Monday, November 28, 2005

Reilluminating the Bible

"The Bible is the calligraphic artist's supreme
challenge (our Sistine Chapel), a daunting task."
Since 1970, Donald Jackson (Senior Illuminator to the Queen of England’s Crown Office and an elected Fellow and past Chairman of the prestigious Society of Scribes and Illuminators) has expressed the desire to handwrite the bible and include illuminations. It would be the first undertaking of its kind since the invention of the printing press.

It is appropriate that St Johns Benedictine Abbey, who have a 1500 year association with manuscripts (they still have significant holdings) should acquiesce to Jackson's wishes, and they formally commissioned the project in 1998/1999. Using calf vellum, handmade inks with quill and gilding and silver inlay work, Jackson began the monumental task with: "In the beginning was the word.." in March 2000.

By May 2005, 4 of the 7 volumes had been completed. They measure some 16 x 25 inches and will number about 1100 pages when finished. There will be 160 illuminations whose content have been worked out by a team - "It is up to a committee of artists, medievalists, theologians, biblical scholars and art historians to create these theological stories for Donald Jackson, the artistic director of The Saint John’s Bible."
They are not completely shunning modernity: "A computer is used to size text and define line breaks. These pages are laid out in full size spreads with sketches in position. Artists use these layouts to guide their work."

Astonishing. The Saint Johns Bible website have all the facts and media coverage and images of manuscript pages (with watermarks over larger jpegs) and you can even buy regular book copies of the completed volumes. [Thanks to Ars Theologica]


Unknown said...

Saint John is not the first in 500 years and they know it. They just authenticated an illuminated mansucript for Dallas Theological Seminary at the Hill medieval manuscript library at Saint Johns. The ethiopian Illuminated mansucript of the Bible was made in the 18th Century. T
hey have known about my bible since the Dallas Morning News interviewed them in 2001 comparing the two bibles. They use computers, I do not. My handmade illuminated mansucript contains a set of Gospels that have more illumiantion in it than saint John has in their entire Bible. You can goodle my webpage at "The Pepper Bible" and there are CBS, ABC and UMTV videos about my work. I have blesisng from the Archbishop of York and Pope John Paul II. And my bible was in display in Dallas last year from March through April. My New Testament was finsihed in 1995 and has been sitting in the Library of Congress for deposit for copyright. Also a bible was made 23 years ago and sits in London, made by one man in vellum illuminated in 8 volumes.


James G. Pepper
Biblical Scribe

peacay said...

Bizzarely enough I saw your site just yesterday. Alls I can say is that I hope your illumination work is better than the website design. It does not 'invite' me to look around much. You do have a useful set of linkies however.

Regardless of your tirade against the St.John undertaking, I quite like what they've produced.

So, are you going around the web decrying their work for any particular reason?? Sour grapes or?

peacay said...

New exhibition at the Library of Congress: Illuminating the Word: The St John's Bible.

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