An upcoming presentation on Whimsy and Humor in The Saint John’s Bible will likely include this image, previously presented on this blog in March 2014.
A bee works a pulley next to verses from Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 7 — verses referencing the Wisdom Woman illumination previously on display. The text reads:
7 Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me;
[I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.]
8 I preferred her to scepters and thrones,
and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her.
The text in brackets is missing. In the original Saint John’s Bible, written in ink on vellum, the scribe could scrape off a faulty stroke or character, but each page of the Bible took 7 to 10 hours to write and so missing lines of text were a bigger issue. The Bible artists solved the problem in a whimsical way, by recruiting animals to lift the missing line into place. Take a look at the display page; the missing line appears at the bottom of the page, and the bee has enclosed it in a box tied with a rope running through a pulley. The pulley’s top wheel, and a tiny arrow, mark the correct location for the missing text. The other two wheels help to guide your eye along the ropes to the passage.
Sarah Harris and Donald Jackson designed the pulley system based on Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical drawings. Artist Chris Tomlin, who studied natural history illustration at the Royal College of Art in London, drew many botanical and animal images for The Saint John’s Bible, some of which appeared in previous images on this blog, such as the lemur, the chameleon at the end of 2 Maccabees, the butterflies on Jacob’s Ladder, and the coral snake and other animals in the Garden of Eden / Adam and Eve illumination.