The Illuminated Word

“The continuous process of remaining open and accepting of what may reveal itself through hand and heart on a crafted page is the closest I have ever come to God.” — Donald Jackson

The Saint John's Bible, John 1I’ve always been attracted to calligraphy and handlettering. Over the years, I’ve done my fair share of both. I was, therefore, fascinated to learn about The Saint John’s Bible.

In 1998, Saint John’s University in Minnesota commissioned Donald Jackson, the “unofficial” calligrapher of the Queen of England, to create a handwritten, illuminated text of the Bible. Working in collaboration with artists, scribes and theologians, he completed the mammoth project in 2011. The Saint John’s Bible is separated into seven volumes. This was done for practical reasons — each bound volume weighs as much as 35 pounds, with a combined weight of more than 165 pounds and over 1,100 pages.

The script used was designed by Jackson with three qualities in mind. The text had to be readable, modern and appropriately dignified for the Bible. Subtle differences in the final script mark the work of the six individual scribes on the project.

A schema was created to determine which passages were to be illuminated and to designate the size and location of each illumination. A computer was then used to size text and define line breaks. The two-foot by three-foot pages of each volume were laid out in full-size spreads. This enabled the scribes to work on pages simultaneously, maintain consistency and avoid awkward word breaks.

The finished project is a feast for the eyes and the soul.

To see the Bible and learn more about its creation, click on the link below.

The Saint John’s Bible