BEREA, Ky. – The Berea College Hutchins Library’s Special Collections and Archives and the Campus Christian Center are offering the public an opportunity to take a close look at the College’s Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible during Monday afternoon tours through Dec. 12.
Set 111 of the Heritage Edition Saint John’s Bible became a permanent addition to Berea College’s extensive collection of religious texts in 2016.
“This large, seven-volume work is impressive in every way. The book covers are hand-tooled leather with differing designs embossed
in each. Within, the scriptures are beautifully handwritten and profusely illuminated,” said Tim Binkley, head of Special Collections and Archives. “This powerful publication is meant to be viewed—not just stored on a shelf. One volume is always on display in the Hutchins Library foyer. On Mondays, we bring the other six volumes into the reading room for visitors to view, turn pages and reflect on the timeless texts and images.”
According to the library’s St. John’s Bible page (https://libraryguides.berea.edu/SJB), in the early 1990s, the community of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, asked Donald Jackson—renowned calligrapher and official scribe to Queen Elizabeth II—to oversee the crafting of the first completely handwritten, fully illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Abbey in more than 500 years. Jackson, who had envisioned creating such a Bible at the age of 13, assembled an international team of six calligraphers and 31 artists and coordinated their work through a university committee of art historians, medievalists, artists, scholars and theologians.
The Saint John’s Bible took 11 years to complete (2000-2011). As work proceeded, it became apparent that The St. John’s Bible would need to have a presence far beyond Minnesota. As a result, a full-scale art print Heritage Edition was created with a print run of only 299. The Heritage Editions are printed on 100 percent cotton paper produced in New Hampshire and include all texts and illuminations. The 1,165 pages are hand-stitched and bound in seven volumes, each measuring 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide when open.
“We love to have students and visitors spend time actually paging through these beautiful books,” Binkley said. “Often, our guests find passages or illuminations that really move them. It’s a time to explore, to reflect and put a lot of life together. The tour is not a lecture—it’s an inductive experience and a good opportunity to show one of the great treasures on our campus.”
St. John’s Bible tours take place from 2-3 p.m. every Monday through Dec. 12. Masks are encouraged. Pre-registration is required at least two hours in advance. To register for this experience, visit https://bctrace.com/explore.