From Inspiration to Illumination: The Saint John’s Bible

From Inspiration to Illumination: The Saint John’s Bible


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, DC. [ Silence ]>>Mark Dimunation: Good afternoon,
everyone, I’m Mark Dimunation, I’m chief of the Rare Book and
Special Collections Division. Thank you for coming today. We’re very excited about this, the
Division in the Library of Congress at this point have
become old friends with Saint John’s University,
and especially in the making of the Saint John’s Bible. We’re very lucky to have Tim
Ternes here today to talk about the extraordinary
process and the undertaking of making this exquisite Bible;
nine years in the making, yes?>>Tim Ternes: Fifteen.>>Mark Dimunation:
Fifteen years in the making. But ten years ago the Library of
Congress featured selected sheets from the Pentateuch or the first
books of the Bible, the Psalms, and the Gospels, in an
extraordinary exhibition, and I might add a very
popular exhibition. Today we’re going to look
at the further progress. The Bible is now complete. We’re very lucky on
this moment to have two of what will be seven volumes of
the Apostles facsimile edition. This is an extraordinarily
sophisticated facsimile. We’re very lucky here at the Library
of Congress to be the recipient of this, one of the 12, obviously,
Apostles edition that had been made. And after the talk,
we’ll be happy to, as I always say, show you the book. [Laughter] And after you hear this
talk, I’m sure you will understand. I will be happy to — we’ll
page through the book for you, rather than you doing that for
yourself, so we can keep this for other generations
to look forward to. Tim knows the story of this
Bible in a very intimate way, and you really have a lovely
talk to look forward to. So he’s become a good friend. Let’s welcome here — welcome him
here to the Library of Congress. [ Applause ]>>Tim Ternes: Well,
good afternoon, everyone.>>Good afternoon.>>Tim Ternes: Oh, this is
not Minnesota, that’s obvious. [Laughter] I said, “Good
afternoon, everyone.” Gees.>>Good afternoon.>>Tim Ternes: I’m not used
to being tethered to a podium, because they’ve got me tied
here with all these microphones and recordings, so I might be a
little awkward with that as well, but I’ll do my best to stay put
here, which is just killing me because I like to be out in
front with everyone else, so. It’s very nice to be here. I’ve actually lectured here before,
and I’ve shared the project with you on many years ago in
2006 when we had it here. And I have for you just
an outstanding story; an outstanding story,
that’s been 500 years since it’s been able to be told. Because the last time a
monastery did something like this really was 500 years ago. And I always tell people we
now know why it took 500 years to do it again; [laughter] because
it’s an incredibly huge undertaking. And it’s also a fascinating story. Now, I’m the director of the Saint
John’s Bible, which simply means that I am the keeper of the pages,
and the keeper of the story. And it really is a
good job, trust me. I love what I do. I wasn’t always the director
of the Saint John’s Bible. For 17 years I was an
elementary classroom teacher. So truly one day I was doing
playground duty for one day, and then a few months later I was
lecturing at the Library of Congress and thought, “Life has changed.” The behavior patterns didn’t
really change between the two. [Laughter] But trust me, life
has changed for me as well. And now I’m back again, and
it’s really quite a treat. Because the story of the Saint
John’s Bible, it hasn’t been able to be told for many generations,
is a fascinating story, but it’s also not our story. Because many people don’t realize, this thing called “The Saint John’s
Bible”, which we are so famous for, and which is so famous
in its own rite, is something that Saint
John’s never thought about doing; never wanted to do. As I always say, “We
will never do it again.” Because it wasn’t our idea. The Saint John’s Bible is something
we didn’t think about doing, it was the brainchild
of this man right here. Now, just so you realize,
that is not a picture of me. [Laughter] Many people
say I look just like him. I have been walking — this is true,
I’ve been walking down the streets of London, and I have been asked
for Donald Jackson’s autograph. The man is 75 years old. I don’t know how I feel about that,
but it’s the shared body trait that we have here as well, so. Donald Jackson, world-renowned
individual. He’s a calligrapher. And you think about that. He has made his fame and his
fortune with something every one of you in this audience can do. You can all make letters. Think about that. Now, some make nicer
letters than others. I make letters. We can all do what he does. But I doubt any of us are
going to have an exhibition of our handwriting
that travels the globe. I doubt any of us are going
to line up around the block to look at our own handwriting. And I doubt the Queen of
England is going to hire you to be her professional scribe. Because that’s Donald’s real job. Donald is by profession
the senior scribe to Her Royal Majesty’s Crown Office
in the House of Lords in London. Quite a long title. He’s the — he’s often called
the Queen’s calligrapher. He’s not — that’s
not really his job. He writes things that she gives out. So, for example, he
did the Royal Charter that made Margaret
Thatcher Dame of the Realm. He did Charles and
Diana’s wedding papers. He did Charles and
Diana’s divorce papers, [laughter] and all those things. He did not do William and
Kate’s wedding certificate. The only one he did not do;
because he was finishing — and we pressed him to finish the
Saint John’s Bible at that time. So we beat out the
future king of England and his wife all the way through. But the story of the Saint
John’s Bible is Donald’s story, because it was his idea. Donald talked about really
having a dream of wanting to handwrite scripture
from a lot earlier than anyone can ever even imagine. In fact, Donald talks about
being a child and falling in love with calligraphy. Now, think what you used to do when
you were ten, 12, 13 years old. [ Silence ] And I doubt you spent time
doing what Donald did. One of his favorite activities
would be to go to a local museum, or library, go to the rare book
room, which of course you had here, or the manuscript room and he
said, “I would look at the cases and I would copy what I saw.” He said, “I would spend hours
sitting in places like this looking in the cases, and recreating,”
not tracing, but recreating. And he said, “I loved it.” Now, think about that. And then look at this. That’s a letter M that Donald did
when he was about 12 years old. [Murmuring] I was still
coloring inside the lines when I was 12 years old. [Laughter] Half the
time outside the lines. That’s amazing when
you look at that. Here’s a piece he did a
couple of years later. And it does belong sideways. It’s called “The Reclining Madonna”. But look at the difference in
skill already that that child — I emphasize that, that
that child has developed. And he said it was by
going in and looking at the way the artist
bent the lines, laid their gold, blended
their color. He said, “By looking at the masters, that’s how I became
a master myself.” What a great lesson for all of us. And it was right around this time
in his life Donald Jackson said, “You know, I’m not trying to brag,
but I remember very clearly,” he said, “looking at
something I had done one day, and it was like a light
bulb went off.” And he said, “I realized I’m good.” And it just — it’s like, “I
can do this, and I love it.” And right around age
13, 13, 14, he saw — he talks about sitting
down with a piece of paper and writing two goals for his life. Now, think about that, what
did you want to do at age 13? [Laughs] I taught elementary
school for 17 years. I never once met a child who had
goals, number one, but [inaudible]. But he sat down and said
on this piece of paper, “When I’m old enough, I want to
work for the Queen of England.” That happened in his 20s, one of the youngest people ever
employed as a royal scribe. And number two — I bet you can
guess what the other thing is on that page. It said, “When I practice long and
hard — ” and it’s a paraphrase but, “I practice long and hard, I want to do what calligraphers have
always done, handwrite scripture.” Think about that. What a goal. Now, the first one he got — he
managed to make happen in his 20s. But the second one took almost
50 years to become a reality. So this was his childhood dream. And he needed a partner to make it
happen, because as you can imagine, this is a huge undertaking. Well, so we have this man over in
Wales with this childhood dream. And then we end up with a
bunch of monks in the middle of the cornfields of
Minnesota with a vision. And we have to get the two
of them together somehow. And do you know what
the catalyst was? [ Silence ] Something you all love and use — [ Silence ] But it was rocking Donald’s world. In the 1980s something
changed his world dramatically. [ Silence ] The computer; [laughter] because
in the 1980s what came into vogue, everyone was now an
electronic calligrapher. You no longer needed Donald. And as Donald always says, “Everyone
had at their fingertips the true, dirtiest four-letter F-word in
the English language, the font.” [Laughter] Because what do you have; you can now have 50,000
ways to do his job. So calligraphy as an
art form was waning. And so right around that time a
group of calligraphers in the middle of Minnesota said,
“We’ve got to find a way to stop this from happening. How can we share the passion that we
have for our art form with others? Let’s see if we can hold
a calligraphy conference and get maybe 30, 40, 50 people, the
top artists from around the world to come to Minnesota and talk
about the future of our art. And to do that we’re
going to need a big name.” So they contacted Donald Jackson. And they said, “Donald,
would you come to Minnesota and teach a calligraphy
course, and help us deal with this idea of our
waning art form?” And one of the organizers had
a grandson that happened to go to school at Saint John’s
University in Collegeville. And they said, “I know the perfect
place where we can have this.” They hired Donald Jackson, and
in 1981 he came to the campus. And they got a few more
than 30 or 40 people. [Laughter] Five hundred
calligraphers came from around the world, and
they turned our gymnasium into the world’s largest
scriptorium. They put Donald on the stage, he’d
make a letter A and they’d go wild. I’m serious. [Laughter] He’d make a letter
B and they’d drool and scream. It was amazing. But what was most important
is that’s how Donald got to Saint John’s. And the reason the Bible
is at Saint John’s is because Donald Jackson countered
something and saw something there that every person who comes on the
campus sees and blows them away. Now, has anyone ever been to Saint
John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota? A couple of you here, yes. What’s the first thing you encounter
when you come on the campus? [ Silence ] This. This is our world-famous
Abby Church. In the 1950s, this community of monks hired Marcel
Broyer [assumed spelling], one of the first kind of — or one of the big names
in the Modernist Movement to design and build their church. And the inside is even more
incredible than the outside. And this incredibly beautiful
mid-century modern church sits in the middle of the campus, with
this huge presence, and Donald said, “I never knew it was there.” He never knew it was there. It’s an amazing building and he
said, “I went in, and I stood there in the middle of that church on my
very first visit looking around, and I said, to myself,
‘Wow, these guys get it’.” And he said, “They
understand quality, and they understand longevity. And not to be funny,” he said, “but I had concrete proof
as to how they thought.” [Laughter] Because here it is. And he said, “I realize that
they’d built this in the ’50s.” It was the — one of the world’s — if not the world’s first
contemporary Catholic Church. And he said, “If they understood
that then, they would get this idea, this project that I have in mind.” Now, he let that idea percolate
in his mind for 14 more years until 1985 — excuse me, 1995. And he said, “What
have they got to lose?” So finally he approached
the monastery, and he sold them the idea this way. He said, “What are you doing
to mark the millennium?” We hadn’t even thought about it. And he said, “I’ve
got an idea for you. How would you like the
handwritten Word of God, and would you help me do it?” Can you imagine being
asked that question? I mean, think — how
would you respond? I mean, think about that. Like any church organization, the role that took us three
years to give him an answer. [Laughter] Because
nothing works quickly in the church world, we know that. But, you know, very soon it was
decided that we have to do this. And in 1998 then the formal
commissioning was done. That kicked off two years of layout,
planning, labor-intensive work, figuring out the first and last
word of every page, making — putting together his team,
because he couldn’t do it together, fundraising, theological
development, all this had to happen until finally on Ash Wednesday
in the year 2000, Donald said, “Everything is ready; let’s begin.” And he sat down and he
wrote the very first words. And those first words were –>>In the beginning.>>Tim Ternes: In the
— you’re very good for a public audience, my goodness. [Laughter] Well, let me
introduce Donald Jackson to you with a short video. It will introduce his tools,
his methods, his materials. And you will get to
see his hands at work. And they’re very distracting
because he’s so good with his hands. But also pay attention
to what he says, because he really explains
how he sees his role in this once in a millennium
project. [ Chanting ] And that’s as loud as we
can get it; I’m sorry. [ Chanting ] [ Inaudible Talking ] [ Nature and Animal Sounds ] [ Inaudible Talking ] [ Scratching Sounds ] [ Inaudible Talking ] [ Silence ] [ Inaudible Talking ] [ Music ] [ Inaudible Talking ] [ Music ] Yes; we do love Target
in Minnesota [inaudible]. [Laughter] It’s a good
video, isn’t it? It’s well done, and it does so much
in such a short amount of time. I’ve seen that video
about 3,000 times. I can narrate it word for
word if it ever goes out. But I always tell myself every
time I’ve seen it, “You know, if I really take it seriously
and practice long and hard, if I really work at it,
you know, maybe someday, maybe someday I could learn how to separate an egg the
way Donald Jackson did. [Laughter] It’s amazing
when he does that. And he does it to make
sure that when he puts it in the bowl it remains perfectly
pure; because you want to go for something that’s
going to last 2,000 years. Think of the last thing
Father Eric said in the video. [ Silence ] As old and as wonderful
as this building is, as amazing as that church is,
there’s a good chance this book, because of the way it was made,
because of something as simple as what I’m holding
in my hand right now, it will outlast all
of this and that. Because we didn’t use
traditional tools, methods, and materials to recreate the past. We didn’t do this as
a history project. We chose to use the
things that are in this box because there are still — there’s still no better way to do
it today, if you want it to last. So what’s in the box? Now, some of you will know,
but maybe when you can hear it. You probably can’t see it very
well, but it’s very small. When I show it to my
college students, they think it’s a jump drive. [Clears Throat] [Laughter]
The modern world, yes. But of course it looks more
like what’s on the screen now. Anybody know what it is? [ Inaudible Comment ] Yes; this is a stick of ink. And the inks for the Bible
are actually quite unique and quite rare. You can pass it around if
you’d like to, and handle them. The inks for the Bible
are quite special. Number one, my favorite part
about the inks for the Bible is that number one they’re very old. They’re made in the 1870s. And number two, Donald
Jackson bought every stick of ink he would need for
the Bible over 40 years ago. Now, remember, he didn’t come
to us with the idea until ’95. But he came across these beautiful
sticks of black ink in a place that was going out of
business in England — in London, and they were selling
these ink sticks for pennies apiece. And he said, “They
were just beautiful.” He said, “So I bought every
one they had, just in case.” Forty years ago, he bought 144
sticks of his beautiful black ink. Forty-five — 40 some years later,
he used 142 sticks of black ink. He had two to spare. Isn’t that amazing? I love it. Now, the beautiful — they’re
beautiful sticks of black ink. We couldn’t afford them today, because he bought them
for pennies a piece. They sell for many hundreds
of dollars nowadays, these beautiful sticks of black ink. Why? [ Silence ] Why do you think they’re
so rare, and so expensive? [ Silence ] Well, partly is because
of what it is. Now, don’t give any answers away,
Mark, because I know you know this. But think about this,
think black, think 1800s. And I heard some — I have
teacher ears, I can hear anything. I heard someone whisper
over here, “Coal. Coal.” [Laughter] Yes; not coal,
because look at your hands. [ Inaudible Comment ] Anyone have black hands from
passing around a stick of coal; no. What are you passing —
what is that black ink? [ Inaudible Comments ] Ah, yes. You think about it, you
are truly passing around a stick of candle smoke from the 1870s. Think about that; candle smoke. Go home, light a candle, let it
burn for three or four hours, blow it out, put your hand above
the candle, let smoke hit your hand. What color will your hand be; black. That is soot, that is lamp
black collected from the 1870s. Now, if you ever touch
the wick of a candle, of your hand is going to be black. So it can’t just be soot. What else is in there? [ Mumbling ] If it was wax it would
resist when you wrote. Think natural, think sticky. What’s going to be the glue?>>Is it honey?>>Tim Ternes: Honey, yes, a very
common recipe will be soot, honey, but that’s still not going to keep
it from rubbing off on your fingers. [ Inaudible Comment ] Think of the video.>>Is it egg?>>Tim Ternes: Yes, egg white. A common recipe for Chinese black
ink was soot, honey, and egg white. You mix it together, you
compress it together in your mold, and you bake it, and you get
this beautiful stick of it — ink, you put it on a grinding
[inaudible] with a bit of water, and you grind it down. The water breaks down the
honey and the egg white, the soot stains the water black. You write, the water evaporates. And have you ever let
egg dry on a plate? [Makes Sound] It becomes
part of whatever it holds. The proteins in that egg bind
it permanently to any surface. Something simple, and
beautiful, and natural. The colored inks are
just as beautiful. The reds are solid
cakes of [inaudible]. The blues are ground lapis. And the greens are ground malachite. And these elements will
not break down any further because they are already
at their natural state. I mean, think about the black
has already been burned. Think about that. It’s not — it’s going to
be as beautiful today — or in a thousand years
as it is today. These materials have
proven themselves. Go look at the manuscript
room in this building. These materials have proven
themselves over the centuries. And then you’ll notice that
Donald used the egg yolk. Well, you mix the egg
yolk with the warm colors, and the egg white with
the cool colors. And then you will also keep
them vibrant and wet-looking, and brilliant for centuries to come. And then of course
if you have this ink, you need the most perfect
tool for writing. And believe it or not, the
Saint John’s Bible was written with a turkey, a swan,
or a goose feather. Can you imagine writing
anything with this, let alone millions of letters? I mean, that’s incredible. But the first thing Donald will tell
you that no quill in the history of the world ever looked like this. This is a TV quill, folks, exactly. [Laughter] Because
what artist or anyone, what calligrapher would
ever write with this thing in the way the whole time? I mean, plus your pen is unbalanced. So this, as you saw in the video,
is what a real quill looks like. But as Donald always says,
“This isn’t sexy enough for TV, so you always see this.” Pass this around. But also you have to realize
that you really cannot write with a feather, because as you
heard, this is the same substance as what; your fingernails. It has no strength or durability. This is not going to last, especially if you cut
it into a quill. So you have to do something to this
to make it worthy of being this. So here’s what you do. You take this quill and you clip
off the end, clean off the viscous on the inside, you soak it
in water for about 24 hours. Take it out, dry it off, and
then you bake this in hot sand for about two minutes at
350 degrees, roll it around, take it out, and when
the bottom is clear, it will have been [knocking
sounds] clarified, and that quill will
last for centuries. Donald’s favorite quill pen
that he used was 135 years old. And he would simply re-nib it
every once in a while and do it. And so once you have this
beautifully cured, clarified, you cut into your pen, and you have
the most perfect tool for writing. [ Silence ] So now you know the secret. If you want fingernails that
never break, you need to bake them for two minutes [inaudible]. [Laughter] You get history
and beauty tips today. You didn’t get that as well. But think about that. And Donald said, “On
average I bet we used about 40 quills in
the entire project.” Because they’re so durable,
as you go all the way through. Quite beautiful, and very elegant. And I love this next slide,
because if you look at it, it shows you what an artist can do with an old tricky feather
and some candle smoke. I mean, think about that. When you see the pages —
and if you ever get a chance to see the real pages,
remember that, tricky feather and a candle smoke. It’s pretty incredible. But this page also — this side also
shows you the next major decision we had to make for longevity. And if you look at the bottom, if
you look right here, the support. That’s what you call the
surface in calligraphy or in any artwork basically. If we’re going for a 2,000-year
history obviously can’t be writing on paper. [Paper Sounds] [Inaudible]. That would be real
great in a microphone. [Paper Sounds] We have this
beautiful, very durable surface. I could do this — about a million
people have taken this in museums and gone like this to
this poor little thing. You know what it is? [ Inaudible Comment ] Yes, it’s velum [phonetic],
but that’s not what I asked. I said, “You know what
it is; what’s velum?” [ Inaudible Comments ] I heard someone say “sheepskin”. [Inaudible] — and there’s a
whole — and I’m sure [inaudible]. Well, there are all kinds
of different things, people. But if you think about it, the word
“veal” comes from the Latin word “velum”, and this is real velum,
and so this happens to be calf skin. And before everyone gets mad
at me, we did not kill a bunch of baby cows for the Bible. We do not have a herd hidden behind
the ivy church branded “Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
Numbers” and so on. [Laughter] This came from veal
production in the United Kingdom. And as you look at this — and the
manufacturer’s name was “Colia, Colia Pegnel” [phonetic],
which is a great name. And they make parchment, and velum,
and so on for the houses, Parliament and so on, and different
documentation. But what the benefit of
this beautiful surface is, is that it’s incredibly durable. But most importantly, it’s
going to last a long time. But it’s got a special
benefit for us humans. [ Silence ] Ah, think about that. You’ll find our later, if you
haven’t thought about it yet. It’s because we’re human
we love this stuff. Think about that. Now, as you’re feeling — as you’re
petting the cow as it comes around, all right, did you notice
that one side feels fuzzy, and one side feels smooth? Well, that’s the inside
and outside of the cow. And my question for you as
a scribe, “On which side of the skin are you going to
write for the pages of the book?” [ Silence ] [ Inaudible Comments ]>>Both.>>Tim Ternes: Oh,
someone’s thinking; yes, both. You turn the pages of
a book, don’t you, yes. So you’re going to write
on both sides of the skin. So forgive my paper skin
here, but this is one — this is about the size
of a skin on the calf. And we fold it in half. And from one skin we get four
pages in the Saint John’s Bible, which also gives us
the size of our book. But there’s a reason
we have a big book. And it’s a theological reason. Because we could have saved
a lot of cows if we folded that in half again, and
half again, and half again. We could have gotten 32 pages
from one poor little cow. But why didn’t we? [ Silence ] [ Whispering ] Why didn’t we? [ Inaudible Comments ] The size of the script
would be very small. But you know what,
go up in archives. You’ll see tiny, tiny print
that’s really quite amazing. And actually we have some pages
that are written pretty tiny. Why wouldn’t we do a book like this? [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Pardon? [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Tim Ternes: Yes; but there’s
— it’s — play with that.>>It won’t last.>>Tim Ternes: Well, if
it’s the same materials. But think about it,
what does this say? It actually says the same
thing that this says. [ Silence ] Who is this for? [ Inaudible Comment ] This is — in fact I even
use this like this, don’t I? [Laughter] Think about that. Think about what this
says, and who is this for? Who’s this for? [ Inaudible Comment ] This is mine. And one of the major reasons we
did the Saint John’s Bible is to remind us that, you know,
even this says, “This is mine.” But what does this say? [Laughter] This says, “You
can’t even lift me by yourself.” I mean, think about that. What does this say;
this says it is –>>Ours.>>Tim Ternes: Ours;
it’s collectively ours. And one of the main
theological elements of the Saint John’s Bible is that
we did this project to remind people that the Bible is communal. And what says more communal
than something very large? And as you said, sir, magnificent. In fact, because it’s communal,
and because it’s so big, it cannot even possibly
be one volume. The Saint John’s Bible
takes seven books this size to make the entire
Old and New Testament. And so imagine what it says on
the first time the Bible is bound and carried into the Abby Church, well it takes 14 people
to carry the Bible. [Laughter] Wow. Does that ever make a
statement about the importance of what we think about this? And also, the importance of
it as a communal work of art. And in fact that’s the
primary reason we did this; is yes to ignite the imagination,
yes to celebrate the millennium. But to remind us as a people that this is a communal work
that’s best experienced shared. We could spend truly the rest of the
afternoon talking about the minutia that went into the layout of the
pages, the design of everything. Because the detail that went into making the original
is almost overwhelming. There’s one last thing
we should talk about before going into the book. And that was the most difficult
decision in the entire project. And do you know what that is?>>Writing it.>>Tim Ternes: Pardon?>>Writing it?>>Tim Ternes: You’re close. We always knew it was
going to be English.>>Translating?>>Tim Ternes: Which translation
do we use; because no matter which translation we choose, it will
be the wrong one, simple as that. We know what that’s like. Well, we had a lot of thought into
this, and we wanted a translation that was literal, that was
scholarly, that was inclusive, that was approved for use by
the Catholic Church and so on. We are Roman Catholic. But we wanted it to be a
translation that was used by as many others as possible. And so with that in
mind, we chose to go with the New Revised
Standard Version, or the NRSV. And that has become the
most perfect choice for us. It is literal. It is scholarly. It’s inclusive. But many of you may or may not know
that the NRSV happens to be one of the only translations
of the Bible in English that is officially approved for use by almost every major
Christian church worldwide. And many non-Christian
traditions when and if they ever need a translation,
will often go to the NRSV. Now, it’s very seldom
that other traditions do, but they will often use that one. And so it has become the
most perfect choice for us. Now, it is the entire
Old and New Testament, all 73 Books of the Bible. Even a few that some of you
might have left out at one time. Just keep that in mind. It includes the apocryphal
books as well. In the Catholic tradition
we include the apocryphal, or the [inaudible] Books
as well in the canon. Other than that, it’s like every
other NRSV you’ve ever read, or ever seen. Ours is just a lot
prettier, all the way through. Now, along with these
beautifully handwritten pages, and this whole idea
of a communal work, we wanted to bring the Saint John’s
Bible into a new translation, but not a word translation,
a visual translation. And so what we did
is we incorporated over 160 artworks designed to bring
the Scriptures into the modern world through the way that many people in the modern world experience
almost everything nowadays, visually. So for the remainder of our
time, we’re going to look at a few of the artworks. Actually, we’re going to get you
looking at a few of the artworks. And we don’t have time to read the
passages today, so I’ve chosen one that I bet almost everyone in this
room knows, even if you are — even if you’ve never read the
Bible, or the Torah, or the Koran. Even if you’re a strong believer,
or not a believer at all, if you’re a skeptic, or, you
know, a hardcore literalist, I bet you know the Creation story. Think about it. Because I bet I could stop the first
stranger on the street, and ask him or her by biblical
or torah tradition, how many days are in Creation. And almost everyone’s
going to answer seven. Even if they never read it. I could ask the next stranger on
the street and ask them by biblical or torah tradition who are
the first human beings, and almost everyone’s going
to answer, “Adam and Eve.” Because those passages,
those stories that are shared by many traditions, are as
much a part of popular culture as they are religious culture. In fact, we have court cases taking
place right now about them as well. They’re some of the most argued
about passages in the Bible. Bow, let’s keep all that in mind,
and then pretend for a few moments that you are the artist
for the Saint John’s Bible, and Saint John’s has
come to you and said, “We want you — ” we’ve
chosen Creation. Now, we know Creation has already
been shown a thousand times throughout history. There are probably
more images of Creation than there are of anything else. Try to go to any museum in the world and not see a picture
of Adam and Eve. I mean, think about that. Now, as artists Saint John’s
comes to you and says, “Guess what, we’ve chosen Creation. We want you to make a brand
new image of the Creation. We want you to make it literal
so people know it’s Creation, but we also want you to weave in
modern science and modern values. We want to make sure
that in 500 years from now people will
know it’s Creation, so make sure it’s prophetic, and
don’t make anybody mad, okay? [Laughter] And also it’s a
Bible so you’re going to deal with the concept of the Divine. And if we’re making pictures, you might as well get
this over with right away. Figure out how you’re
going to image God. I mean, think about just
that one assignment. How do you make an image of the
Divine and not make somebody mad? Well, that’s exactly what
we asked the artist to do. So what I’d like you to do now is
I’m going to show you that artwork. And I want you to sit in silence, for about 30 seconds,
and just look at it. And ask yourself, “What do I see?” Don’t talk to your
neighbor, just look at it. This is Creation. [ Background Sounds ] Now, turn to the person next
to you and just talk about it. Tell them what you see. [ Background Talking ] I love watching people
talk about this. It’s like watching a whole
bunch of choir directors. You all start going like
this, and you put — because it does draw
you in, doesn’t it? What’s the first thing
that somebody saw? [ Inaudible Response ] You know, almost everyone sees
the seven slices; why, ma’am?>>Seven days.>>Tim Ternes: Yes. We said make it literal, didn’t we? Yes. What else do you see? [ Inaudible Response ] Okay; what do you see,
ma’am, that says chaos? [ Silence ] What do you see?>>There’s nothing literal.>>Tim Ternes: Okay. Where do you see it?>>On the left.>>Tim Ternes: Ah, you’re
seeing chaos on the left. Anyone else? What do you see on the left
that makes you say “chaos”? [ Inaudible Comments ] Intrusion less?>>And I see [inaudible].>>Yes.>>Tim Ternes: Oh. [ Inaudible Comment ] Oh, interesting. So what — anybody here read Hebrew?>>Yes. [Inaudible].>>Tim Ternes: Okay, all right. Well, even if we don’t read
Hebrew, what could it say? [ Inaudible Comments ] “In the beginning”
would be very nice. It could say, “Chaos”. [ Inaudible Comment ] Could say, “[Speaks
Hebrew],” which means? [ Silence ]>>Chaos.>>Tim Ternes: Formless void,
nothingness, chaos, yes. Why is it there?>>In the beginning
that’s what there was.>>Tim Ternes: Oh, and there’s the
passages and the gospels that say, “In the beginning was the
Word, and the Word was God.” Could begin there. Could be there. What else do you see? [ Silence ]>>Well, the bird, like the
spirit, goes across more than one –>>Tim Ternes: Oh.>>Of the panels.>>Tim Ternes: Okay. She said, “The bird,
like the spirit, goes across more than
one of the panels.”>>Hovering over God.>>Tim Ternes: Oh.>>Hovered over Creation.>>Tim Ternes: Well,
what kind of bird is it? All right; I’m going to
be mean, you said, “Dove.” Why is it dark blue?>>Is it the voice of God?>>Tim Ternes: Is it
the voice of God. [ Silence ] Why is it dark blue? I make a dove white. I don’t know about you,
but maybe I’m too literal.>>So you can see it. [Inaudible] –>>Tim Ternes: You know, sometimes
they just did it to make it artistic so you could see the stupid
thing, simple as that, exactly. [Laughter] [ Background Talking ] What else could it be?>>It’s a raven.>>Tim Ternes: You know,
it could be a raven. In many cultures the raven’s a
sacred bird, and a sacred messenger.>>Could be a shadow.>>Tim Ternes: It could be a
shadow, which means it’s where?>>Above.>>Tim Ternes: That
whole idea of hovering, watching over us, hovering. That’s a possibility too. Beautiful. What else do you see? [ Inaudible Comments ] You both talked about
squares at the same time. Look at those squares and
talk to the person next to you about everything those squares
do, building on what he just said. [ Background Talking ] Because they do something else too. [ Background Talking ] Ah, you often don’t —
exactly you don’t — ah, they’re everywhere aren’t they? What do the squares do? [ Inaudible Comments ] Oh, someone said they assemble.>>They make a triangle.>>Tim Ternes: Someone said,
“They make a triangle.” Do you see it?>>The right side.>>Oh, yes.>>Tim Ternes: Seven, seven, seven.>>Oh, okay.>>Tim Ternes: And a
triangle is often used — [ Inaudible Comments ] Trinitarian, exactly, and
may depend on your cultures. What else? [ Inaudible Comment ] They also — yes they
create straight lines. They impose order. Do you know what they also count,
they go from one, to two, to three. And over here someone
said they hinge. Why are the skull squares there?>>Oh, it looks like
they hold [inaudible].>>Tim Ternes: They do hold
it together, don’t they? Why are the gold squares there? What do they represent? [ Silence ] Think of everything you just said.>>Order?>>Tim Ternes: Order; the
story’s about imposing order. Who imposed order?>>The Unity?>>Tim Ternes: Unity, order.>>Strength.>>Tim Ternes: Strength; beautiful. Anything else you see
that catches your eye? Go ahead. Beck?>>[Inaudible] I believe
it looks like land and it looks like a satellite image.>>Tim Ternes: Yes,
very much so; yes. Now, would you like me to tell
you a few things about this page?>>Sure.>>Tim Ternes: No, seriously;
would you like me to tell you?>>Yes.>>Yes.>>Yes, of course.>>Tim Ternes: Because
— [clears throat]>>Yes, tell us.>>Tim Ternes: Be careful
with that answer. [Laughter] And here — if you remember, nothing
else about this talk today, remember this next statement. The Saint John’s Bible
is not a picture book. These are not meant to be didactic
illustrations of the stories. They’re not meant to say,
“Here’s what it means.” So we are very careful. We never tell you what it means,
unless we ask you if you want to. Because what’s more important is the
fact that each of these engages you to talk to others to find meaning. And if you’re talking to
others to find meaning, that’s a definition of — [ Silence ] [ Sound ] Community; the reason we did this. These artworks are designed
to be invitations in; to be visual spiritual meditations. And we hope that maybe some
people will read the words that are there too. We hope that they enter you in. But if you don’t, no big deal. Because what you were talking
about was the passage anyway, and different entry points. But we’re human, we’re nosy. We want to know what
the artist was thinking, so I’ll tell you a few things. Most people notice it begins in
chaos and disorder; darkness. Many people talk about The Big Bang. We said, “Weave in modern
science, modern values.” But the Hebrew does read,
“[Speaks Hebrew],” so, “Formless void, nothingness.” These irregular shapes,
anybody recognize those? [ Silence ] Those are mathematical fractals. Scientists use fractals
and chaos theory. You can use fractal geometry to mathematically calculate how
a tree branch is going to grow. So even amidst the chaos there’s
an underlying sense of order. The second slice moves
into the creation of the heavens and the seas. The third slice is correct,
ma’am, it’s a satellite of the Ganges River Delta; because
we have the formation of land and sea — or separation
of land and water. Then we move into the third one —
the fourth one, the sun ruled by day and the moon ruled by night,
and all the stars in-between. And did you notice
the planetary orbits? Had Donald Jackson put those into a Bible a hundred years ago the
church would have locked him away in prison, simple as that. We understand that we revolve around
the earth — the sun right now. Then you move into creation of
birds, and fish, and other animals, and you’ve got that beautiful
dark bird hovering over. I thought your description
was elegant. Then the creation of human beings. And if you look very carefully, many of those human beings
you may have seen before. They are very primitive. They come from famous
cave paintings. But one of them is very
important, and that is this woman. It’s a huntress. It comes from a cave
painting in Nigeria. It’s one of the oldest images of
a female we have on the planet. And she graces the page
of the Saint John’s Bible because in the modern world
we understand the equality of men and women. Centuries ago many of you in this
room wouldn’t have been imaged that often in a sacred
work like this. And then did you see the bottom? No one mentioned him. The little troublemaker down there. Do you see that little
stinker sitting there? Yes; that little snake
saying, “Look what’s coming around the corner, folks.” And then it gives way to this day
of order, structure, and rest. But none of you talked
about the biggest discussion of all, where’s God? [ Silence ] Remember, we said, “Figure
out how to image God.” [ Silence ] That — you’re right,
ma’am, that is tough.>>[Inaudible] the details.>>Tim Ternes: Oh, very good. [Laughter] That’s a very
political answer on Capital Hill. [Clears Throat] [Laughter]
Yes; but you’re right. Well, we decided early on that
we would never make an image of the Divine. Who are we to say what
God looks like? But we would show you the Divine. What is the only thing you see
present in every single day? [ Silence ] [ Inaudible Comment ] What did you say?>>Gold.>>Tim Ternes: The gold squares. And what did you say they do;
they built, they provided order, they provided structure, they
connected things together. They form a triangle. We decided early on in the
manuscript tradition of illumination to use the play of light
on the precious metals as you turn the page to
represent the Divine. So whenever you see gold, it’s
the representation of God. And in the original we have
many times polished it, so much so what else will you see? [ Inaudible Response ]>>Yourself.>>Tim Ternes: Yourself. And what does Scripture say, “We’re
all made in the Divine image.” And so it’s our way of — anyone who
looks at the book will see the image of God he or she should see,
that reflected in each of us. That’s just the first page, folks. I mean, think about that. [Laughter] I mean, it could —
every page goes on that way. And, you know, did you notice
what else the gold squares do? They give you a hint
of the theology. Because, look, this connects here,
this connects here, and so on. But, look, these connect — [ Silence ] [ Inaudible Comment ] It’s not done yet,
all the way through. Donald Jackson did that
entire work of art on his own, with the exception of the snake. He hired natural history artist,
Chris Tomlin to paint the snake, and he said, “Make it beautiful because many people
find evil attractive.” [Laughter] You turn the page,
and you enter the Garden of Eden. Here it is on the page. Let’s enlarge it. What do you see on the background? [ Inaudible Comment ] Do you see? The entire Creation story is
recreated again from the [inaudible] down to the tiny gold squares. And now you see everything
altogether there. The woman is back,
but so is that snake. And it’s getting larger and
causing all kinds of problems. And then you turn the page and
you finally meet Adam and Eve. Think of every Adam and Eve
you’ve ever seen in the world. You probably haven’t
seen many like ours. Here they are in the page. Let me zoom in. [ Silence ] We have this beautiful couple. Are they black, are they white,
are they African, are they Asian? We don’t know. And I’m sorry, but much to every
Minnesotan’s dismay they probably were not blond-haired, blue-eyed. But what do we have here?>>The snake.>>Tim Ternes: The
snake is also back. And look how it’s changed. The snake has now become
part of them. It’s in the jewelry. It’s in the necklace. It’s in their eyebrows. Do you notice that? It even creates a dividing
between the two of them. But more importantly,
what else has changed? [ Silence ] Looking at their expressions?>>Tim Ternes: Yes; the
expressions are very changed. But something you’ve seen
all the way through is now –>>The gold.>>Tim Ternes: Ah, the gold
is dramatically changed. Do you see in the Garden of Eden — [ Silence ] It’s all surrounding them. And now if you look at
Adam and Eve, it’s broken. It’s dull. It’s hard and present. There are new colors [inaudible]. Every one of the artworks in the
Saint John’s Bible compels you to tell a story, and invites you in. And we’re often asked,
“Who came up with the idea? How do they begin?” Well, enter in the committee. There we are, yes. This is the Committee on
Illumination and Text, the CIT. And this group of theologians,
artists, and scholars chose the passages, and then they visually
brainstormed them, typed up notes for the artists, and
gave them suggestions. Can you imagine giving
an artist a suggestion on how to do his or her work? [Laughter] Mmm. They would email that over to
the artist, because remember, Saint John’s is in Minnesota, the
artists are in Monolith, Wales. They would get those, begin
their own scripture study, begin playing with the notes, and
then they would start sketching. Here is the sketch for Creation. Sometimes they would
make it in collage form so they could move things around. Then they would sometimes
just do it in sketches. Here are sketches and
— for Adam and Eve. [Clears Throat] They would do
these sketches, make a mockup, and then take pictures of it and
email the pictures to Saint John’s. The committee at Saint
John’s would look at them, and type up feedback for the artist. They’d email the artist
the feedback, the artist would roll his eyes. [Laughter] [Clears Throat]
And type up feedback on our feedback, and
email it back to us. We roll our eyes, and
type up feedback on his feedback, and mail it back. And we’d go back and forth like
that for anywhere between four to eight months for
every single image. Once both sides of the ocean
said, “These are theologically and artistically sound,”
not right, but sound, then they would do
them on the velum. And that’s how they actually
look side by side in the Bible. Absolutely beautiful. Take that process times
160 artworks, and you can see why this
took 15 years to create. Pretty amazing. Now, along with the beautiful
pages of elegant artworks, most of the work of the Saint
John’s Bible is 1130 some pages of elegant text. And here is this page, and
the first thing you’ll notice, and your first thing you’ll learn
when you look at a page like this, is that you never call this a font. [Laughter] This is a script;
or as Mark said, “A hand.” Because a computer does a font, or a machine does a font,
or it’s a created thing. This is a hand, a beautifully
written hand. There are six calligraphers
in the Saint John’s Bible, each of them working to
make sure their hands looked as much alike as possible. But you can tell the difference. Look at their tails. Look at their pressure. And the humanity of a hand comes out
very easily, and very beautifully. You’ll also see that throughout
the Saint John’s Bible, the very beginning we use flora
and fauna from Africa, Mesopotamia, the Middle East, because of course
that’s what most likely it probably started there. But as you turn the pages
in the Saint John’s Bible, for most of the rest
of the book, the plants and animals come from
Central Minnesota. [Laughter] And we change all
the “amens” to “Yes, sure, you bet you” for the
whole Bible as well so. [Laughter] We didn’t change
a word, trust me, trust me. But we do weave those things
just as they would centuries ago into the pages of the bible so it geographically
grounds it in our work. Now, a page of script like
this takes one calligrapher between seven to 13 hours to write. Think about that. [ Silence ] And then we also get
the common question — [ Silence ] “What happens if you
make a mistake?” You are human. And remember I said you’re very
happy you’re working on a cow. [Paper Sound] Because
cows are very forgiving. If you make a mistake in
the Saint John’s Bible, you go right back to your process. Take your knife, scrape it away,
take sandpaper and sand it off, and you will never
know it was there. Isn’t that amazing? That’s one of the very big
benefits of using the velum. However, let’s say you make a
mistake in the same place again. Or let’s pretend that you
left out an entire line, and you don’t catch it until later. And, remember, if I
make a mistake here, I’ve made a mistake on four pages. So you don’t throw it away. So sometimes you make a mistake
that’s too big to cover up, and if you do, you turn
it into something nice. Here is the very first mistake
in the Saint John’s Bible. Here’s our sower and the seed. And this page was done backwards, because almost always the
calligraphy was done first, and then the artist
did his or her work. But Sally was ready — wasn’t ready
to write, and the artist was ready so they did the artwork first,
and then Sally wrote around it. And when she got to the
bottom of this column, she discovered something
pretty terrible. This column ended up one
line longer than this column. She had left out an entire line. And they would have had to have
scraped a fourth of the page off, and they couldn’t do this. And Sally said, “I was pretty
sure I was about to lose my job.” And Donald said, “Don’t worry, we’re going to fix it the same
way they did centuries ago.” So look at the page. As you read down the column — [ Silence ] You come to a tiny red
triangle right there. That red triangle points
back to the bird. The birds feet are holding the
rope, the rope travels down, and it’s wrapped around the
line which is missing saying, “Oops, it belongs up there.” So you read it, and the
crowd came together again, so that they [whistles]
could not even eat. When it’s finally heard, they
went out to restrain him. Isn’t that wonderful? That is a legitimate way of
fixing a mistake in a manuscript. And they’ve done it
that way for centuries. Here’s a book of ours from the
Walters Art Museum Collection that’s several centuries old. And look at that little monk. He’s saying, “Oops, this
line belongs up there.” Isn’t that wonderful? I love that one. This is how they’ve
done it for centuries. Because you can’t just
toss these away. Out of 1130 pages, we
have nine corrections. Isn’t that amazing? How many mistakes on
the last email you sent? I mean, think about that. [Laughter] Yes. One of my favorites is this one. Look at the bumblebee at the bottom. [Laughter] He’s attached to a pulley
system pulling it up into place. And this is a fantastic one too. [Laughter] There’s a little lemur,
which does not come from Minnesota, but he’s doing his job as well.>>There’s a theological
art effect too.>>Tim Ternes: Yes.>>There is a wideness
in that [overlapping] –>>Tim Ternes: Very much so. In fact — [ Inaudible Comment ] Yes; one of the biggest
discussions was, “Should we make them
redo these pages?” And it was one of our
oldest monks that said, “No. We have the Word of God. Let’s take every chance
to admit we’re human.” And so they have. Sally Mae Joseph was the artist
that made the very first mistake in the Saint John’s
Bible that was there. And she said, “I felt just awful. Here I am doing this.” Until Donald Jackson
made the second mistake. And she said, “That was the day I
got [inaudible] there was a god,” she said. [Laughter] As you go
all the way through. We could spend hours talking
about the pages of the Bible. We could spend hours taking
a look at how, you know, ancient stories are brought to
life weaving in beautiful context where you have the Christ family
tree, acknowledging the fact that we share common
roots, beginning with Jesus, all the way back to Abraham, with
Sarah, and also Hagar listed. [ Silence ] The Saint John’s Bible
welcomes those traditions. Do you notice the structure of the
family tree is written on a menorah. And that menorah is lit
with Islamic Arabesques. Behind it a swirling mandala. Beneath it — or connecting all — everything over here
together to a Christian cross. Acknowledging the fact that
we all share a common root, back to Abraham. The Saint John’s Bible
weaves in modern science. Look at the background
of this artwork, and you will see very clearly
that in the modern world yes, we understand our genealogy
as a family tree, but we also understand
it through our DNA. The entire background
of the Saint John’s — of this artwork is over a
pattern of beautiful DNA. And the DNA is absolutely
everywhere. The Saint John’s Bible is
an amazing work of art. And you’ve heard the story of this. But one thing that’s really unique
about the Saint John’s Bible is that for one of the first
times in the manuscript world, a commission like this is done. It was finished on May 9th, 2011. We wrote the last words. It took 23 individual
artists 15 years to create. At the same time the original
was being made, Saint John said, “We have to find a way to
share it beyond our doors.” And so we created the finest fine
art edition we can possibly imagine of a lithograph copy on paper
that recreates the look, the feel, the texture — oh I guess
the quality of longevity of the inks and the materials. It recreates a texture of the gold. Even the fiber of the
paper is designed to mimic the way the velum turns. And these 299 copies, the
final editions are known as “The Heritage Edition.” And the Library of Congress and the
American people have been given one of those fine art editions,
called “The Apostles Edition”. And it was delivered. I had the privilege of delivering —
and I skipped a couple things here. I had the privilege of delivering
this volume when it was brought to the Library of Congress in — a few months ago when
Pope Francis was here. And it was delivered and
given to the American people. Today you have two of those
volumes which have been delivered. Over the next few — several
months, all seven will be delivered. I will create a permanent home here
at the Library of Congress as well.>>You’ll be delivering this?>>Tim Ternes: I will be
delivering each volume. [ Inaudible Comment ] That’s up to Mark. [Laughter] Trust me, because
I’ve only scratched the surface on the stories that I know. I know I have gone a bit longer
than I said I would, Mark. I’m sorry. But if there are any questions, I
will stick around and answer them, if we want to answer them now. But I want you to think about
one thing before you close today. The Saint John’s Bible is
this incredible work of art. But as I’ve said many times, it is
a complete waste of time, money, and talent if it’s never used. In a thousand years from now, I
don’t want to see a clean book. I want to see it ripped. I want to see it licked. I want to see the pages explode. Sorry, Mark. [Clears Throat] [Laughter]
I want to see it used. Because the legacy of the Saint
John’s Bible won’t be the fact that we made it. The legacy of the Saint John’s
Bible will be what we choose to do with it. So do something with it. If nothing else, just enjoy it. Thank you very much for
your time here today. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

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