- Associated Press - Sunday, April 13, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Scribes with quills in hand were once the conduits of history, connecting ink to vellum, painstakingly preserving the records of the world.

Then, in the 1400s, the printing press virtually put scribes out of business.

Later came the Internet and hand-held devices, relegating handwriting to the bottom shelf of an ever-increasingly paperless world.

But the art of handwriting is not completely lost. In fact, it is being showcased in a special way at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Paradise Valley this Easter season.

More than 15 years ago, the Benedictine St. John’s University in Minnesota began work on its millennium project, a seven-volume, handwritten, illuminated manuscript containing all 73 books of the Catholic Bible.

To share it with the rest of the world, creators are producing 299 museum-quality volumes, all hand-bound in Phoenix, called the Heritage Edition.

Jim Triggs, executive director of the Heritage Edition, said the seminal edition is the first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in 500 years.

One of the reproductions is finding a permanent home at Paradise Valley’s Franciscan Renewal Center, he said.

Triggs said the St. John’s Bible is the first handwritten Bible of its scale since medieval times.

The Heritage Edition consists of 1,150 pages bound into seven volumes, each 2 feet by 3 feet when open and weighing about 20 pounds. They present the books of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, through calligraphy and illumination, a technique used to embellish the work with luminous colors, especially gold and silver.

Triggs said the mission of the project is to ignite the spiritual imagination of people around the world.

The original St. John’s Bible is a work of art sprung from handmade authenticity and detail, a rarity in these modern times, Triggs said.

“This is one of those things - you can read an article about it, but when you see it live, there’s a wow factor,” he said. “Whenever I’ve done a presentation about this Bible, inevitably there is somebody who starts crying because they get so emotionally wrapped up in the art.”

The original manuscript sits in the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library on the campus of St. John’s University.

The Heritage Edition sets are currently in production, with the binding being done at Phoenix-based Roswell Bookbinding, one of few companies in the world with the specialized capabilities to complete such a project.

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