By AUDREY FISCHER
For Donald Jackson and his team of calligraphers on The Saint John's Bible, this ambitious project to create a handwritten, illuminated Bible for the 21st century is a labor of love and an act of faith.
Jackson, artistic director of The Saint John's Bible and one of the foremost calligraphers of the Western world (pictured above), spoke passionately about the project that has consumed the past six years of his life at a lecture delivered at the Library of Congress on Oct. 3.
"Each of the scribes involved in the project brings their whole life to it," he said. "It's our gift to the world for many years to come and to people of all faiths."
He described the process of illuminating the Bible as only a calligrapher could: "It's pure energy, each line. It starts with the feet and goes up through the body to the fingers and hands."
A rambunctious youth, Jackson credits his career choice to an aunt who gave him a piece of paper and a bottle of lead ink to keep him quietly occupied. "She didn't hear a peep out of me," he recalled. "I fell in love with the shiny wet ink on the page."
The rest is history. Jackson first sought employment as a sign painter, which was followed by other mundane production jobs that required a degree of calligraphic skills. But when he "played" with his craft, he found himself drawn to religious themes.
To prepare for the task of illuminating the Word, he read and re-read the Bible and met with theologians. He was struck by the Bible's relevance in today's world. "It's just like watching the news," he said. "There are wars, struggles between church and state, loss of belief. But in the presence of the utmost evil, God is there."
By his own admission, Jackson is "not a committed Christian," but rather "a committed believer in the spirit."
"I had to be convinced," he said. "Now I believe in its worth, profoundly. I was cynical and now I'm less so."
Jackson invites viewers to bring their own sensibilities to the exhibition. "We are writing with our hearts, minds and hands. But it won't mean anything unless you use your hearts and minds. Our job is over, but yours is just beginning."