Mount obtains rare Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition

November 29, 2016


“Psalms.” Photo courtesy of Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. 2014.


Mount Saint Mary College has acquired the full seven-volume Heritage Edition set of the Saint John’s Bible, the first handwritten and illuminated Bible produced in more than 500 years.

Using medieval inks, materials, and methods, an international team of artists and calligraphers worked for 15 years to create the seven volumes that comprise the Saint John’s Bible. Commissioned by the Benedictine monks of St. John’s Abbey, it was created using quill pens, and special inks comprised of condensed candle smoke and egg yolk. The Bible contains 160 major hand-gilded illuminations that encompass many artistic styles, often mixing modern motifs with traditional religious imagery.

SJB The Heritage Edition, a fine art reproduction that captures the original Saint John’s Bible down to the smallest details, is a limited edition of 299 copies. Mount Saint Mary College now owns two volumes – Psalms and Letters & Revelation – of copy number 133. Weighing more than 15 pounds each, the volumes stand approximately 18” tall and more than 4 feet wide when opened. They are currently on display in the Marble Hall outside the chapel in the Dominican Center.

The acquisition utilizes an endowment established years ago to fund strategic initiatives. The purchase will be paid for over three years and the college will receive the seven volumes over that period.

“We are extremely fortunate to have the Saint John’s Bible, an artistic masterpiece, as a campus resource,” said Dr. David Kennett, president of the Mount. “It can enrich academic programs across the curriculum and offer exceptional opportunities for programming in student life and with community partners.”

The Mount Saint Mary College community first fell in love with the Saint John’s Bible in the 2015-16 academic year upon borrowing and displaying two volumes of Heritage Edition. During that time, the college hosted more than 50 events and activities related to the Bible, including a dozen classroom presentations and public events on campus. Mount faculty and staff also shared the Heritage Edition volumes with the surrounding community, including Orange, Dutchess, and Westchester Counties. In total, more than 1,200 people had a chance to experience the Saint John’s Bible through these efforts.

“This important acquisition is a cause for celebration for the entire Mount community, not only today, but for generations to come,” said Dr. Kennett. “It has the potential to enhance our curriculum, our community outreach, and the visibility of Mount Saint Mary College.”

The MSMC Board of Trustees noted that the Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition speaks to the mission, objectives, and character of the Mount.

“It is a great addition to the learning and cultural experience that the college provides, not only for our students, but also for our employees, and for the greater MSMC community,” explained Charles Frank, chair of the Mount Saint Mary College Board of Directors. “The Board of Trustees is thrilled to make this wonderful resource a permanent part of our institutional heritage.”

Educators, houses of worship, and other organizations interested in hosting Saint John’s Bible related programs should contact Derek Sanderson, assistant librarian for instruction at the Mount, who will help facilitate such events. He can be contacted via email at

The Mount community thanks those involved in the purchase, including Charles Zola, chair of the Division of Philosophy and Religious Studies, associate professor of philosophy, and director of the Mount’s Catholic and Dominican Institute; Barbara Petruzzelli, director of the Kaplan Family Library and Learning Center; and Daniel Shea, English professor and chair of the college’s division of Arts and Letters.