Original folios of Wisdom Books from The Saint John’s Bible on display for first public viewing

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February 11, 2008

For the first time, original folios from Wisdom Books: The Saint John’s Bible will be on display for public viewing. The exhibition, which includes 28 original pages, begins Feb. 18 and runs through Dec. 31 at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) on the campus of Saint John’s University.

Wisdom Books is the fifth completed volume of The Saint John’s Bible and includes some of the Old Testament’s literary masterpieces, including Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs.  The volume also includes the much-loved book of Job and two Old Testament works including the Wisdom of Solomon, which was originally written in Greek and Sirach which come to us from the Greek tradition. 

Among the pages on view are Wisdom Woman, The Garden of Desire, Pillars of Wisdom, Mirror of Wisdom and the inspiring Creation, Covenant, Shekinah, Kingdom. Also on display are tools and materials from the scriptorium such as quills, hand-ground pigments, gold leaf, calfskin vellum and ancient inks from China.

Wisdom Books continues the work of earlier volumes with a script created by calligrapher Donald Jackson specifically for this project.  Artists from earlier released volumes - Thomas Ingmire, Suzanne Moore, Chris Tomlin and Sally Mae Joseph - are joined by new contributing artist Diane M. von Arx of Minneapolis to bring light – that is, illumination - to the text.  The images are not to be missed.

The Wisdom books exemplify the practical spirituality of the people of Israel. Using story, poetry and aphorisms, the books collect practical wisdom to help guide people in how to live. The Saint John’s Bible volume Wisdom Books draws out themes of wisdom as a female figure, use of Proverbs in the Rule of Saint Benedict, and God’s love for us.

Commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., The Saint John’s Bible is a contemporary work created in the tradition of handwritten medieval manuscripts. The artistic director of the project, Jackson, is one of the world’s foremost Western calligraphers and scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Crown Office at the House of Lords. During the past nine years, Jackson has worked in rural Wales, with scribes and artists to write and illuminate The Saint John’s Bible entirely by hand, using quills and paints hand-ground from precious minerals and stones such as lapis lazuli, vermilion, malachite, on beautiful calfskin vellum.  Silver, copper, and 24-karat gold leaf add light and brilliance to the pages.

The Saint John’s Bible, consisting of 1,150 pages in seven volumes, will be completed in 2009. It will be housed permanently at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., where it will be used in worship and be available to scholars and the public. The Saint John’s Bible will tour to libraries and museums worldwide, offering educational outreach and spiritual programming initiatives

Wisdom Books, a reproduction book released in December 2007, is available for purchase at HMML. HMML is open from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Guests are welcome to view the exhibition at their leisure. There is no entrance fee. Interpretive tours and presentations are available for groups wishing to book in advance. Information and booking requests may be directed to Linda Orzechowski by calling 320-363-3514 or by e-mail at lorzechowsk@csbsju.edu. Go to saintjohnsbible.org for more information.