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Hand-written Bible collection on display at BYU

PROVO, Utah (ABC 4 News) - A new work of art is now on display at Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library.
PROVO, Utah (ABC 4 News) - A new work of art is now on display at Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library.

The seven-volume St. John’s Bible is written all by hand. It's just one of the many bibles, some centuries old, currently on display.

“This is a 4,000 year-old tablet and it's beer receipt so we feel BYU it’s destine to be,” said Russ Taylor, of Harold B. Lee Library shows ABC 4 Utah.

From tablets dating back thousands years to a bible hand-written this decade, the written word of Christianity throughout the ages is on display at BYU.

“This one is a 13th century Bible all written on animal skin, written by hand, and we're looking at the Bible in Latin,” Maggie Kopp of Harold B. Lee Library said and she flips through the book.

The early hand-written bibles could take a year or more to make. Only 21 
Gutenberg complete written bibles are known to still exist and are worth up to $30 million.

Some collectors are willing to dish out up to $100,000 dollars for a single page. To make one back then cost a pretty penny too.

“This Bible is actually one of my favorites from this collection it was hand written in France around 1468,” said Kopp. “This is just the Old Testament but you can tell how much money the owner of this book who commissioned it would have lavished on the text.”

Of course Gutenberg’s printing press in 1450 changed everything.

“At the time Gutenberg printed this bible there were 30,000 books total in Europe,” said Taylor. “50 years later it's estimated there were 10-12 million books so you can see the impact of the printing press.”

The library's collection also features missionary bibles printed in Native American languages, including one in Cherokee as well as a King James bible made more than 400 years ago.

But along with the old, comes an epic new work of art. The St. John's Bible is the creation of artists at St. John's University in Minnesota.

“They were approached by Donald Jackson, the Queen’s calligrapher with an idea of creating a bible by hand just like it was done in the middle ages,” said Taylor.

And when hand-writing a seven-volume Bible-- it's almost a guarantee mistakes will be made.

“They found where the line was supposed to go in so they did an insert here with a bird here hauling a the missing line where the line should be in the text,” said Taylor.

It took nearly 13 years to complete-- surely giving the artists plenty of hand cramps and time to reflect on the lengths at one time taken to spread the word of God.

If you'd like to check out the St. John's Bible, but can't make it to BYU, you're in luck. Donors paid $144,000 so other churches and groups across Utah can display it.

For more information the collection, click here.

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