In December 2015, visitors to Delaware will get a truly rare opportunity to see something few people have ever seen -- the first completely handwritten and hand-illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Abbey since the invention of the printing press.

Known as the St. John’s Bible, the oversized and lavishly illustrated book is the result of a 15-year effort by world-class calligraphers and artists who used hand-ground paints, ancient inks and quills to decorate each page – just as medieval monks did long ago.

Set to open Dec. 4 and run through March 27 at the Biggs Museum of American Art (406 Federal Street, Dover, DE), the exhibition highlights 70 pages of the Bible, accompanied by a display of tools, materials and artists’ drafts used in its creation. Visitors will also see other examples of historic illuminated books and manuscripts from private collections and Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, which commissioned the project.

The exhibition will be accompanied by several educational tours, lectures and artist workshops for all skill levels honoring the ancient traditions of book arts.

The St. John’s Bible project was born in the 1990s, when renowned scribe Donald Jackson had a vision to create a Bible that would capture the beauty and tradition of centuries of liturgy and carry it into the future. He rounded up top scribes and artists, finally completing the work in 2011.

The original edition on vellum pages was accompanied by 300 “Heritage Edition” sets of the Bible, reproduced to the same high standards, but printed on fine cotton paper instead of vellum. They are priced at $155,000 a set.

Established in 1993, the Biggs Museum houses one of the finest collections of American fine and decorative arts. Highlights of the permanent collection include the only comprehensive representational American paintings collection on the Delmarva Peninsula, with highlights by the Peale family, Albert Bierstadt, Gilbert Stuart, and Childe Hassam.  The museum also has sculptures by Hiram Powers, images by Brandywine School illustrator, Frank E. Schoonover, and fine examples of furniture by early-American cabinetmakers.

For tickets to the event, go the Biggs Museum’s Events Page.