Bible ‘puts Austin on the map’Published 9:26am Wednesday, November 2, 2011
The Austin Public Library accepted a gift that officials hope will make the library unique for decades.
The library officially debuted the Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible, a rare copy of the first hand-crafted Bible in more than 500 years.
“This gift will put the Austin Public Library and the city of Austin on the map in a new and profound way,” said Becky Repinski, president of the library board.
The first four volumes of the Heritage Edition were on display Sunday afternoon. The Bible’s donors, the Hodapp family, officials from Saint John’s University and about 100 people gathered at the library to view and discuss the Bible.
Don Hodapp, a former executive vice-president and chief financial officer at Hormel Foods Corp., was on the Board of Regents at St. John’s University when the project was given the green light about 14 years ago.
Don and his wife, Dorothy, followed the Bible’s progress closely.
“We thought the Bible was beautiful, and it’d be fun to give it to somebody, and we wondered where,” Don said.
The Hodapps decided to bring a Heritage Edition to Austin, where they lived for 37 years until moving to Edina to be closer to their children and grandchildren.
Hodapp said he was impressed with the Bible’s Minnesota connection. Many of the illustrations feature plant life and animals native to Minnesota to indicate where the Bible came from.
“This is truly something that’s unique,” Don said. “What we would hope that it brings is a lot of interest in the library,” Don said.
Mayor Tom Stiehm said the Bible will help ensure the vitality of the library for years to come.
“You’ve enriched our community with this present,” Stiehm said.
Marvin Repinski, a retired Methodist minister who teaches at Riverland Community College, said the Saint John’s Bible, valued at $145,000, is a significant cultural and artistic contribution to the community.
“This is one of the most amazing gifts that a city of this size could receive,” he said.
The idea for the Saint John’s Bible came from artistic director and calligrapher Donald Jackson, who has said handwriting a Bible was his life-long dream.
Jackson pitched the idea to Father Eric Hollas, who said the St. John’s University would be interested in the project.
“I knew I was lying at the time,” said Hollas, who admitted he was skeptical such a grand idea could be completed.
Hollas, senior associate for arts and cultural affairs at St. John’s, pitched the idea to the university president about three months later.
“I proposed the idea and he said ‘We have to do that,’” Hollas said.
“He saw tremendous potential,” Hollas added.
Hollas said the event like Sunday’s dedication shows him they accomplished their goals of making a Bible that will be accessible to many people.
“The last thing in the world we wanted to do was make a Bible and then store it away in the basement,” Hollas said.
The mission of the Saint John’s Bible and the Heritage Edition is to ignite the spiritual imagination of people around the world, according to Jim Triggs, executive director of the Heritage Program.
“It’s exciting to make it a reality,” Triggs said.
Triggs said he’s impressed with the library’s dedication toward making the Saint John’s Bible a gift shared with the entire community.
“This really lines up nicely with the mission of our project,” Triggs said.
That’s a little unusual, Triggs said, because many other Heritage editions are going to institutions like churches, universities and art museums.
“We would love for this to be a model for other public libraries around the county to do something similar,” Triggs said. “Because a public library is in a unique position to bring in works of art like this.”
Library officials may offer to teach leaders of community groups about the Bible and how to handle it to encourage involvement and help them be better equipped to bring groups to the library.
Triggs said that’s an opportunity to involve people in the community.
Hollas said it’s important for many people to be exposed to the Bible, especially young people to inspire their creativity.
“It will strike people and feed people’s imaginations in different ways,” Hollas said.
That’s something Triggs and all involved hope continues in Austin for many years.
“This is not just a gift for the community here in 2011,” Triggs said. “These books are going to be here for hundreds of years.”
Viewing hours this week:
10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday
2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday
A volume will be on display in a case during regular library hours, and the volumes will be available for viewing outside the case during open viewing hours.
1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6.
A 50-minute video on the Saint John’s Bible will be shown at 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.