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SAINT JOHN’S BIBLE

So what is this Saint John's Bible, and how are we involved?

First, a brief explanation of the Saint John’s Bible project, and then our connection to it:

One of the world’s most prominent calligraphers, Donald Jackson, an Englishman and current resident of Wales, held a lifelong ambition—to handwrite the Bible using the techniques and tools of medieval scribes. He first verbalized this ambition publically during an interview with Barbara Walters on the Today Show in the early 1970’s, but the idea lay dormant for decades. In the mid 1990’s, Donald Jackson found a community that would help make that ambition come true--the Abbey and University of Saint John’s. Located in Collegeville, MN, the Abbey and College agreed to cooperate with Donald Jackson and a select group of artists and calligraphers to create a biblical masterpiece for our times.

In cooperative fashion, a council at Saint John’s Abbey and University works with Donald to develop themes and a deeper understanding of the Word, and in turn Donald and his team of calligraphers and artists have created an illustrated, illuminated, handwritten Bible based on that ecumenical guidance. Using calfskin vellum instead of paper, quills made from poultry feathers rather than pens, and liquid inks, egg yolks, fish glues and gold and platinum leaf, the Saint John’s Bible has been created using techniques borrowed from the past.

How McIntosh Embossing is Connected

Well after the work on the original was underway, Saint John’s Abbey and University and Donald Jackson decided that a full sized, museum quality reproduction of the original Saint John’s Bible would enable other individuals and institutions to celebrate and have access to the sacredness and beauty of the project. Thus was born the Heritage Edition, the name given to the limited edition full sized reproductions that we are currently helping to produce.

Currently, we are working closely with the John Roberts Company (Coon Rapids, MN) and Roswell Bookbinding (Phoenix, AZ) to create a fine art reproduction of the original. To ensure ultimate integrity, Donald Jackson is the art director of the Heritage Edition, overseeing production throughout the process. John Roberts is printing the manuscript, Roswell is binding the books in fine leather, and we are foil stamping and embossing the illuminations that appear throughout the text.

Donald Jackson has spent many hours in our shop over the past three years, helping us better understand his vision and helping us refine our techniques toward that effect, and Dave McIntosh has spent a week in Wales at Donald’s scriptorium. As an example of how close this cooperative effort is, Donald once asked while visiting our shop how we might create a foil surface on the reproduction that more closely matched the texture he creates on the original. When asked what the texture looked like and how it was created, Donald reached in a pocket and pulled out a Liberty of London silk handkerchief and showed us how he wiped and polished his gold illumination. Within an hour, that handkerchief was torn to bits and had become a part of our production process, lending a silken texture to the bits of foil we stamped on the sheet. Donald has since learned not to volunteer his personal haberdashery on our property.

When completed in 2013, the Heritage Edition will be composed of seven volumes, measure approximately 22” x 29”, and will weigh over 100 lbs.

View our Gallery of images from the Saint John's Bible.

To see a bit more about the creation of the Saint John's Bible, this YouTube video provides a wonderful overview of Donald Jackson's artistry.


Images from The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition
Wisdom Books Volume, Copyright 2007
Prophets Volume, Copyright 2008
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, Copyright 1989, 1993 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved