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About the Exhibition

"...One of the extraordinary undertakings of our times" -Smithsonian Magazine

Discover the first handwritten, illuminated Bible of the modern era. Commissioned by Saint John's University and Abbey, this contemporary masterpiece of medieval craftsmanship and calligraphy is a rare expression of artistic vitality.

The Saint John's Bible exhibition consists of one hundred pages that have been created for the first handwritten, illuminated Bible from the modern era. Scribes in a Wales scriptorium under the artistic direction of Donald Jackson, one of the world's foremost calligraphers and the Scribe to Queen Elizabeth, are creating the Bible.

The Saint John’s Bible is at once the old and the new.  What is old is that every word is being written by hand, and all the illuminations (narrative scenes and decorations) are being individually designed and painted by hand, in the traditional manner that medieval  Bibles were written and illuminated.  It incorporates many characteristics of its medieval predecessors: it is being written on specially prepared vellum (calf-skin parchment), using quills (from geese, swans and turkeys), and hand-ground pigments, and gilding with gold leaf.  All this preparation is done on site at the Scriptorium in Wales, as it would have been done in a medieval monastery.

What is new is that the Bible employs a modern English translation, and that the latest capabilities of computer technology and electronic communication are being utilized to enable a team of scribes, working simultaneously, to produce perfect sheets that can later be combined in perfect order. To assure a seamless continuity, the layout of every word and every page is planned on computer for the scribes to reproduce. The scribes all use a special font designed by Donald Jackson, so that their contributions are uniform and indistiguishable.

An important feature about the making the Bible is that it is a team project, blending the efforts of several teams both in Wales and here in the United States. A theological committee at Saint John’s chose the Biblical passages to be illustrated by a team of several artists, whose work presents a diverse range of ideas and styles.  Besides Donald Jackson himself, the team includes a natural history illustrator and an icon designer.  The butterflies and flowers of central Minnesota inhabit the margins, while one illumination recalls the vanished twin towers in New York.  The signature illustration is based on a photograph of the earth taken from the Hubble space telescope.