Illuminator and a Bible for the 21st Century
Sunday, BBC TWO Wales, 6.10pm
a former village hall, now called a scriptorium, amid the rolling
hills of Monmouthshire, sits a team of artists undertaking a six-and-a-half-year
task to handwrite and illuminate a new Bible, commissioned by the
Benedictine monks of St John's Abbey in Minnesota.
the helm of this remarkable $4m project - the first of its kind
for 500 years - is Donald Jackson, a professional calligrapher and
illuminator for 40 years.
is about expressing people's emotions," he says. "If you
have something important to say you don't just type it out, you
ask someone like me."
Illuminator and a Bible for the 21st Century (Easter Sunday, 20
April 2003, BBC TWO Wales) is the story of this huge undertaking.
Donald, it brought out feelings of fear, dread and self doubt. Devoting
seven years of one's life to something like this brings its own
are times when I'm running on empty," he admits.
keeps me going? Fear of failure is one of the main things. The principal
anxiety for me is 'am I going to be finally found out as a fake?'
Is what I'm doing going to get critical acclaim?"
film shows how Donald and his team carry out their painstaking labour
of 11,050 handwritten pages in seven bound volumes with 160 illuminations.
takes a day's work to produce two full columns of writing, done
with quills, just like it would have been in medieval times, yet
with the advantage of computer technology: polarity technology.
Bible is written on vellum or calfskin, using 250 skins, with a
thicker texture for the illustrations.
demonstrates how a pen is made from a swan, goose or turkey feather,
de-barbed and cut to create the perfect nib (with a penknife - hence
light, it's responsive, and it can pick up emotion from inside me,"
says Donald. "It picks up energy from the soles of my feet
to the top of my head."
wife, Mabel, is originally from Wales, but Donald was born in Leigh,
Lancashire. He believes that the Welsh countryside influences his
very vibrations of past generations are part of my inspiration for
the Bible," he says. "Hope will be sensed by whoever opens
a new Bible with illustrations involves creating images unlike anything
programme shows Donald at work creating a page depicting Jesus,
Moses and Elijah. It starts off as a series of brush strokes in
brown, red and green, but ends up as an exquisite painting imparting
a beautiful luminosity.
of the plates contains a reference to the Twin Towers of New York.
For Donald it's a way of saying 'You have to love your way out of
this one, you can't hate your way out of it'.
to my surprise I discovered that I am a spiritual man, and wholly
accept how the spirit moves in my life," he says.
64 years old, and there are three-and-a-half years left before this
project is finished. It gives me awareness of my own mortality -
that's a scary thing."
Illuminator: and a Bible for the 21st century is narrated by Daniel
Evans and produced by 3BM for BBC Wales.
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