Embellished or enriched?

A review of the New International Version Journalling  Bible, illustrated by Hannah Dunnett

It is perhaps not surprising that over the years I have acquired many Bibles. I have them in many languages and many formats. I have them in Gothic Script, Pitman shorthand, Manga comic strip, tabloidised, Cockney and Lolcat. The oldest is a family Bible, dating back to the sixteenth century. The first Bible I ever possessed, however, was given to me as a baby. It nearly put me off. Below you can see the spine and one of the illustrations from the ‘Bible for Boys and Girls’:

CLICK for full size

CLICK for full size

That picture of the Prodigal son used to scare me every time I looked at it, and I did not open a Bible again until I got my Gideon New Testament in the first year of secondary school.

Illustrations in any Bible are a calculated risk. They may put the reader off, as did the one above, they may distract from the text, or they may clash with it. Hannah Dunnett’s illustrations in Hodder’s new Bible do none of these things. Without a doubt, they enrich the text. Consider the illustration below, for example:

CLICK for full size

CLICK for full size

Because of Dunnett’s particular style, the text is integral to the illustration and vice versa. In the best possible way, you can ‘lose’ yourself in a picture such as this. Right and left brain work in perfect tandem as you travel along the ridges of the text and skim like a sailing boat across the waves in the picture.

This Bible is an antidote to brief encounters with the Word of God. It cries out to the reader to linger just a little bit longer – and even to interact with the text using the wide margins on the creamy pages. I suspect that nothing would please Dunnett more than to see some graffiti in those margins – a response to her own thoughtful interaction with the text.

In a world where we measure everything in minutes or seconds, this is a return to the Bible as a book of hours, and that can only be a good thing.

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