PROVO — A rare facsimile of the hand-written and illuminated St. John’s Bible has been purchased by Brigham Young University and will be available for people to view later this month.
The original Bible was a project sponsored by St. John’s Abbey and University created by commissioned artist, Donald Jackson. The Bible’s 160 intricate illuminations and hand-written text on 1,150 vellum pages took 15 years to finish. BYU recently purchased seven volumes of the Bible’s facsimile for its special collections library and will hold an open house where people of all faiths can view each volume.
Tuesday, Russ Taylor, supervisor of reference services of L. Tom Perry Special Collections and other library staff took the facsimile to Southern Utah University for viewing. It has also been shown at the Wilkinson Center at BYU.
“One of the interesting things to me is the reaction people have to the volumes,” Taylor said. “Some of them appreciate them for the artistic importance, some of them appreciated them for the religious significance and some even understand the amount of work that went into creating the volumes; they have an appreciation for doing calligraphy and art. Some appreciate the volumes from the experience they have had in producing artistic pieces."
"There are lots of different reasons people appreciate the volumes, but that’s one of the rewards of showing these books — the appreciation that people have for the beauty of the books and the work that’s gone into them. That’s not to minimize the importance of the scriptures in our lives.”
The beauty and craftsmanship of the book — a new revised standard translation of the scriptures — makes it a “landmark publication,” Taylor said, that means different things to students and faculty of different disciplines.
“This is a nice complement to what students are learning in the classroom about book design, art, book production,” Taylor said. “We had one volume on long-term exhibit last year and students would periodically come down just to see what pages we were illustrating at the time. ...Why do people go to art museums? This is the same kind of attraction.”
Taylor said the St. John’s volumes will round out BYU’s already extensive collection of Bibles, including an early printed Bible, a page from the Gutenberg Bible, a first-edition King James Bible, translations of the scriptures into languages across the world, scriptures used by missionaries in foreign countries. He hopes people will have a “meaningful experience with the books and with the word of God.”
“I view the publication of this facsimile and the project that it’s based on, the handwritten books, as probably one of the most important events in the history of Bible publishing in the last 400 years, since the publication of the King James version,” Taylor said. “I think it’s really a landmark publication and one that universities in the future will judge their collections by.”
Taylor expressed that the library staff desires the books be available to other denominations, encouraging leaders to reach out for future viewings at churches, synagogues, mosques or temples.
“We hope that these books will be used. We feel like stewards of a great resource here, so we want to be good stewards and make them as widely available as we can,” Taylor said.
Volumes of the facsimile will be on display in Harold B. Lee Library’s special collections following the open house. Other portions of the facsimile will be exhibited at the BYU Museum of Art starting in November.