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Family donates biblical "work of art" to library

The Austin Public Library will receive a gift this fall in the form of a rare, fine art edition of the St. John's Bible, called the Heritage Edition. This gift to the Austin community will be given by the Don and Dorothy Hodapp family.

The seven-volume Bible features a one-to-one-scale fine art reproduction of the hand-written and illuminated Bible commissioned by St. John's University, according to a memo from library director Ann Hokanson to the city council.

"This unusual gift is our thanks to Austin for the many wonderful years our family enjoyed living there," Don Hodapp said. "It is our hope that this Bible will be appreciated and enjoyed by all."

Each of the seven volumes is 2-by-3 feet when open and weighs between 13 and 22 pounds, Hokanson said. Library officials are unsure of when the Bible will arrive. First, the library needs to undergo some remodeling in order to have a display case to house the Bible.

The volumes will be in the display case for people to look at, and it will be opened to different pages frequently so there will always be something new to see, including the 180 major illustrations.


"Something different on a very regular basis," Hokanson said.

With an appointment and some training, groups will be able to view the Bible up close. People will be able to handle the pages themselves. While gloves won't be necessary, it is the expectation that readers use care and view the Bible under supervision.

"It will be a wonderful opportunity for us to bring new people into the library," Hokanson said.

In 1998, the St. John's Benedictine monastery in Collegeville, Minn., commissioned Donald Jackson, scribe and calligrapher to the Crown Office of Great Britain, to produce the first handwritten and illuminated Bible since the invention of the printing press. The final pages were completed earlier this year.

The Heritage Edition is a full-size art reproduction of the original masterpiece. A limited number of these signed and numbered editions are being produced.

The Library Board went through a process before unanimously voting to accept the gift, which was then also unanimously accepted at Monday's Austin City Council meeting.

The gift came as a "complete surprise" to the library, Hokanson said.

"It's very special," she said. "As a book, it's a work of art. It's a treasure."

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