Donald Jackson lecture and Reception

Sept. 5, 2012 brought Donald Jackson to the Getty Center. He gave a lecture to complement the exhibits of manuscripts ongoing at the museum. If you don’t know about Donald Jackson, he is a very accomplished and renowned calligrapher from Wales. He has served as the calligrapher to HRH Queen Elizabeth in England. He began a monumental project about 16 years ago when he received the commission to make a fully handmade Bible for Saint John’s University and Monastary.  I’m not going to describe the awesomeness of this once in a lifetime project……..because it’s too awesome to describe!!! So go to and read about this project. St. John’s Bible info ( I had the privilege of studying in the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, when they had the originals there for me to visit as I studied in 2004 during the Conference there.)

His lecture touched upon the idea that you can look at the manuscripts with a “critical” eye and know that it was human beings that wrote and painted these. They aren’t perfect, and you can find mistakes. He wasn’t down playing the work and art that goes into them, but said that they became a commodity that was bought and sold after the 14th century when they began being produced in workshops as well as monastaries. Donald identified a few mistakes or anomalies in the current exhibit. He also demonstrated writing with a quill on paper with vermilion sumi ink.

Next, he spoke about the St. John’s Bible and some of the details of organizing and materials used for the project. He spent some time talking about the vellum used and how it determined the size of the finished bible. He wanted it to be big, to be a “show” bible. Not a personal size, but the size of a calf skin worthy of this project only goes so big. As the skins get bigger they become tougher, more coarse. This makes it harder to write on.

Sarah Harris

Sarah Harris was his assistant that prepared all the skins into pages. Then Donald told us about the hundred year old “fine chinese ink sticks” that required 142 sticks and all he had was 144 sticks so it was tight!!!! He showed pictures of some of the pages and talked about how they were made and how decisions were made on the illustrations. I could have listened to him for hours!!

Donald with DeAnn and Eileen on the right. (Photo by C.C. Sadler)

On Sept. 7, 2012 at 12-2:30 pm Eileen and I sponsored Donald, his wife Mabel and Sarah Harris for a reception. It was held in Pacific Palisades at Eileen’s home. This is the first official event sponsored by our new adventure, “The Word Nest”. We sent out the word about the reception on the SfC E-Bulletin and my Constant Contact network for Designing Letters. We had about 65 people attend and everyone was able to meet Donald and ask questions, take pictures and have lunch.

Lunching out on the patio (photo by C.C. Sadler)

Many guests ate out by the pool under umbrellas in the beautiful Westside sun. The breeze made the otherwise “hot” day very pleasant.

Carrie, Donald, DeAnn, Bonnie (photo by C.C. Sadler)

Around 2 pm Donald gathered anyone together that was still there and we had a chat, mostly about the undertaking that finished officially on May 9, 2011. He is now tweaking and art directing the “facsimile copies” that are being produced for sale. He admitted to being nervous for the talk at the Getty because he could see that most of us were his calligraphy friends but knew there were people out there that didn’t know anything about the writing part of manuscript production and needed to explain things a little differently. He said that he felt very comfortable with the group at the reception because he knew we understood what he was talking about already so he could tell us more of the details.

Kitty and Donald

We asked if he was thinking about writing a book about the production of such a monumental project. Donald said it was too soon to even think about it, but Mabel said she thought that was a really good way to explain to everyone how it was all done. When you think about it, this is the only opportunity we in the book arts can learn how a manuscript is produced right from the artists mouth! No one has explained thoroughly from first hand like that. So, here’s my vote for the book and video of the whole process!!!

This reception was a “Home Run” as far as I’m concerned. Everyone had a great time, Donald, Mabel and Sarah really enjoyed themselves and we have to thank Eileen for opening her home and feeding us!!! Thank you to you all that joined us.