In his childhood, Donald Jackson, the head scribe for the Saint John's Bible, wanted to create a hand-written, illuminated Bible. With the collaboration of scholars at Saint John's Abbey and a team of artists in Wales, the Saint John's Bible became a reality. The goal for this Bible was to make an illuminated manuscript which marked the turn of the millennium and represented the 21st century.
The Saint John's Bible took 11 years and 23 artists to complete. Six scribes wrote the text of the Bible. When looking at the calligraphy, the different scribes handwriting and styles are apparent. Mistakes made by scribes were covered up creatively, mostly with small illuminations. Some examples of these are birds, lemurs, and bees. Some mistakes were also covered by scratching the ink off the page.
The materials that were used to make the Saint John's Bible included vellum, quills, ink, pigments, and gold leaf. Calfskins were soaked in lime and then sanded until smooth and translucent to create the vellum pages. Goose, turkey, and swan quills were used for calligraphy. Inks were made with nineteenth-century Chinese ink sticks which were ground and mixed with water. Powdered pigments like vermilion and lapis lazuli were also used. Powdered pigments were also mixed with egg yolks to create "egg tempura", which is thicker than the black ink used. 24 karat gold leaf was used in many of the illuminations to bring a lustrous effect to the pages. The Heritage Edition, which can be accessed at Edgewood College, was printed with a lithography press. This reproduction has stayed true to the original, thanks to the creative leadership of Donald Jackson.
The Saint John's Bible is available for viewing at the Oscar Rennebohm Library at Edgewood College's Monroe Street campus. If you would like to page through the Bible, please ask the reference librarian for assistance.
Donald Jackson is revered as one of the best western calligraphers of our time. He was born in Lancashire, England. At the age of 26, he became the youngest calligrapher chosen to participate in the Victoria and
Albert Museum’s first International Calligraphy Show.
He was a scribe to Queen Elizabeth II, where he
created many official state documents for the United Kingdom. He is the author of The Story of Writing.
He currently lives in Monmouth, Wales.
Oscar Rennebohm Library
959 Edgewood College Drive - Madison, WI 53711