HBLL Special Collections procures rare St. John’s Bible

Picture of a page from HBLL’s new St. John’s Bible. (Photo courtesy Maddi Dayton)

The L. Tom Perry Special Collections has obtained a Heritage Edition of the St. John’s Bible, which it will display to the public.

The library will be hosting an open house to let students, faculty and community members interact with the Bible firsthand on Oct. 24.

“What we intend to do in the open house that we have here on campus is to let students come in and handle the Bible,” said Russ Taylor, department chair of Special Collections.

Attending the open house will give students the opportunity to actually touch the Bible and turn its pages, which will not always be the case. After the open house, the Bible will be put on display in the library in a specially made display case.

The original St. John’s Bible was commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and University in the 1970s and was created by Donald Jackson, senior scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

“The St. John’s Bible is important because it’s the first Bible to be made in 500 years using medieval hand processes,” said Maggie Kopp, curator of rare books for Special Collections. “It is amazing how the handwritten text of the Bible and the illuminations can help you see the text of a familiar book like the Bible in a whole different way.”

“There are only 299 replicas made and that will ever be made, so they are not everywhere,” said Spencer Fluhman, a history professor with a specialty on religion in America. “And to have one here is a really great thing for BYU students and faculty and the community because there is nothing like it in recent memory for me. It’s amazing.”

This Heritage Edition of the St. John’s Bible is an exact replica of the original in all aspects, including size, illustrations and text style, but with modern nuances.

“The folks who made this replica edition were very aware of the past and the present and the future in the creation of this bible,” Fluhman said. “Their processes respect the past. They are very aware of contemporary questions facing Christian churches with regard to ethnicity, gender, internationalism, and multiculturalism, but they also want that bible to serve as a kind of way to draw people in and to evangelize in the 21st century. They are very aware that they are keeping faith with these traditions but also making it very modern so its kind of cool to see the medieval and the modern right next to each other.”

As the only organization in Utah that owns a copy of the St. John’s Bible, BYU has the privilege to reach out to other institutions to share the history of the Bible.
“Our open house is aimed at all members of the community, so we hope to get the word out to everybody that they are welcome to come see these books,” Taylor said. “We are willing to go out into the community with these so that other congregants in Utah can see them as well.”
“Having a facsimile at BYU means that we can preserve and share a piece of this monumental piece of modern book art with the campus and local communities,” Kopp said. “We hope it will inspire people, not just from an artistic or scholarly standpoint, but that it will speak to them spiritually as well.”
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