glyph 358: books, literature, illuminated manuscript, Bible ... craftsmanship, craftsman as explorer ... quill & ink, graphics, design, illumination, calligraphy, printing ... publishing, books ... religion, christianity ... art, artist, Donald Jackson, a path discovered and followed ...


The St. John's Bible Heritage Edition, 2007

Illuminating the Word

A masterpiece of the graphic and printing arts, written on vellum using quills, using natural handmade inks, hand-ground pigments, and gold and silver leaf. -leif smith

In the 8th Century, near what are now Scotland and England, Benedictine monastic scribes created a Bible that today is one of the longest surviving monumental manuscripts in the Western world.

Nearly 1,300 years later, renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson approached the Benedictine monks of Saint John's University and Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, with his life-long dream: to create the first handwritten, illuminated bible commissioned since the invention of the printing press. The Saint John's Bible uses ancient materials and techniques to create a contemporary masterpiece that brings the Word of God to life for the contemporary world.

Donald Jackson, one of the Western world's great calligraphers, and the creator of the book, says:

No one has done such things in 600 years. I could be happy doing them for the rest of my life.

It is done:

The Bible is the calligraphic artist's supreme challenge (our Sistine Chapel), a daunting task.

Jackson, of his path and creative process:

When I was a nine-year-old, desire led me to copying ancient scripts and decorated letters. I loved the feel of the pen as it touched the page and the breathtaking effect of the flow of colored ink as its wetness caught the light.

Those sensations, which I still feel as I work, oftentimes seems to select the shapes and colors of my designs or words. The quill, rather than my conscious thought, makes the choice.

The continuous process of remaining open and accepting of what may reveal itself through hand and heart on a crafted page is the closest I have ever come to God.

—Thanks to Fern and Merlin Hoeft for leading us to this amazing work. —leif

The Order of St. Benedict
November 27, 2006; edited/updated November 26, 2015

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