Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

The Pepper Bible: A Modern Illuminated Manuscript



James Pepper has made, by hand, an illuminated manuscript of the Gospels, a separate and complete New Testament, and several other books in the Bible.  It is a monumental work – really, a devotion, that comes from heart to hand to paper.

“I started the Bible work in 1987 while I was taking care of my grandmother who had a stroke. I completed the New Testament in 1996. After 9/11, when I saw so many of my friends die, I started a new set of Gospels. They are featured on an American Bible Society video. My reaction to the disaster was to make a definitive statement of my faith with this manuscript on the scale of the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels. It is interesting that my family comes from the original locations of those books at those times. Holy Island and the area around Lindisfarne and Iona in Scotland. It is in my blood!”

Through I had heard of his work through calligraphy group members in New York and Washington, DC, I met James Pepper when he introduced himself to us by an email message a few weeks ago. He noted he used Brause nibs, particularly the Bandzug 2mm, 1.5 mm, and 1mm in his work.  It is wonderful to me that the nibs were used to create such beautiful, meditative works.

Mr. Pepper decorates some Gospel pages with illustrations of birds.  On one page includes a hawk, egret, robin, owl, sparrow, eider duck, falcon and road runner, each associated with a letter.  Other pages feature goldfinches, orioles and wood ducks.  “The Bible is decorated with animals  and birds I have in my yard or that I am associated with including the Hawaiian monk seal which is in my first New Testament. I was in National Geographic for suggesting they do an article on the monk seal. National Geographic’s work in that area resulted in the creation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument.”

That is a stroke of the divine.

Visit The Pepper Bible website.

See American Bible Society video.


2 thoughts on “The Pepper Bible: A Modern Illuminated Manuscript

  1. Extraordinary artistic work, for sure. Beautifully rendered. And your article got me wondering about other modern and contemporary bible illuminations. There went an hour or two.
    The site’s video clips were created by a lousy photgrapher and worse video shooter, though. Made me want to scream.

  2. Interesting that at about the same time there was another hand written and illuminated Bible project starting. The St. John’s Bible ( is on a grander scale, and done by a team rather than an individual. I’ve seen one of the heirloom copies, and it’s spectacular.
    The videos are fun to watch, to learn of the techniques used, and the effect the project has had on the lead calligrapher.

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