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Saint John's Bible: Fast Facts

Facts about The Saint John's Bible

The Saint John’s Bible (SJB)

  • The SJB is the first handwritten illuminated Bible of its scale in over 500 years.
  • The mission of the SJB: “To ignite the spiritual imagination of people around the world of all faith journeys.”
  • Donald Jackson, Senior Scribe to the Queen of England, is the artistic director of the SJB.
  • Key dates:
    • 1995 – Mr. Jackson presented his lifelong dream to handwrite the Bible to Fr. Eric Hollas, O.S.B.
    • 1998 – Saint John’s Abbey and University commissioned Mr. Jackson to begin the project.
    • 2000 – Mr. Jackson drew the first words – “In the beginning” – on Ash Wednesday.
    • 2011 – Donald and Mabel Jackson presented the final page of the SJB to Saint John’s.
    • 2018 – The Saint John's Bible is acquired by Siena College.
  • The scholarship behind the SJB was led by the Committee for Illumination and Text (CIT). Fr. Michael Patella, O.S.B., chaired the committee of artists, theologians and biblical scholars.
  • The translation of this Bible is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
  • Six calligraphers, including Mr. Jackson, handwrote all 1,150 pages on approximately 300 sheets of calfskin vellum.   
  • A Jewish scribe drew the Hebrew script.   
  • Six artists, including Mr. Jackson, created over 160 major illuminations.
  • The art of the SJB is inspired by artistic traditions from around the world.  

The 73 books in The Saint John’s Bible are organized in the following seven volumes:                                                                               

  • Pentateuch  (Old Testament)                                                                                     
  • Historical Books (Old Testament)                                                                               
  • Wisdom Books (Old Testament)                                                                                 
  • Psalms (Old Testament)
  • Prophets (Old Testament)
  • Gospels & Acts (New Testament)
  • Letters & Revelation (New Testament)

Facts about the Heritage Edition of the Saint John's Bible

Heritage Edition

  • In order to share the SJB with the world, Saint John’s asked Donald Jackson to direct the creation of the Heritage Edition.
  • The Heritage Edition is the only full-scale, illuminated, fine art edition of the Bible.
  • Limited to only 299 seven-volume sets, Mr. Jackson’s goal was to make the Heritage Edition "true to the artistic intent of the original."
  • Each volume is authenticated and initialed by Mr. Jackson.
  • The Heritage Edition represents a major international collaboration.
  • Mr. Jackson traveled from Wales to Minnesota on a regular basis to direct the Heritage Edition’s creation.
  • Fine book printing experts from England and the US provided invaluable direction.
  • Hill Museum & Manuscript Museum imaged all 1,150 original pages in ultra-high resolution.
  • New Hampshire’s Monadnock Paper Mills produced the cotton paper used in the Heritage Edition.
  • Germany’s Heidelberg Druckmaschinen AG provided the offset lithographic printing technology required for the Heritage Edition.
  • An Italian-based tannery supplied the custom calfskin leather used in binding the Heritage Edition.
  • The binding’s headbands were hand-sewn in Pakistan.
  • All 1,150 pages for all 299 volumes are hand-stitched and bound in Arizona.
  • No two Heritage Editions are identical because many illuminations required hand treatments by the Scriptorium’s studio manager, Sarah Harris.
  • True to the SJB’s mission, a wide spectrum of institutions around the world have acquired the Heritage Edition including:
    • Vatican Museum and Vatican Library
    • Siena College
    • St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London
    • Yale University
    • Mayo Clinic
    • Morgan Library & Museum
  • To date, over 100 Heritage Editions have been acquired around the world.