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Summer Reading: Eight Books for Fans of The Saint John’s Bible to Read This Summer

Sun’s out, books out! The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program is sharing the ultimate summer reading list. Explore this list filled with books that analyze the art, creation, hermeneutics, and social ethics of The Saint John’s Bible, as well as other great creative, anthropological, and theological questions of our time.

Posted June 19, 2024 in Libraries & Museums
The Story of Writing cover by Donald Jackson

As the days grow warmer, it’s once again time for books to come off the shelves. After all, there’s nothing better than laying a blanket on a plush plot of grass and venturing into the world of the mind’s eye. The summer season offers the perfect backdrop for letting the spiritual imagination run free – whether you’re lying in blooming nature, passing time during a long flight, or lazing in the cool recluse of your home.  

Luckily for enthusiasts of The Saint John’s Bible, there are a number of books at the ready to awaken your creative power from its winter slumber.  

Are you curious about the art of calligraphy?  

About how The Saint John’s Bible was  created?  

Do you wonder about the artistic and thematic decisions that inspired each illumination?  

What about the imagery and the contemporary choices illustrated within the pages of The Saint John’s Bible

Perhaps your experience with the artwork of The Saint John’s Bible ignited other questions for you, such as: How has the craft of writing evolved over the course of human history? How do I gain the wisdom and tenacity to live a good life? What wisdom can I glean from supernatural imagery in the Bible?  

All of these questions and more can be answered with the Heritage Program’s specially curated summer reading list, designed for those keen on exploring any remarkable blend of scripture, art or theological inquisition.  

If eight books isn’t enough to last you the season, just visit for more great literary options. Most of the below recommended books can be found here. The Liturgical Press is the internationally-known publishing house of Saint John’s Abbey. It is a Catholic and ecumenical publisher in prayer and spirituality, Scripture, liturgy, theology, and monastic life.  

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your sunglasses and a nice cold drink (basil lemonade, anyone?) and prepare to traverse the perspectives of theological experts through the pages of these books below: 

Illuminating the Word: The Making of The Saint John’s Bible  by Christopher Calderhead 

Photo courtesy of the Liturgical Press.
Photo courtesy of the Liturgical Press.

In this completely updated and expanded edition of Illuminating the Word, explore the creation of The Saint John’s Bible with an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at its artistic and production processes. Readers experience a tour of the creation of the seven volumes with a chapter devoted to each volume’s individual challenges, activities, and struggles at Donald Jackson’s Scriptorium in Wales. Author Christopher Calderhead skillfully traces the progression of The Saint John’s Bible through the eyes of every artist and calligrapher who participated in the project, highlighting the Bible’s stunning illuminations as they move from conception to completion. This edition also includes chapters on the scripts used in The Saint John’s Bible and on the production of the Heritage Edition that allows audiences all over the world to experience The Saint John’s Bible. 

Christopher Calderhead is a visual artist and graphic designer with letter-based works exhibited in the United States and Great Britain. He earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from Princeton and later a Master of Divinity from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in 1998. Ordained that same year, he has ministered in both the Church of England and the Episcopal Church USA. He is editor of Alphabet, a lettering arts journal, and is the author of One Hundred Miracles, a book featuring miracle paintings by renowned masters. 

The Story of Writing  by Donald Jackson 

The Story of Writing cover by Donald Jackson

Everything has a beginning, even writing, a human craft that is sometimes regarded as natural to our existence as breathing. Written by the artistic director of The Saint John’s Bible, Donald Jackson, The Story of Writing takes readers all the way back to early humanhood to rediscover how the craft of writing began. Jackson follows the evolution of writing from its earliest forms to the modern day, tracing its history with the striking rigor, wisdom, and heart characteristic of the foremost calligrapher of our time.  

Donald Jackson is the former Senior Scribe and Illuminator at the Crown Office in the House of Lords. In 1985, he received the Medal of The Royal Victorian Order (MVO). He is also an elected Fellow and past Chairman of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators. In 1997, he was named Master of the 600-year-old Guild of Scriveners of the city of London.    

Wisdom: The Good Life  by Irene Nowell, OSB; Foreword by John Klassen, OSB 

As the earth emits new warmth and growth for the summer season, many of us feel invited to leave the comfort of what we know and put new desires into action. If that sounds like you, this work by Irene Norwell, OSB,  a member of The Saint John’s Bible Committee on Illumination and Text (CIT), is perfect to inspire you to turn your swirling thoughts to enterprise. Wisdom: The Good Life, is written around the central question: How do we live well? Readers will not only be inspired by Nowell’s approach to biblical wisdom, but they will be moved to action via Nowell’s highly moving meditation and reflection exercises. The work features a foreword written by former Abbot of Saint John’s University, John Klassen, OSB. 

Irene Nowell, OSB, is the author of Numbers (of the New Collegeville Bible Commentary); Sing a New Song: The Psalms in the Sunday Lectionary; Women in the Old Testament; and Pleading, Cursing, Praising; all published by Liturgical Press. She is also a member of the editorial board of Give Us This Day (Liturgical Press). In addition to her literary pursuits, Nowell is the past president of the Catholic Biblical Association a Benedictine of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas.  

The Art of The Saint John’s Bible: The Complete Reader’s Guide  by Susan Sink 

Photo courtesy of the Liturgical Press.

For more than a decade, The Saint John’s Bible has toured major exhibitions around the world, captivating audiences with its contemporary and vibrant illuminations. As a work of masterful art and scripture in equal proportion, many wonder why certain passages were illuminated, or what the materials and source imagery are behind the illuminations. The Art of The Saint John’s Bible offers comprehensive answers to these questions and more, shedding light on the artistic and thematic choices behind each illumination.  

The author, Susan Sink, is a poet and writer living in St. Joseph, Minnesota. She is the author of a book of poems, The Way of All the Earth, and Habits, a collection of one-hundred-word stories. Currently, she is an oblate of Saint John’s Abbey. 

Angels and Demons: A Christian Primer of the SpiritualWorld  by Michael F. Patella, OSB, SSD 

Have you ever yearned for a deeper understanding of how the supernatural world is presented in the Bible? Have you ever wondered how much of the supernatural imagery we see explored in art and media stays true to (or strays from) Christian tradition? Even if you haven’t yet been struck by these questions, this book is guaranteed to ignite your interest in these topics and more. In the words of the Liturgical Press, Michael F. Patella, OSB, SSD, professor of New Testament and seminary rector at Saint John’s University, explores these questions, “with a valuable combination of pastoral wisdom and academic rigor,” making for an entirely engaging and imaginative read.   

Michael Patella, OSB, SSD, served as chair of the Committee on Illumination and Text for The Saint John’s Bible and is a member of the Catholic Biblical Association. He has also authored The Death of Jesus: the Diabolical Force and the Ministering Angel (Paris: Gabalda, 1999), The Gospel according to Luke of the New Collegeville Bible Commentary Series (Liturgical Press, 2005), and The Lord of the Cosmos: Mithras, Paul, and the Gospel of Mark (T&T Clark, 2006).  

Word and Image: The Hermeneutics of The Saint John’s Bible  by Michael Patella 

In Word and Image, Michael Patella explores the principles, objectives, and goals of The Saint John’s Bible, focusing not on the craft but on how one can read, view, and interpret the Bible in a way that explores biblical inspiration and Christian tradition in a postmodern context. Academics, pastors, teachers, and laypersons alike will enjoy how Patella considers The Saint John’s Bible in the context of the great Christian tradition of illuminated Bibles across the ages. 

Planting Letters and Weaving Lines: Calligraphy, The Song of Songs, and The Saint John’s Bible  by Joanna Homrighausen 

If you are a lover of calligraphy, art, and sacred text, then this book is for you. Planting Letters and Weaving Lines highlights the artistic power of calligraphy and how its visual form, textual content, and creative process is skillfully demonstrated in The Saint John’s Bible. Author Joanna Homrighausen proposes five lenses for this artform: gardens, weaving, pilgrimage, touching, and enfleshing words. Through each lens, readers are guided to better understand the ways of the scribe’s craft and the many sources of inspiration for the illuminations, such as the poetry of the Song of Songs and medieval works. 

Joanna Homrighausen, a biblical scholar and doctoral candidate in Hebrew Bible at Duke University, teaches in Judaic Studies at the College of William & Mary. Her research explores the intersection of Hebrew Bible, calligraphic art, and scribal craft. She is the author of Illuminating Justice: The Ethical Imagination of The Saint John’s Bible (Liturgical Press, 2018) and Articles in Religion and the Arts, Image, Teaching Theology and Religion, Transpositions, and Visual Commentary on Scripture. 

Illuminating Justice: The Ethical Imagination of The Saint John’s Bible  by Joanna Homrighausen, Foreword by Michael F. Patella, OSB 

Illuminating Justice examines the integration of social ethics within The Saint John’s Bible. Through detailed analysis of contemporary biblical exegesis and Catholic doctrine, Homrighausen illustrates how the Bible’s illuminations engage readers in ethical contemplation on matters of justice for women, environmental care, and interfaith dialogue between members of the Jewish and Christian faiths. Written for scholars, pastors, teachers, and any fan of The Saint John’s Bible, this book shows how beauty and justice intertwine to reflect onto us and inspire a vision for the new millennium within the pages of this illuminated Bible. 

The Liturgical Press 

Liturgical Press is internationally known as a Catholic and ecumenical publisher in prayer and spirituality, Scripture, liturgy, theology, and monastic life. Founded in 1926, they are the publishing house of Saint John’s Abbey Benedictine community in Collegeville, Minnesota.  

To check any (or all!) of these books off your summer reading list, visit the Liturgical Press and explore the archive. 

 The Saint John’s Bible: A Fusion of History, Word, Scripture, and Art 

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