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Early Christmas Gift for Santa Clara University: A Rare Saint John's Bible Reproduction

Friday, Dec. 12, 2008

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Dec. 11 -- Santa Clara University President Paul L. Locatelli, S.J., will accept Tuesday the first of seven volumes of The Saint John's Bible Heritage Edition, a rare reproduction edition of the famed Saint John's Bible.

The Bible is a gift from Tita Crilly Diepenbrock, the widow of James Diepenbrock '51. It will be presented to Locatelli at a ceremony in the St. Clare Room of the Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Technology Center, and Orradre Library at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 16.

The seven-volume gift is one of only 360 reproductions of the famed Saint John's Bible, the first Bible commissioned in more than 500 years to be handwritten in calligraphy. The original is also hand-illuminated in the manner used by 10th and 11th century monk scribes, by introducing light-catching gold and silver leaf into the text and pages.

Diepenbrock said that when she first saw the original Saint John's Bible in a traveling exhibition she was awestruck at the vivid and bold artwork and the use of provocative modern imagery rather than ancient iconography. She knew almost immediately that she wanted a reproduction on the West Coast for viewing and educational purposes. And Santa Clara University, the alma mater of several family members as well as her husband and five children, was the perfect fit, she said.

"I really wanted it to be used and available for interdisciplinary study -- theology, history, and art," Diepenbrock said. "Santa Clara envisioned using it that way as well."

The St. John's Bible "is totally today's spirituality, not hemmed in by a traditional hierarchical interpretation," she said. "It allows for fresh air and new visions, which is what young people want and look for."

"One of the exciting aspects of this gift is the way our faculty in scripture, history, and literature will use it as a teaching and scholarship resource. It's a gift that will benefit generations of future students and faculty," said Locatelli. "If you've seen the Book of Kells, you will want to see this Bible."

About the St. John's Bible

Ten years after St. John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., decided to commission the first hand-written Bible in 500 years, The Saint John's Bible is now in the final stages of creation in a scriptorium in Wales.

The calligraphy and artwork is being completed under the artistic direction of Donald Jackson, one of the world's foremost calligraphers and the Scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Crown Office at the House of Lords in London. Jackson signs each of the reproduction sets, which are delivered one volume at a time every six months or so.

Other facts about The St. John's Bible original and The Heritage Edition reproductions:
* Each volume weighs 20 pounds and measures 2 feet high by 3 feet wide when open.
* The original is being created by six artists and six calligraphers in Wales and elsewhere. One illuminator lives in San Francisco.
* The project's cost exceeds $4 million.
* Its construction parallels that of its medieval predecessors, written on vellum, using quills, natural handmade inks, hand-ground pigments, and gold leaf.
* The original pages are vellum, giving each page a translucent quality. Pages of the reproductions are museum-quality, 100 percent cotton paper, designed to last hundreds of years. To recreate the translucence of the original, most pages in the reproduction are printed with a faint watermark, in reverse, of the adjacent side of the page.
* The work incorporates contemporary artwork and modern themes such as multiculturalism and Adam and Eve as East Africans.
* A brand new calligraphy script was created for this Bible and has been nicknamed "Jacksonian," after Donald Jackson, the artistic director on the project.
* Silver and 24-karat gold "illuminates" the pages and artwork of the original. Silver and gold leaf have also been added to the reproductions through the printing process.
* The Bible totals 1,150 pages over seven volumes: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Psalms, Prophets, Wisdom Books, Gospels and Acts, Letters and Revelation.
* Though each letter is rendered by hand, The Saint John's Bible uses state-of-the-art computer technology to create and manage page layouts.
For additional information, please visit

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California's Silicon Valley, offers its 8,685 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master's and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master's universities, California's oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contact: Deepa Arora - 408-554-5125;


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