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SJU Library Blog

Rare Books and Christmas page in the Saint John’s Bible

by Cynthia Slater on 2021-12-06T14:23:33-05:00 in Theology and Religious Studies | Comments

A Rare Book is distinguished by an early printing date, a limited issue, the special characteristics of the edition or binding, or its historical interest.

In the case of our seven volume set of the Saint John’s Bible: ours is number 60 of 299 sets printed in a limited release. The seven volumes are printed from the original manuscript on cotton paper that is a similar weight and feel as the original vellum. After printing, gold and silver foils are applied and each volume is numbered and initialed by Donald Jackson, the creator of the bible. These are special characteristics of the volumes. 


Currently, the open pages in the Gospels and Acts are Luke 2:1-20; the birth of Christ. Although we see the face of Mary, we do not see the baby Jesus but instead see a shaft of gold coming from the manger. Gold in this Bible references the Divine. The shepherds are depicted as women holding small children and instead of cows we see an ox. 

The second volume, the Wisdom book, is turned to the Wisdom of Solomon 10-11.  The two pages show four panels of illuminations: creation, covenant, shekinah and kingdom. The four panels, which are a revisiting of themes of illumination in the books Pentateuch and Prophets reference the four universal elements; earth, water, fire and air and refer back to stories in the biblical narrative; the Creation, the Flood, the Exodus and the Promised Land.  

Lesley Carey, SJU Archives & Special Collections


Two volumes of The Saint John's Bible are on display in cases on the first floor of Drexel Library. Pages are changed out every few weeks to minimize exposure to light and to highlight sections of the work.   Learn more about The Saint John's Bible at


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