Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Saint John's Bible

In 1970, Donald Jackson, one of the world’s foremost calligraphers, told Diane Sawyers in an interview that his life’s greatest ambition was to write the Bible. Not long after that, Saint John’s University in New York City commissioned Jackson to direct the writing of the Bible as a series of illuminated manuscripts. This is the first time in about 500 years that a Benedictine Monastery has engaged in handwriting an illuminated Bible.

The Bible will all be written on vellum using quills, hand-made ink and pigments, and gold leaf. Computer technology is used only to set the layout measurements so the page content will be consistent in size. It is like the handwritten manuscripts made by medieval monks before the invention of the printing press.

Jackson has been working on this mammoth global project, directing and teaching, for over 20 years. A number of calligraphic artists from many countries participate in the work; Jackson himself is British. The Saint John’s Bible is scheduled for completion in 2009 and the total cost is estimated at around $4 million.

Saint John’s displays much of the Biblical manuscript online at this linked site. It is incredibly beautiful.

Why is Saint John’s doing an illuminated Bible? Here’s the reason, as the site’s author explains:

The goal of The Saint John’s Bible is to ignite the spiritual imagination of all peoples throughout the world by commissioning a work of art that illuminates the Word of God for a new millennium, in a way that is relevant to the 21st century. It is a prophetic witness to the Word of God in our day and beyond, an opportunity for learning and scholarship and a dignified expression of the Benedictine vision: "That in all things God may be glorified.”

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