An Artistic View of the Saint John’s Bible

Image courtesy of: https://www.msmc.edu/About_MSMC/making-a-masterpiece-the-saint-johns-bible-through?context_date=3/5/2019

By: Tori Kuhr

Diane Von Arx, a calligrapher, graphic designer and artist, explained how the St. John’s Bible came into consideration and creation with the first ever calligrapher conference in 1981 in Minnesota. The event drew nearly 400 calligraphers from the United States and overseas, including the driving force of the St John’s Bible, Donald Jackson.

Throughout her lecture, “Making a Masterpiece: The Saint John’s Bible through an Artists Lens,” which took place on Mar. 5, Arx rehashed her entire visionary experience, leading up to the final inking on calf skin and bounding of the original bibles. She described working personally with Jackson, a group of international scribes, calligraphers and theologians, as well as her creative process from shaving quill pens to practicing sketches dozens of times to create the lettering and illuminations in The Book of Honor and The Book of Gospels.

“One of the illuminations I was asked to do,” Arx explained, “was a very large illumination. But the big challenge for me was I had to be working across the page and it wasn’t a centerfold.”

For a project as big and complex as the Saint John’s Bible, a creative artist may only give their services if invited. For Arx, Jackson mentioned her joining the team in passing several times before officially  inviting her to work on the project. She hid the news from everyone, even her husband, until she got official confirmation about her involvement.

All seven of the books from the Heritage edition of the Saint John’s Bible and tools she used for lettering, shaving calf skin and creating the illuminations were on display for the audience to observe and ask questions about. The Mount has one of only 299 sets of these bibles that have been copied and distributed to different universities and museums.