2010 Archives

Illuminating the Story: A Labor of Love


The following is from the November-December 2010 edition of The United Methodist Church's Interpreter Magazine. Eric White, curator of special collections at SMU's Bridwell Library, provided expertise for this story.

November 10, 2010

By Jane Dennis

Like scribes of old, James G. Pepper is pouring out his heart and soul and painstakingly creating a hand-lettered and hand-illustrated, one-of-a-kind version of the Bible.

For the past 23 years, the United Methodist layman from Dallas has been creating this complex work of art and inspiration he calls the Pepper Bible. After reproducing the Scriptures by hand in calligraphy, he adds intricate illustrations, "just like an ancient manuscript," he explained. Pepper believes his is one of only a handful of handwritten, illustrated Bibles produced in the last 500 years.

Pepper uses the technique called illumination, a form of manuscript decoration with colored, gilded pictures, decorated initials and ornamental border designs. Illumination dates to early Christendom and was common during the Middle Ages, before the printing press replaced the need for handwritten Bibles.

Pepper has already completed an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels, a separate and complete New Testament and several books of the Old Testament. His work is resplendent with original artwork. The Gospel of Luke, for example, contains 25 full-page illuminations and 440 illustrated first initials to passages. Illuminations introduce and enhance each chapter and many individual verses. . .

Eric White, curator of special collections at Southern Methodist University's Bridwell Library, described Pepper's work as "a refreshing project" filled with "good, interesting, original works of art."

Copying and illuminating the Scriptures entirely by hand is similar to the way Bibles were created in medieval times. Yet, generally, a church or monastery would commission the creation of a Bible "and someone was being paid to do the work," White said. Pepper is doing it "for the love of it."

Read the full story.

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