The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition

The William H. Hannon Library is thrilled to announce the latest major addition to the rare book collection of the Department of Archives and Special Collections: a rare, full-size reproduction of the Saint John’s Bible. The Saint John’s Bible is the first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Monastery since the advent of the printing press more than 500 years ago. Monks from Saint John’s Abbey and University began the project in 1998, and it is still in progress today with four of the projected seven volumes having been completed.  Under the artistic direction of Donald Jackson, one of the world’s foremost calligraphers and scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Crown Office, a team of scribes, artists, and craftspeople are using the medieval techniques of writing on vellum with quills, natural handmade inks, hand-ground pigments, and gold leaf to produce the masterpiece. Although these techniques are centuries old, the contemporary themes and images incorporated into the Saint John’s Bible firmly place the work in its context as a 21st century creation.

A gift of Laura (class of ’74) and Steven Williamson in honor of Fr. Robert B. Lawton, S.J., the Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible is a full-size masterful reproduction of the original seven-volume work. Only a limited number of these editions, which are signed and numbered by the artistic director, have been produced, and the copy donated to LMU is the first of its kind at any institution in Southern California.

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You can view the volumes by making an appointment with the Department of Archives & Special Collections.  For more information or to make an appointment, email Special.Collections@lmu.edu or phone 310.338.5710.

The Department of Archives & Special Collections is extremely pleased to take on the curatorship of these volumes which complement our existing collections so well.  The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition stands out as a remarkable printing achievement of its time, just like the magnificent 1481 Commedia of Dante (with illustrations designed by Botticelli) or the First Folio of Shakespeare (1623), which literally saved many of Shakespeare’s plays from loss. These works are all timeless, but like the Saint John’s Bible they also continue to reflect on the cultural values of their original time period. Thus they stand as historical witnesses to the past.

St_Johns_Bible5Shown alongside our 13th – 15th century Bible leaves and the Gutenberg Bible leaf, the Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible honors both the meticulous art of the medieval manuscript tradition and the accessibility and inventiveness brought about by the dawn of printing. The Bible represents a bridge between the two eras.

As a Christian masterpiece, the Saint John’s Bible complements those items in our collection which express spirituality through art (such as our fore-edge painted 1603 Biblia Sacra or our numerous paintings and sculptures) as well as through word (our hundreds of titles in the Jesuit Rare Book Collection and many other important religious books of the Catholic and other Christian faiths).

To learn more about the Saint John’s Bible and the Heritage Edition, visit the project’s website at https://www.saintjohnsbible.org/.