The Saint John’s Bible

August 9, 2013 – 4:19 pm
ACULibrary

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Pages from Melbourne volume: Prophets

In 2012, ACU acquired a Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible – a limited edition reproduction of the first hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in nearly 500 years. There are seven volumes.

The original Saint John’s Bible was commissioned in 1998 by Saint John’s Abbey and University in the USA. Renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson led a team of artists using traditional techniques and materials, including feather quills, calfskin vellum, egg-based paint and gold leaf illumination. The project took until 2011 to complete, and resulted in a unique work that is recognisably modern and yet accords with ancient Benedictine traditions.

The Heritage Edition is printed using modern inks and techniques on custom-made cloth paper. The paper has a translucent quality which mimics the appearance of the vellum of the original Saint John’s Bible. Metallic illuminations are done by hand after the initial printing.

The translation used for the text of the Bible is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). The NRSV was released in 1989 and is renowned for its modern, accessible language.

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The pages are turned on a regular basis, not only to display different pages for viewing interest but also to adjust the spine & position of the book on the custom made book rest to relieve stress on the binding. Each volume is housed in an especially commissioned wooden display cabinet [pictured are Melbourne campus library staff turning the pages of the Prophets volume].

The seven volumes are distributed across the university:

  • Wisdom Books – Vice Chancellors Office
  • Historical Books – Strathfield campus library
  • Pentateuch – North Sydney campus library
  • Psalms – Ballarat campus library
  • Prophets – Melbourne Chapel
  • Gospels and Acts (v.6) – Canberra campus library
  • Letters and Revelations (v.7) – Brisbane campus library

Fr Eric Hollas, OSB, a Benedictine monk and priest from Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, officially handed over the University’s set of books during a visit to the North Sydney Campus last November. During his visit, Fr Eric provided comprehensive training for ACU staff in ways to effectively utilise, showcase and manage the complete set. Fr Eric also held a public lecture in which he gave an overview of the making of The Saint John’s Bible, and used some of the major illuminations to showcase this exceptional work of art.

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All images shown here are from the volume – Prophets – displayed in the Melbourne Chapel.

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