The Saint John's Bible

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The Saint John's Bible is the first completely handwritten and illuminated Bible to have been commissioned by a Benedictine Abbey since the invention of the printing press.

Beginning in 1970, master calligrapher Donald Jackson expressed in media interviews his lifelong dream of creating an illuminated Bible. Following a Saint John's-sponsored calligraphy presentation at the Newberry Library in Chicago in 1995, Jackson discussed a handwritten Bible with Fr. Eric Hollas, OSB, former executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Between 1996 and 1997, Saint John's explored the feasibility of the Bible project, Jackson created first samples, and theologians developed the illumination schema. The Saint John’s Bible was officially commissioned in 1998 and funding opportunities were launched. The public was introduced to the project in 1999 and production was completed in 2011, with the final word penned in May 2011 and touch-up work completed by December 2011.

The Saint John’s Bible is divided into seven volumes and is two feet tall by three feet wide when open. The Bible is made of vellum, with 160 illuminations, and according to Abbot John Klassen has cost an estimated $8 million[1] to produce. The version of the Bible used is the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSV-CE).[2]

The scriptorium of The Saint John's Bible is located in Monmouth, Wales.

Mission[edit]

"At the dawn of the 21st century, Saint John's Abbey and University seek to ignite the spiritual imagination of believers throughout the world by commissioning a work of art that illuminates the Word of God for a new millennium."{http://www.saintjohnsmn.org/treasures/sjbible/sjbible_mission.html}

Techniques[edit]

Donald Jackson, officially, scribe to Her Majesty's Crown Office at the House of Lords, created a new script specifically for this project.

The creators of The Saint John's Bible use a mixture of techniques used in the creation of ancient illuminated manuscripts (handwritten with quills on calf-skin vellum, gold and platinum leaf and hand-ground pigments, Chinese stick ink, and modern technology: computers used to plan the layout of the Bible, and line-breaks for the text).

Volumes[edit]

The Saint John's Bible consists of seven volumes:

  1. Gospels and Acts (completed in May 2002): 25+ illuminations, including opening illuminations to each gospel
  2. Pentateuch (completed in August 2003): Illuminated text from the first 5 books of the Old Testament
  3. Psalms (completed in April 2004): Illuminations include the digital voice prints of songs from various ethnicities/religious backgrounds
  4. Prophets (completed in April 2005): Includes Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Micah, Amos, Daniel, Zechariah, and Baruch
  5. Wisdom Books (completed in July 2006): Includes Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Job, Wisdom, and Sirach
  6. Historical Books (completed in March 2010): Largest page count, 25+ illuminations, includes Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Judith, Esther, Ruth, Tobit, 1st and 2nd Maccabees
  7. Letters and Revelation (completed 2011)

The Committee on Illumination and Text[edit]

During production, a team of scholars and theologians gathered weekly to develop the theological content behind the illuminations. This included not only developing the schema for the illuminations (i.e., which passages would be illuminated), but also identifying underlying themes and elements for the artists to incorporate. The Committee on Illuminations and Text met in Collegeville, MN, while much of the artwork was produced in Wales, resulting in a transatlantic collaboration as drafts were passed between the two groups. Michael Patella OSB, chair of the Committee on Illumination and Text, explained the underlying purpose of their work: "The illuminations are not illustrations. They are spiritual meditations on a text. It is a very Benedictine approach to Scriptures.”[3]

The Heritage Edition[edit]

The Heritage Edition of The Saint John's Bible is the full-size fine art reproduction of the original. Measuring two feet tall by three feet wide when open, it is the exact size of the original manuscript. Each volume of the Heritage Edition is signed by the chief scribe and illuminator, Donald Jackson. The edition is limited to 299 signed and numbered seven-volume sets and contains the same volumes as the original. Many of the illuminations are touched-up by hand, including the burnishing of gold leaf. In addition, an eighth volume of commentary that places The Saint John's Bible in its historical context and describes several of the illuminations will accompany the volumes.

Institutions and individuals around the world have acquired approximately 100 of the 299 available sets of the Heritage Edition. Saint John's University does not disclose the names of individual subscribers, but the following institutions have announced their acquisition of the Heritage Edition or their plans to acquire the seven-volume set.

Arizona State University Malone University Saint Peter's College Carson Newman University
Assumption College Marquette University Samford University St. Mary's University, Texas
Australian Catholic University Mayo Clinic Santa Clara University
Austin Public Library Mount Saint Benedict Monastery St Martin-in-the-Fields Church
Brigham Young University Mount Saint Mary Seminary St. Bartholomew Catholic Community
Cathedral of Christ the Light Naples Museum of Art Saint Catherine University
Chaminade University Notre Dame of Maryland University† St. Hubert's/Holy Family Catholic High School
Clarke University Papal Library University of Michigan
College of Saint Mary Pepperdine University University of Mary
Fairfield University Regis College (ON) University of Minnesota
Gonzaga University Regis University University of Portland
Kansas State University Sacred Heart Hospital/Mayo Clinic Health Systems University of St. Thomas
La Roche College Saint John's Abbey Vassar College
Loyola Marymount University Saint Joseph's University Yale University
Loyola University Chicago Saint Martin's University Loyola University Maryland†

Wayzata Community Church

† Heritage Edition shared at Loyola Notre Dame Library.

In addition to these institutions, special limited editions have been gifted to the following institutions:

Apostles Edition - Vatican Museum of Art and The Morgan Library and Museum

Prophets Edition - John Carroll University and Saint John's Abbey

Trade Edition[edit]

The Trade Edition of The Saint John's Bible are smaller, printed copies of the seven volumes available for purchase. They are roughly the size of coffee table books, measuring 10" x 15.2".

Seeing the Word[edit]

In collaboration with Saint John's School of Theology·Seminary, curriculum has been developed that aims to educate people on the The Saint John's Bible and its underlying goal of igniting the spiritual imagination. Seeing the Word, co-produced by Liturgical Press, is a collection of resources promoting meditation on the Scripture and illuminations through the prayer process of visio divina (based on lectio divina).[4]

Other Recently Produced Handwritten/Illuminated Bibles[edit]

Early in the marketing campaign, the commission responsible for The Saint John’s Bible made the claim that it would be the first handwritten Bible in 500 years to the best of their knowledge. The commission was then made aware that several other Bibles had been completed within the time frame, and in Spring 2004 (between the April and May mailings of advertising for the Bible), the phrase “commissioned by a Benedictine Monastery” was added to the advertising and official website. At least one other privately illuminated manuscript, reproducing selections from the Bible – the Pepper Bible [1] – preceded The Saint John's Bible in this timeframe.

The Saint John's Bible staff[edit]

  • Artistic Director: Donald Jackson
  • Calligraphers: Sue Hufton, Sally Mae Joseph, Brian Simpson, Angela Swan, Susie Leiper
  • Director of The Saint John's Bible: Tim Ternes
  • Executive Director, Heritage Program: Jim Triggs
  • Graphic Designer: Vin Godier
  • Illuminators: Thomas Ingmire, Aidan Hart, Suzanne Moore, Diane von Arx, Sally Mae Joseph, Hazel Dolby, Andrew Stewart Jamieson
  • Natural history illustrator: Chris Tomlin
  • Project Coordinator: Rebecca Cherry, Rachel Collard
  • Studio Assistant: Mark L'Argent, Sarah Harris
  • The Saint John's Bible Committee on Illumination and Text: Johanna Becker, Irene Nowell, Michael Patella, Ellen Joyce, Nathanael Hauser, Susan Wood, Alan Reed, Columba Stewart

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Augusta Chronicle, August 22, 2012
  2. ^ "A Bible for the Times". The Saint John's Bible. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  3. ^ Sink, Susan (2007). The Saint John's Bible : an introduction. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press. ISBN 0-8146-9100-5. 
  4. ^ "About Seeing the Word". Seeing the Word official website. Retrieved 20 January 2012. 

External links[edit]