The University of St. Thomas has received a rare, fine-art edition of The Saint John’s Bible from St. John’s University.
The bible’s Heritage Edition is a gift made possible by Robert Ulrich on behalf of Target Corp. Ulrich, Target’s former chairman and chief executive officer, is a member of St. Thomas’ Board of Trustees. Ulrich and Father Robert Koopmann, O.S.B., president of St. John’s University, presented the bible to Father Dennis Dease, president of St. Thomas, on Aug. 27.
The fine-art reproduction is one of only 299 copies of the original Saint John’s Bible that ever will be produced and the eighth to be publicly presented. The first was presented to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in April 2008.
An extension of the original Saint John’s Bible, the Heritage Edition is the only full-size, limited edition, signed and numbered fine-art reproduction that ever will be produced. Bound in Italian leather and a work of art in its own right, the Heritage Edition features the exquisite calligraphy, vibrant imagery and stunning gold and silver illuminations inspired by the original. Proceeds from its sales will help fund continuing preservation of endangered medieval manuscripts worldwide, a permanent home for the original Saint John’s Bible and scholarly work related to the masterpiece.
Among other churches and institutions to have received the Heritage Edition: the historic Anglican church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London’s Trafalgar Square; the Naples Art Museum in Florida; the newly dedicated Cathedral of Christ the Light, the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, Calif.; Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn.; and several other Catholic colleges and universities: John Carroll University in Cleveland, Regis University in Denver, Clarke College in Dubuque and Santa Clara University in California.
The Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible will be housed in the Department of Special Collections at St. Thomas’ O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center, which also owns a rare facsimile edition of another famous illuminated manuscript, the eighth-century Book of Kells.
“We are so grateful for this internationally renowned work of art that will be treasured by our campus community for years to come,” Dease said.
“For a library to have an example of calligraphy and illumination of this quality is very exciting,” added Daniel Gjelten, director of university libraries at St. Thomas. “At a time when the content of the library is becoming increasingly digital, when reading has become an activity requiring monitors, displays and screens, receiving a manuscript like this is a beautiful reminder of the very best of the book-making art. … We will care for and preserve The Saint John’s Bible for generations to come.”
The Saint John’s Bible, commissioned by the monks of St. John’s Abbey and University in 1998, is the world’s first handwritten, hand-illuminated bible in more than 500 years. Consisting of 1,150 pages in seven volumes, the bible will be complete in 2010. When finished and finally bound sometime after 2012, the bible will be housed permanently at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at St. John’s, where it will be used in worship and be available to scholars and the public.
Calligrapher Donald Jackson, official scribe to Queen Elizabeth II of England and master of London’s 600-year-old Guild of Scriveners, is the project’s art director. Over the past 11 years, Jackson has worked in rural Wales with scribes and artists to illuminate The Saint John’s Bible entirely by hand, using quills and paints hand-ground from precious mineral and stones such as lapis lazuli, vermilion, malachite, silver, copper, and 24-karat gold. The bible’s final two volumes will be completed early next year, as Jackson himself is writing the Book of Revelation without the assistance of other scribes.