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The Scribe August/September 2012 Vol. 1, Issue 7
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The Saint John’s Bible at the Getty
The Art of The Saint John's Bible - 3 Volume Set
Donald Jackson demonstrating his craft at
the Getty
Image courtesy of Glassy Eye Productions.

When I was 14 years old, I was thrown out of an art museum
for whistling in the public galleries

The Getty Museum’s current exhibition, The Art of Devotion in the Middle Ages, took on a contemporary twist when The Saint John’s Bible came to Los Angeles on September 4, 2012. The day began with a Heritage Edition workshop for representatives from Azusa Pacific University, Brigham Young University, Loyola Marymount University, Pepperdine University, and Santa Clara University. The focus of the morning session included the artistic treatments used on each Heritage Edition and a presentation on the best practices in sharing the Heritage Edition on campus.

Donald Jackson was on hand to share his personal journey with the art of calligraphy and to talk about the historical influences that made The Saint John’s Bible possible. “When I was 14 years old, I was thrown out of an art museum for whistling in the public galleries,” said Jackson. “But I'd already caught the magic of the illuminated texts I saw there, and my life was changed by them.” Jackson’s lecture included a demonstration of his writing art, complete with feather quill. His presentation helped participants better understand the creation of these complex works of art.

In the afternoon, Getty patrons were treated to an overview on The Saint John’s Bible by director Tim Ternes; a lecture by Fr. Eric Hollas, OSB, offering a monk’s perspective of illuminated manuscripts; a presentation on the exhibition by the Getty’s curator of manuscripts, Elizabeth Morrison; and a hands-on calligraphy workshop by Diane von Arx, one of the contributing artists to The Saint John’s Bible.

According to the Getty, over 250 participated in the conference. Donald Jackson’s lecture at the Getty will be available online. If you’d like to receive a notification when it becomes available, please contact Kerry Werlinger at


by Elizabeth Morrison, Acting Senior Curator of Manuscripts, The J. Paul Getty Museum.

When I first saw the illumination of the ‘Birth of Christ’ accompanying the opening of the Book of Luke in The Saint John’s Bible, I was immediately struck by parallels with one of the illuminations in our manuscript collections at the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, CA). Painted in Flanders (in modern-day Belgium) in the late fifteenth century, it captures the same sense of wonder and delight experienced by those in the images who realize the importance of Christ’s birth. The medieval page shows a striking nocturnal scene where an angel bathed in a golden light announces Christ’s birth to a group of awe-stricken shepherds. The real presence of the angel is attested to in delightful detail, including a furry terrier that jumps up in excitement at the angel’s unexpected arrival. In the distant background, a delicate line of golden angels floats down to the brilliantly lit manger.

The ‘Birth of Christ’ image in The Saint John’s Bible image is given similar drama through its night setting, but here the angels appear to either side of a powerful column of light that directly connects heaven and earth. Shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and domestic animals form a grouping similar to that in the medieval manuscript image. One aspect of both illuminations that struck me is the absence of the main character, the baby Jesus. His physical presence is superfluous because the meaning of each image is embodied in Christ’s spiritual advent to save mankind, symbolized in both by the pure light that descends from heaven.

Though far separated by time and place, the Getty and The Saint John’s Bible illuminations attest to the dramatic potential of a moment that has inspired creativity in artists for millennia.

The Annuciation to the Sepherds
Master of the Houghton Miniatures, The Annuciation to the Shepherds, leaf from the Emerson-White Hours; Ghent, ca. 1480 (4 15/16 x 3 9/16 in.). Ms. 60, recto,
The J. Paul Getty Museum.
The Annuciation to the Sepherds
Birth of Christ, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2002,
The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA.
See the Bible
Heritage Edition Exhibitions

Cathedral Church of St. Mark
Salt Lake City, UT
October 1-5, 2012

Seton Hill University
Greensburg, PA
October 11-November 15, 2012

Saint Ann’s Catholic Church
Midland, TX
October 15 - November 15, 2012

Touring Exhibitions

New Mexico History Museum
Santa Fe, NM
October 21, 2011 - December 30, 2012

Print Exhibitions

St. Norbert College
De Pere, WI
October 2 - November 1, 2013

Rivier College Art Gallery
Nashua, NH
September 17 - October 26, 2012