Crafting the Bible: From Scriptoria to Printing Houses

New Exhibition at Dr. M. T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery, Sun Yat-sen Hall

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Monday, April 4 – Monday, May 2, 2011


Leaf from a Paris manuscript Bible (circa 1310) Part of the Otto Ege Collection of Original Leaves from Famous Bibles, Special Collections, St. John’s University Libraries

Gallery Hours:
Tuesday – Thursday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Saturday Noon – 5 p.m.
Sunday and Monday: Closed

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Original Bibles, leaves, and facsimile editions from St. John’s University Libraries’ Special Collections Department constitute one part of the current exhibition in the gallery.  The works represent more than sacred and inspirational texts – they are historical artifacts and works of art. One gains a fuller appreciation of the development of the book in the form we recognize today through an understanding of the history of the production of the Bible.

The items on view span the eighth to the twentieth century, represent various techniques and materials, are in diverse languages, and were intended for an array of audiences. They range from one-of-a-kind manuscript Bibles written and decorated in monastic scriptoria, through the first printed masterworks by Gutenberg and his contemporaries, to modern private press editions. Among the highlights of the exhibited works from the University’s own collection are: a Bible printed in 1492 just prior to Columbus’ discovery of America; a manuscript Ethiopian Psalter in ancient Ge’ez script with its leather carrying satchel; the so-called “Gun-wad Bible” printed in 1776 in Germantown, Pennsylvania, few of which survived the Revolutionary War; a Bible for the Blind (1850) with raised Roman letters given to “indigent blind individuals” by the Bible House in New York City; and Barry Moser’s exquisitely hand-crafted Pennyroyal Caxton Bible published in 1999.

Additionally, a collection of individual leaves from famous Bibles (1121-1935 A.D.) is on display. The leaves were compiled and described by the late Otto F. Ege (1888-1951), Dean of the Cleveland Institute of Art, from incomplete and damaged Bibles he had amassed during his lifetime.

Special Collections holds numerous distinctive items available for study by students, faculty and other researchers. They were acquired over the course of the University’s rich history through purchase and as gifts from generous donors. More information about Special Collections can be found at http://www.stjohns.edu/academics/libraries/resources/collections/spec_coll.

Also on display in the gallery are reproductions of the Saint John’s Bible.  The original seven-volume illuminated manuscript took a team of artists and scribes over a decade to complete.  It was commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and Saint John’s University of Minnesota.  For more details about the Bible and the project visit http://www.saintjohnsbible.org/.

Blythe E. Roveland-Brenton, Ph.D.
Co-curator of Crafting the Bible: From Scriptoria to Printing Houses
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