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Three days of events celebrated the arrival of The Saint John’s Bible at John Carroll University in mid-April.  The first known handwritten and illuminated Bible in more than 500 years is a gift to John Carroll University from Saint John’s University. The gift was made possible through a donation by Target in honor of retired Target Executive Vice President John Pellegrene, member of John Carroll’s Class of 1958.

The Saint John’s Bible is now on permanent display in The Grasselli Library and Breen Learning Center. For library hours, please visit: http://library.jcu.edu/screens/guide_hrs.html .  Parking is available in the lot adjacent to the library.

Two institutions, one Benedictine abbey and university in Minnesota, and one Jesuit university in Ohio, each committed to a shared common value – educating for the future – join in embracing The Saint John’s Bible as an artistic and spiritual endeavor that will enhance the experiences of their students and larger community.

The gift of a Prophets Edition of The Saint John’s Bible speaks profoundly to John Carroll University’s mission, which is to be a Jesuit and Catholic university that inspires individuals to excel in learning, leadership, and service in the region and in the world. That mission supports John Carroll’s institutional vision, which is to graduate individuals of intellect and character who lead and serve by engaging those around them and around the globe.

This generous gift will inspire students of religious studies to a deeper understanding of the sacred words that are central to spiritual and moral lives. The rare gift of the first Bible to be written and illuminated entirely by hand in more than 500 years will foster biblical literacy, a deeper appreciation of art as a means of communication, and enhanced knowledge of the history of manuscripts.

The Saint John's Bible will serve as an instrument for the university in interfaith dialogue, a centerpiece of liturgies and a luminous icon at the spiritual center of campus life.

A monumental achievement and historic undertaking, The Saint John’s Bible is the only handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned since the advent of printed books more than 500 years ago. The world-renowned calligrapher and illuminator, Donald Jackson, in collaboration with scribes, artists and theologians, has woven word and image in this Bible for the new millennium.

Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, commissioned this extraordinary edition of one of the world’s great religious texts. This Bible was conceived with a specific purpose: to be an expression of faith relevant to the modern world. Illustrating Scripture from a contemporary perspective, it incorporates imagery from Eastern and Western religions and from Native American cultures. The English translation used is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), which has the distinction of being officially authorized for use by all major Christian churches.

The Saint John’s Bible is a unique blend of ancient methods, materials and tools with modern themes, images and technology. It is being made entirely by hand in a scriptorium in rural Wales by a team of scribes and artists under the artistic direction of Donald Jackson. The preparation of the vellum (calfskin) pages and the fashioning of quills from turkey, goose and swan feathers takes place at the scriptorium. Other traditional materials include inks, pigments hand-ground from minerals and precious stones and gold and silver leaf. All the illustrations (illuminations) are individually designed and painted by hand.

Computer technology also plays a crucial role. The layout of every page is planned on a computer, using a type font closely approximating the special script Jackson devised for the Bible. This precise allotting of space for each word and image enables the team of scribes, working simultaneously, to produce perfect sheets that can later be combined in perfect order, ensuring seamless continuity.

Planning for this major artistic, cultural and spiritual endeavor began in 1998, and the first words were written on Ash Wednesday 2000. The Bible will be completed in 2008, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the founding of Saint John’s Abbey. Comprising about 1,150 pages measuring 15 7/8 inches wide by 24 1/2 inches tall, it will fill seven magnificent volumes bound in leather-covered boards of Welsh oak.

In the Middle Ages, monasteries helped preserve knowledge and culture for the sake of the greater community. By commissioning a handwritten Bible, Saint John’s Abbey and University revive a tradition and affirm their commitment to the study of Scripture, to the book arts and to educational, artistic and spiritual pursuits. When all seven volumes of The Saint John’s Bible are completed in 2008, they will be carefully preserved at Saint John’s University and will be made available as the focus of educational instruction in many formats. As a monumental work of art, The Saint John’s Bible will speak, in words and pictures, to people of all faiths.

Reproductions of the pages are accessible through special-edition prints and facsimile editions of the seven volumes. For more information, please visit www.saintjohnsbible.org.

Andrew Jamieson, Islamic border decoration,
natural hand-ground ink on calfskin vellum
© 2002 The Saint John’s Bible,
Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
at Saint John’s University

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