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KSU to show special Bible

By Bryan Richardson

This week, K-State is showing off the Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible, the first hand-written illuminated Bible commissioned in 500 years.

Father Eric Hallas of St. John’s University will give a presentation on the Saint John’s Bible and the tradition of the illuminated — meaning gilded detailing —manuscript from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Hemisphere Room at Hale Library.

After the presentation, a reception will be held to thank K-State alumni Warren and Mary Lynn Staley, of Edina, Minn., for donating their personal volumes.

“When they started to look at them, they realized it shouldn’t be just in their home,” said Lori Goetsch, dean of K-State Libraries. “The world should see it.”

The original Saint John’s Bible was commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and University in Minnesota in 1998. The seven-volume work, completed by Donald Jackson, senior scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Crown Office, and a team of artists and scribes, lasted from 2000 to 2011 and cost more than $4 million, Goetsch said. It uses all 73 books from the Old and New Testaments in the New Revised Standard Version.

The first Heritage Edition, a digitally scanned reproduction of the original, was presented to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in April 2008. He deemed the manuscript “a great work of art for eternity.”

Fewer than 300 copies of the Heritage Edition will be made. “This is a limited edition work,” Goetsch said. “We have something in our collection and community that’s fairly rare.”

Each volume measures 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide when open and weighs up to 120 pounds. Each page took 8 to 12 hours to complete using the techniques and materials medieval monks used when created illuminated books. Instead of undoing hours of work due to a mistake, a scribe drew an illustration of a bird carrying the forgotten words to the space they belonged.

“Books just aren’t made this way and on this scale anymore,” Goetsch said. The pages include vibrant colors and illustrations of certain passages pulled out from the text.

“The cool thing about some of the illumination is they tried to take contemporary themes in use it in the work,” Goetsch said. Illusions to the Holocaust, satellite images and DNA within the Bible’s art are among those themes she spoke about.

K-State just received the fifth volume last week. The last two Heritage Edition volumes are still being produced and will likely be ready in 2014, Goetsch said.

Goetsch said K-State plans on sharing with the community. “The philosophy at St. John’s is very similar,” she said. “They want people to see these volumes, touch and flip the pages.”

The volumes reside in the Morse Department of Special Collections in Hale Library, which is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Some of the future plans include Easter Sunday showings of the Bible at St. Thomas More Catholic Church and College Avenue United Methodist Church. Also, a docent program is being developed to train others to take out in the community.

“It’s definitely not something we want to sit here and collect dust,” Goetsch said.

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