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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 April, 2003, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
First handmade bible for 500 years
Illuminated Jesus
The bible is filled with illuminated images
A team of artists from Monmouthshire is working on producing the first handwritten and illuminated bible to be commissioned for centuries.

The artists are undertaking the seven-year-long task for the Benedictine monks of St John's Abbey in Minnesota, USA.

It is costing the monks 4m to get the bibles, which will be made up of 11,050 calfskin pages bound in seven volumes.

The project is led by professional calligrapher and illuminator Donald Jackson, who is half-way through completing the task.

"Calligraphy is about people's emotions. If you have something important to say, you don't just type it out, you ask someone like me," he said.

It takes one of the artists a day to produce two full columns of writing with a quill.

Illuminated page
There are over 11,000 pages to produce

They are using quills in exactly the same way they were used in medieval times.

However, they are also able to use computer technology, for example to plan the layout of the pages and judge how many words will fit on each one.

The pens are made from swan, goose or turkey feathers, which have their feathers removed and a hand-cut nib.

"It's light, it's responsive, and it can pick up emotion from inside me," said Mr Jackson.

"It picks up energy from the soles of my feet to the top of my head."

Calligraphist Donald Jackson
Donald Jackson has 40 years experience

Mr Jackson, who is originally from Lancashire, said the Welsh countryside was an influence on his work.

"The very vibrations of past generations are part of my inspiration for the bible.

"Hope will be sensed by whoever opens the bible.

"Almost to my surprise, I discovered that I am a spiritual man, and wholly accept how the spirit moves in my life," he added.

"I'm 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."

The Illuminatorand a Bible for the 21st Century will be broadcast on Easter Sunday on BBC Two Wales, at 1810 BST.

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