September 20, 2006 Saint John's Bible Traveling Exhibition Opens at the Library on Oct. 6

Press Contact: Erin Allen, (202) 707-7302
Contact: Amanda Domizio, Ruder Finn Arts & Communications Counselors, (212) 583-2798 | Linda Orzechowski, Saint John’s University, (320) 363-3514

“Illuminating the Word: The Saint John’s Bible,” will open at the Library of Congress on Friday, Oct. 6, in the Northwest Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The exhibition was realized through the collaborative efforts of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., and the Library of Congress. The Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Division and the Interpretive Programs Office cooperated in planning and installing the exhibition in the Library of Congress, which will remain on view through Dec. 30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday – Saturday.

“As the home of the Gutenberg Bible – one of world’s three perfect copies on vellum – and the Giant Bible of Mainz, both of which are on permanent display in the Thomas Jefferson Building – the Library of Congress is pleased to be a stop on the tour of The Saint John’s Bible,” said Librarian of Congress James. H. Billington. “This contemporary work pays homage to the medieval art form of manuscript illumination, which is richly represented in the Library’s rare book collections.”

“The Saint John’s Bible makes a statement about faith, as well as the importance of art and imagination,” said Brother Dietrich Reinhart, OSB, president of Saint John’s University. “We are pleased to share our work and introduce new elements of the project to audiences across the country through this extended tour.”

Commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and University, The Saint John’s Bible is a contemporary work created in the tradition of medieval manuscripts and the first handwritten, illuminated Bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery since the advent of the printing press more than 500 years ago. Working with a team of theologians and artists from Saint John’s Abbey and University, Bible Artistic Director Donald Jackson has spent the last six years working in Wales, scribing and illustrating the manuscript using quills and paints hand-ground from minerals and stones such as lapis lazuli, malachite, silver, copper and 24-karat gold.

The Library’s exhibition will feature selections from the first three completed volumes of The Saint John’s Bible: Pentateuch, the first five books of Jewish and Christian scripture; Gospels and Acts; and Psalms. Highlights include folios of the Seven Days of Creation, Genesis, the Garden of Eden, the Ten Commandments, the Birth of Christ, the Crucifixion and the frontispieces for the four Gospels. Original artist tools, sketches and materials from Jackson’s scriptorium will also be on view.

There will be an ancillary display of materials, illustrating the Library of Congress’ holdings in this area. One case will present several priceless volumes from the Library's extraordinary collection of Bibles. The selection will provide insight into the images, use and origins of Bibles that make them, and other rare books, significant. A multimedia presentation will give visitors a brief overview of illuminated Bibles and Bible-related works in the Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Covering several centuries and including a wide variety of styles and artistic achievements, the presentation will include ornate Bibles from the Middle Ages, books of hours used by royal personages, as well as volumes meant to be used in religious settings. The selections in the presentation will show how these works, from centuries ago, connect to the work that went into the creation of the Saint John's Bible.

Jackson will give a presentation titled “Illuminating the Word,” discussing the process of creating a Bible for the 21st century at noon on Tuesday, Oct. 3, in the Coolidge Auditorium, ground floor, Jefferson Building. The lecture is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

One of the world’s leading calligraphers, Jackson is senior scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Crown Office at the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, a position in which he is responsible for the creation of official state documents. He is an elected fellow and past chairman of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators. His 30-year retrospective exhibition, “Painting with Words,” premiered at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts in August 1988 and traveled to 13 museums and galleries.

Consisting of 1,150 pages in seven volumes, The Saint John’s Bible will be completed in 2008. It will then be housed permanently at the Hill House Museum and Manuscript Library at Saint John’s Abbey and University. For more information on the project, visit

Organized by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Saint John's University, the exhibition and its national tour are made possible by Target. The Library of Congress exhibition of "Illuminating the Word" is made possible by the Allbritton Foundation.

The Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress holds the most comprehensive and universal rare book collection in the United States. Numbering nearly 800,000 items, its holdings include numerous books produced during the earliest period of printing, 5,700 incunabula (books printed before 1501), Thomas Jefferson's library, the largest collection of early American imprints in the country, the magnificent Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection of Illustrated Books, the libraries of czars of Russia and countless other rare and unique materials.

Tour Schedule

  • Museum of Biblical Art (New York, N.Y.), through Nov. 26, 2006
  • Naples Art Museum (Naples, Fla.), Jan. 26 – April 6, 2007
  • “Dead Sea Scrolls,” with selections from “Prophets,” the fourth volume of the “Saint John's Bible”, San Diego Natural History Museum (San Diego, Calif.), June 29 – Dec. 31, 2007
  • Phoenix Art Museum (Phoenix, Ariz.), Dec. 9, 2007 – March 7, 2008
  • Winnipeg Art Gallery (Winnipeg, Canada), April 11 – June 8, 2008
  • Tacoma Art Museum (Tacoma, Wash.), July 11 – Sept. 5, 2008
  • Mobile Museum of Art (Mobile, Ala.), Oct. 10, 2008 – April 10, 2009


PR 06-161
ISSN 0731-3527