An international team of calligraphers and artists is working on The Saint John's Bible, portions of which are presently on display at the Tacoma Art Museum. It's the first commissioned handwritten, illustrated Bible in 500 years.
Seattle Times religion reporter
• The exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum runs through Sept. 7 and features about 100 pages from The Saint John's Bible.
Information: 253-272-4258 or www.tacomaartmuseum.org.
• Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral hosts a lecture by the Rev. Eric Hollas on The Saint John's Bible, 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, in the cathedral's Bloedel Hall, 1245 10th Ave. E., Seattle. Free and open to the public.
• Vashon Island artist Suzanne Moore discusses her work on the project at0 10:30 a.m. Aug. 12 (free with museum admission), and 7 p.m. Aug. 21 (free program and admission as part of Free Third Thursday) at Tacoma Art Museum.
These days, when Bible verses can be pulled up instantly online and printed Bibles are readily available, an international team of monks, calligraphers and artists — including an illustrator on Vashon Island — is creating a Bible the old-fashioned way.
Team members are making their own goose-feather quills, using hand-ground paints, and writing and drawing on pages of treated calfskin.
They're eight years into the creation of The Saint John's Bible, billed as the first commissioned handwritten Bible since the invention of the printing press some 500 years ago.
Creating a masterpiece
The idea for a handwritten Bible, Hollas said, came from Jackson.
Jackson has said that creating such a work is to a calligrapher what painting the Sistine Chapel would be to an artist.
For the monks at Saint John's Abbey and Saint John's University, which jointly commissioned the $3.5 million project, there were plenty of reasons not to start the project. There was the cost and amount of work involved — not to mention a long list of competing priorities, among which "making a Bible was not high," Hollas said.
Hollas said such personal touches distinguish handwritten, illustrated Bibles.
Calligraphy can have shadings in the same way music can — quiet like a string section, dramatic like brass. That's very different from print Bibles, in which the same typeface is used to describe walking through the Red Sea, Jesus' crucifixion and the dietary restrictions of traditional Judaism.
"With calligraphy, you can let the emotions speak in a way that print does not," Hollas said.
And there's something to be said for the role of art in inspiring and deepening faith.
Biblical tradition is not just about abstract concepts, rules and laws, said Gregory Wolfe, publisher and editor of Image, a national journal based at Seattle Pacific University that explores art and faith.
Read the complete story by Janet I. Tu