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Archived Story

Austin gets set for rare Bible to arrive at library

Published 10:13am Wednesday, October 19, 2011

AUSTIN — Some select Austin residents and friends are getting ready to welcome a rare Bible to the Austin Public Library.

Leonard Haugland, 95, was among 80 members who attended the sesquicentennial celebration of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. The celebration featured King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway. Haugland is a full-blooded Norwegian who grew up near Lyle. His home in Austin holds several original pictures of his family before him. -- Matt Peterson/Albert Lea Tribune

The Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible is set to arrive at the library later this month, with an event and dedication on Oct. 30.

“It’s very exciting,” said Library Director Ann Hokanson.

A dedication event with Bible donors Don and Dorothy Hodapp, former Austin residents, will be held at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 30, with a 4 p.m. dedication. However, the event is by invitation only and is not open to the public.

The former Austin residents described the Bible as donated as their thanks to the community.

Though the initial dedication will be by invitation only, Hokanson said there will be multiple events for the people to see the Bible.

“Very soon we’ll have a public event so people can get a nice close look,” she said.

The first four editions of the seven-volume set will go on display starting Monday, Oct. 31, though only one volume will be out at a time. However, the library will close early at 5:30 p.m. on Halloween. The editions will be on display in a glass case where the photo copier used to be near the circulation desk. Hokanson said there will be ample opportunities for people to see and handle the books.

The remaining three volumes are set to arrive at a later date, according to Hokanson.

The Saint John’s Bible is not the typical desk Bible. The edition consists of seven volumes that are 2 feet by 3 feet when open. The Heritage Edition is a precise printing of the original Saint John’s Bible, which was created using medieval techniques. It is the first handwritten illuminated edition of the Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Abbey in 500 years, according to Jim Triggs, executive director of the Heritage Program at Saint John’s University.

The original, hand-written and hand-drawn Saint John’s Bible was finished in May and went on display in September.

The Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible is valued at $145,000, and only 299 editions of the Bible will be printed, making it a rare collectible expected to be appreciated for generations in Austin.

The volumes also pay homage to where the Bible originated. All animals, fauna and insects in the illustrations are native to Minnesota to show where the Bible came from.

Though the Saint John’s Bible was created using medieval methods, the text is a New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and the art is modern. One illustration includes a double helix DNA strand. Like early, hand-scribed Bibles, this will give future generations clues of when the Bible was printed, according to Triggs. Other illustrations are inspired by images from the Hubble Telescope.

“It’s really meant to be a Bible for the 21st century,” Triggs said.

The community seems to be gearing up to see the rare book, as Hokanson said many people have expressed excitement.

“People have come up on purpose to tell me how excited they are to see it,” she said.

Hokanson said she’s happy to be moving past the stage of just talking about the book’s arrival, and now onto planning how to use the book in the library and community.

“Now we get to think about what we’re going to do with it,” she said.