Tools & Materials


The pages of The Saint John's Bible are made of calfskin vellum. The skins are soaked in lime, dried, scraped or "scrutched," and sanded smooth. The final product is nearly translucent, with a "hair side" and "smooth side."


All the script is written using quills hand-cut by the scribes. Only the largest flight feathers, called "primaries," are used: goose quills for the main body of text, turkey and swan quills for heavier letterforms.


The script is written in lamp black ink from nineteenth-century Chinese ink sticks. The ink sticks are ground in an ink stone with distilled water.


Vermillion, lapis lazuli, and other cakes and powdered pigments are used for color. The materials are mixed with egg yolk and water to make paint that is thicker than the black ink and loaded onto the quills using brushes.

Gold Leaf

Gold leaf makes the manuscript truly illuminated. Using the moisture of breath imparted through a bamboo tube, the artist activates the glue binding agent in gesso until it bonds with the gold leaf. Burnishing tools and brushes finish the gilded image.

Stencils and stamps

Stencils and stamps are used to apply paint and gold powder throughout, creating a rich visual vocabulary. Stencils and stamps are made from computer images and provide recurring elements within and across volumes of The Saint John's Bible.