The Bible — in Longhand


"In a recent article for this paper’s Masterpiece column, Adam Nicolson, the author of "God’s Secretaries," marveled that the King James Bible is "is the richest, most passionate…of all works of English prose." It is "full of grandeur and a vivid, heart-gripping immediacy" yet, as he noted, it was composed in the 17th century by a committee of roughly 50 men.

An exception that proves the rule, perhaps. Group projects, as any middle-school social-studies teacher can tell you, rarely produce inspiring results. But if you think writing by committee is hard, try drawing by one. That’s what Donald Jackson, the former official scribe for Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, signed up for when he agreed to create the first handwritten English Bible in 500 years.

As Mr. Jackson tells it, he approached the Benedictine monks of Saint John’s University in central Minnesota in 1995 with the idea of writing and illustrating the Gospels to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s birth. Two years later, the monks agreed to an even larger project, commissioning Mr. Jackson to handwrite and illustrate the whole Old and New Testaments at a cost of $4.5 million (underwritten by profits from the sale of printed versions of the handwritten Bible and by the generosity of donors ranging from a Boy Scout troop to the Target Corporation). The project would require that Mr. Jackson collaborate with a team of several calligraphers, to whom he would teach a script that he had developed just for this purpose. And a commission of monks would have to approve each of the 160 illustrations…"

The Bible — in Longhand

November 10, 2006; Page W13

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Related links:

"Illuminating God’s word – Monks’ handwritten Bible 1st in 500 years"
The Saint John’s Bible Website