Bible Review 16:3, June 2000

Jots & Tittles

Bible Review

Modern-day Scribes Begin Work on Hand-lettered Bible

Earlier this year, on the first Ash Wednesday of the new millennium, Welsh calligrapher Donald Jackson put goose-quill pen to calfskin vellum and, with the meticulous strokes of a medieval monk, he started writing. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So began a daunting four-year project to create the first handwritten, illuminated Bible since the invention of the printing press over 500 years ago.

The project, which will cost an estimated $3 million, was commissioned by the monks and regents of St. John’s University, a Benedictine school about 70 miles north of Minneapolis. (Jackson is beginning with John 1:1 as a tribute to the school’s patron saint.) Inspiration for the endeavor came in 1996, when a visiting Jackson shared with the Benedictine community at St. John’s a dream he had cherished since childhood—to transcribe the Bible using the same tools the monks’ medieval predecessors had used. The idea struck a chord with the monks, who agreed among themselves that Jackson’s monumental undertaking would be an excellent opportunity, as university president Brother Dietrich Reinhart put it, to “draw attention to the central inspiration of Benedictine monasticism, its relationship to the Word of God.”

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