected by the microfiche reader. By Wednesday, I was resigned to my fate: a future research trip, or several, to complete my reading. How exactly to afford those projected research trips, however, began to prey on my mind. Accordingly, when I got back to Ireland, I began to search for possible funding opportunities with which to make these trips. Read more


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