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Saint John's Bible: Frequently Asked Questions




1. Why has Saint Johns University commissioned a handwritten Bible? What is the significance of a handwritten  Bible?

  • Igniting spiritual imagination
  • Using ancient techniques
  • Incorporating modern methods and themes

At the onset of a new millennium, Saint John’s University and the monks of Saint John’s Abbey are seeking to ignite the spiritual imagination of people throughout the world by commissioning a work of art that illuminates the world today. This will be the first time in 500 years that a Benedictine Monastery has commissioned a handwritten, illuminated Bible. Its construction will parallel that of its medieval predecessors, written on vellum, using quills, natural handmade inks, hand-ground pigments and gold leaf while incorporating modern themes, images and technology of the 21st century.

2. What is the goal of The Saint Johns Bible? Who do you intend to reach, and what message are you trying to convey?

  • To ignite spiritual imagination throughout the world
  • To develop programs related to The Saint Johns Bible in spirituality, art and education
  • To bring alive the word of God in the new millennium

The goal of The Saint Johns Bible is to ignite the spiritual imagination of all peoples throughout the world by commissioning a work of art that illuminates the word of God for a new millennium, in a way that is relevant to the 21st century. It is a prophetic witness to the word of God in our day and beyond, an opportunity for learning and scholarship and a dignified expression of the Benedictine vision: "That in all things God may be glorified.”

3. What makes this Bible unique?

  • It is the first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Monastery in 500 years
  • Combination of ancient methods and materials with modern themes, images and technology
  • Reflection of Saint John’s commitment to Scripture and the Book Arts
  • Source of spiritual, artistic, educational and scholarly programming
  • Most have never seen such an endless stream of elegant script
  • Most have seen neither gold-leaf nor pages of vellum to which it is applied

4. What is the Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible?

The Heritage Edition is the only full-size, fine art version of The Saint Johns Bible. Commissioned by the Benedictine monks of Saint John’s Abbey and University, The Saint Johns Bible is a timeless work of sacred art. Its breathtaking beauty offers hope today and will inspire generations for centuries to come.

The Heritage Edition is available for direct purchase or can be donated to another nonprofit charitable organization such as a church, university, college, library or museum. There are 299 sets in the seven-volume Heritage Edition.  In addition, qualified institutions can participate in “A Year With The Saint John’s Bible,” which brings a volume to a community for 12 months.

5. Why create fine art editions of The Saint John’s Bible?

Since the inception of The Saint Johns Bible, two of the major goals of this historic undertaking have been to share The Saint Johns Bible worldwide and to make it accessible to everyone. The Heritage Edition enables Saint John's to accomplish these goals.

While the original manuscript resides at Saint John’s University, the Heritage Edition was created to bring a source of hope to people around the world. The beauty of each page of the Heritage Edition and the awe-inspiring artistic expression renews a bond to humanity’s most enduring manuscript, the Bible.

6. Is the Heritage Edition the only fine art edition of The Saint John’s Bible?

Yes, the Heritage Edition is the only fine art edition and is limited to 299 sets.  There are smaller reproduction volumes of The Saint Johns Bible, which are available through Liturgical Press, but the Heritage Editions are the only full-size, fine art versions created. The reproduction volumes are now on display on the first floor of the Siena College Standish Library. The Heritage Edition will be on display in the Yates Gallery on the second floor of the Standish Library in late Summer 2018.

‚Äč7. How close is the Heritage Edition to the original manuscript?

The making of the Heritage Edition involved the finest printing experts and binders in the world to ensure faithful representation of the original Saint John's Bible. Each page and illumination was scrupulously compared to its original counterpart to ensure fidelity to the original. Donald Jackson, the artistic director of The Saint Johns Bible, also art-directed the making of the Heritage Edition.

8. What was the process used to make sure the Heritage Edition is true to the original manuscript?

The Heritage Edition was printed on 100 percent cotton paper using lightfast ultraviolet inks. Within milliseconds, each color is dried instantaneously on press before the next color is added. Gold and silver treatments replicate the original gold, silver, and platinum used in the original illuminations. Because many of the illuminations required hand-finishing, no two Heritage Edition sets are identical.  Once the pages were complete, each volume is hand-bound using Italian calfskin, Welsh oak boards, and headbands hand-sewn in Pakistan.

9. What types of institutions acquire the Heritage Edition?

To date, the Heritage Edition has been acquired by a broad spectrum of universities, churches, hospitals and libraries including Catholic, Episcopal, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Mormon institutions.  Beyond faith-based schools and churches, a significant number of public universities and secular institutions have acquired the seven-volume set thanks to the academic and historic values of this project.  To date, over 100 Heritage Editions have been acquired around the world including the Vatican, Library of Congress, Morgan Library, St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, University of Michigan, and Siena College.

10. Have individuals and families acquired the Heritage Edition?

Yes.  Some families keep the volumes and, on special occasions, share them with their local community.  Others have kept them for a period of time and then donated the volumes to a college, high school, church or hospital. 

11. How is Saint John’s using the sales proceeds from the Heritage Edition?

Proceeds support the production of the Heritage Edition, ongoing programming and staffing to support the project’s mission, and the building of a permanent home for The Saint Johns Bible.

12. How are the Heritage Edition volumes authenticated?

Every volume is initialized by Donald Jackson.  He says, “During the creation of the Heritage Edition, our singular goal was to make sure that these volumes are true to the artistic intent of the original. My initials on each volume celebrate and authenticate this commitment.”