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Baylor University Libraries Acquire Heritage Edition of Saint John’s Bible, The First Hand-Illuminated Bible Created Since the Invention of the Printing Press

March 26, 2019

The first reaction most people have upon viewing the Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition is a sharp intake of breath or an audible gasp. The play of light on the illuminated pages, the obvious skill of the calligraphy, and the stunning nature of its illustrations all work together to create a visceral response to its inherent beauty. And now, the Baylor Libraries are proud to be home of one of the world’s very limited number of the Heritage Edition.

The Heritage Edition is an extremely high quality facsimile made to exacting standards by the creator of the original Saint John’s Bible, illuminator and calligrapher Donald Jackson. The Welsh-based artist partnered with the monks of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Minnesota to create the first handmade, fully-illuminated version of the Bible made on vellum since the creation of the printing press more than 500 years ago. The original Saint John’s Bible exists only as unbound sheets of vellum; the Heritage Edition is a set of seven bound volumes measuring 2 feet by 3 feet each. In all, more than eleven years went into the creation of the original Saint John’s Bible.

The opportunity to acquire the Heritage Edition was the result of years of networking between Baylor librarians and staff and Saint John’s Abbey. An initial connection was made by Sha Towers, interim associate dean of central libraries and an avid calligrapher. A colleague of Towers in the Waco Calligraphers’ Guild had seen a presentation by Jackson and thought the Baylor Libraries should investigate purchasing a Heritage Edition. Towers, along with Beth Farwell (director of central libraries special collections), Ken Carriveau (interim associate dean for central libraries), Andrea Turner (central libraries special collections) and interim dean John S. Wilson worked together to acquire the Heritage Edition, which arrived in Waco on February 20.

“The Saint John’s Bible is a masterwork of art, illumination, and the Word of God,” Dean Wison said. “It offers a unique opportunity for the Baylor Libraries to become part of a select group of institutions that will preserve this treasure for decades to come.”

The Heritage Edition’s 160 illuminations are spread across 250 sheets of 100% uncoated cotton over the seven volumes from Genesis to Revelation. The work represents the combined efforts of a team of artists, theologians, embossers, illuminators, printers, and bookbinders.

“We think the Heritage Edition offers a wide range of opportunities for research by the Baylor faculty community and interested scholars across Central Texas,” said Farwell. “Scholars from the arts, theology, religion, literature, history – the paths for entry into this piece are limited only by one’s imagination.”

The Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible is part of the Central Libraries Special Collections and is available for view by classes, faculty members, and the general public. Arrangements to view the Heritage Edition can be made by contacting the Central Libraries Special Collections at rarecollections@baylor.edu or by calling Beth Farwell at (254) 710-3679.

Learn more about the Baylor Libraries' Heritage Edition at the Central Libraries Special Collections website.

Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition: Facts and Figures

Seven volumes spanning entire New Revised Heritage Edition of the Bible

1156 pages across 300 sheets of uncoated cotton

160 full illuminations, more than 1,000 illustrated capital letters

Created by craftspeople from Wales, Minnesota, London, Cleveland, Phoenix, Pakistan and New Hampshire

Photos of Baylor's Heritage Edition of the Saint John's Bible

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