The Saint John’s Bible is an amazing hand-lettered and hand illuminated bible and likely the first commissioned since the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440, more than 5 centuries ago. And to quote the Smithsonian Magazine it is “One of the extraordinary undertakings of our time.”
This idea was first envision by world-famous calligrapher Donald Jackson of Wales, who is “Senior Scribe to Queen Elizabeth’s Crown Office at the House of Lords.”
The Bible was commissioned in 1998 by the Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota and is truly an epic artistic and courageous undertaking. There are seven 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide volumes each weighing 35 pounds, with 1,150 pages of text and 160 illuminations all housed at the St. John’s campus. Jackson has utilized ancient techniques in calligraphy and illumination with the all-inclusive approach to the Bible with its beginnings in Benedictine spirituality.
Jackson and his team of artists produced the pages on calfskin vellum using quills from goose wing feathers. Turkey and swan quills were sometimes used for heavier letters and chapter headings.” Black ink is from Chinese stick ink. Illuminations used egg tempera, hand ground ink colors plus gold, silver and platinum. The images are contemporary. The latest computer technology was used to lay out the pages. Jackson designed the script, readable by modern eyes.”
The illustrations are multicultural with images based on Egyptian wall paintings, Native American basketry, and Assyrian engravings. It actually expresses technology and science with an illumination highlighting images from the Hubble telescope and digital voiceprints of Benedictine chants from the monks of Saint John’s Abbey.
The website alone is a feast for the eyes. To learn more about this extraordinary undertaking, click on The St. John’s Bible.
To see Donald Jackson’s video click on A Lifetime’s Dream