View historical first edition books at the Stark Museum of Art Collecting Conversations Exhibition

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Special to The Leader

A first edition King James Bible and a first edition Shakespeare First Folio are taking centerstage in the current Stark Museum of Art Exhibition. Collecting Conversations is an exhibition that invites the public to connect with the Collection of the Stark and Lutcher family in unique and interesting ways. Collecting Conversations explores objects the family collected for beauty, history, knowledge, and simply, self-expression. This exhibition encourages Museum guests to allow this experience to prompt them to think about what they collect and why they collect it.

The two historical first edition books, King James Bible and Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies. Published according to the true original copies are on loan to the Stark Museum of Art from the Miriam Lutcher Stark Library, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. Miriam Lutcher Stark had acquired the First Folio and the King James Bible and later donated them to the Library at the University of Texas.

The first edition of the King James Bible is a landmark publication in the English language, having major impact on religious and cultural history. In 1604, King James I of England brought scholars together to translate the Christian Holy text into English. It took them seven years to complete the translation process.

For visitors to the exhibition, a Bible is one object with which they will likely identify as important for collecting, in the sense of preserving and handing down to future generations. Many visitors also have reverence for the specific translation of the King James Version. This translation allowed many people to read the Bible for the first time. This exhibit will give guests the opportunity to see one of the actual objects that initiated a major cultural shift.

This particular copy was a work collected for its importance as a historic document that was significant to the collector’s interest in religious sentiment, cultural achievement and philanthropy.The Orange Leader newspaper reported Mrs. Stark’s donation of the Bible to the University of Texas in 1933 and at that time said about this King James Bible, “This is perhaps the most important book that has ever been brought to the state, because of its influence upon the development of the English language and literature it has come to be called ‘The Greatest Book in the World.'”

For over 400 years, plays by William Shakespeare have entertained and educated audiences. The First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays documents the importance of printed books in preserving and disseminating the creative process and the spoken word. Having the plays in written form meant they could be preserved for future generations to read, interpret and perform. The folio brought together versions of Shakespeare’s works that could have been lost otherwise. Collecting the volume provides a touchstone for research in literature and the creative arts.

Many visitors to the exhibition have had some experience with Shakespeare, and this exhibition will provide the opportunity of relating to the first published versions of the bard’s complete works. The presence of the First Folio in the exhibition relates the book to Miriam Lutcher Stark’s participation in the local Shakespeare Reading Club and the family interest in the performing arts that played a role in the conception of the Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts.

Miriam collected this rare First Folio as part of her love of literature. In 1893, she directed a reading of Romeo and Juliet at the local Shakespeare Reading Club.

Collecting Conversations is on view now through January 7, 2017.

The Stark Museum of Art is open Tuesday – Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m and admission is free.