Heritage Edition at Saint Joseph’s University



The Saint John's Bible is the first completely handwritten and illuminated Bible to have been commissioned by a Benedictine Abbey in the more than 500 years since the invention of the printing press. It was envisioned by Saint John's Abbey in Minnesota as a bible for the 21st Century. Donald Jackson, a world-renowned calligrapher, and scribe to the British Crown, was selected in 1998 to complete the project with a team of artisans working from their scriptorium in Wales. They were advised on the Bible's content by a group of scholars and theologians, known as the Committee on Illumination and Text. Work was finished in the summer of 2011.

The Saint John's Bible was created using both ancient and modern book-making techniques. Planning the layout for the seven volumes was accomplished with the assistance of a computer. The script and illuminations were produced on specially treated calfskin vellum. Calligraphers used goose quill pens, natural inks and hand-ground pigments for writing the text. Fine gold leaf and platinum were applied to the pages using special tools.

The Saint John's Bible Heritage Edition is a fine art reproduction of the original hand-crafted version. Saint John's Abbey has limited publication to 299 sets. Saint Joseph's University's set is number 60. The University, now, has all seven volumes: the Pentateuch, the Historical Books, Psalms, Wisdom Books, Prophets, the Gospels & Acts and Letters & Revelation.

On April 24, 2014, a blessing and presentation of the Saint John's Bible to the University was celebrated by C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J., '72, President of Saint Joseph's University and Brendan Lally, S.J., Rector of the SJU Jesuit Community. During the ceremony, two volumes of the Bible were placed on permanent display in cases specially designed and built by craftsman Eugene Sell, Class of '97.

Both display cases are now housed in the 2nd Floor Lounge area of the Post Learning Commons.  Volumes of the Saint John's Bible will be rotated on a regular basis to show some the wonderful illuminations and text from this artistic work of art.  Take a few moments to unwind and enjoy the beautiful view from the windows of Barbelin Tower rising high above the campus.  Look carefully and you might even see a red-tailed hawk surveying its domain.

The acquisition of the Saint John's Bible Heritage Edition is a joint endeavor between the Office of Mission and Identity and the Post Learning Commons and Drexel Library.

Research Guide: Introduction to The Saint John's Bible


An Interview with Calligrapher Donald Jackson

Donald Jackson talks about the Saint John's Bible project on YouTube.


The University gratefully acknowledges the gift of the late John Paul Leofsky '78 towards the partial acquisition of the Saint John's Bible Heritage Edition. His family was instrumental in making this possible.


Inquiries about the Saint John's Bible may be directed to: Christopher O. Dixon, Archival Research Librarian.
Phone:  (610) 660-2164
Email : cdixon@sju.edu