The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: August 9, 1999

Famed illustrator Barry Moser brings history-making Bible project to UI

IOWA CITY– Barry Moser, the famed illustrator whose artistry has brought to life fabled classics such as "Moby Dick," "Jump Again! More Adventures of Brer Rabbit," and nearly 200 other books, says he's become obsessed with his latest challenge: to illustrate the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, something a single artist hasn't done in the 20th century.

As a guest of the University of Iowa Libraries and the Center for the Book, Moser will talk publicly at 8 p.m., Nov. 12 about the Pennyroyal Caxton Press edition of the Holy Bible, which will be on display that evening for audience viewing. At the free, public lecture, "Tankah and Testament: A Reprobate Tinkers with Holy Writ," Moser will talk about how he, a self-described ordinary man, and a non-communicant in faith who reveres the book as sacred, has dealt with designing and illustrating the King James Bible. The lecture is sponsored by the UI's Ida Cornelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor program.

The Bible will be seen in the Midwest for the first time in Iowa City following select display engagements in Los Angeles, Jerusalem and other cities. When completed, Moser will have created 240 engraved images that illustrate the 400-copy, limited edition Pennyroyal Caxton Press Bible, a name that connotes the publishers' ownership. Moser's privately owned Pennyroyal Press, and the Caxton Corp., owned by New York investor Bruce Kovner, are jointly producing the fine press Bible, which will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis for $10,000 apiece. Moser, a former fundamentalist preacher from Tennessee, has sold to Viking Studio the rights to publish a more affordable $65 edition two weeks after the first edition is published. A copy of the Bible has been purchased for the Libraries collections through the generosity of former Libraries' staff member Curtis Stucki, Olympia, Wash.

"The UI Libraries have worked with Barry Moser for many years and hold one of the most complete collections of his work in the world," said Sid Huttner, head of Special Collections. "We are profoundly grateful to Curtis Stucki for his gift which makes this acquisition possible."

Many of the images, shown in an illustrated folio edition of the Bible, are harrowing and unlike traditional Biblical illustrations. In "The Last Judgment," an illustration inspired by Revelation 20:12, Moser shows Christ descending from the heavens, his face cast downward at a penitent man who is seen cowering atop a bed of human skulls in fearful anticipation of his final judgment. In another illustration, Adam and Eve look African.

"I suppose you could say the Bible is a more permanent manifestation of my preaching. The images ask questions of my readers, and that's what really good preaching ought to do," Moser says.

The UI's Center for the Book Research and Production Paper Facility is producing 2,500 sheets of specially made, unbleached muslin rag paper that will be used to assemble the Bible.

The paper, white in color, is made to resonate with the color of the Bible's vellum binding. The Center for the Book sheets will be the first and last blank sheets of paper readers see when opening and closing the Bible. The Center's white sheets provide a transition from the vellum cover to the special, German-made wove sheet on which the Bible's text will be printed.

Lynn Amlie, the production facility shop manager, says the facility expects the paper production will be completed this summer.

We're interested in incorporating the latest technology with the historical techniques that we're known for, without sacrificing the strength and aesthetic characteristics of the paper, Amlie says. "It's a marrying of past traditions with the potential of the future," she says.

"The volume of paper required, as well as the physical demands have led us to redefine how we work together. Moser's project allows us to look backward at the process, not because we want to go back to historical paper making techniques, but rather to utilize the best of what was developed in the past and apply it to contemporary uses today. This requires a high level of skill and commitment, and we're proud to have a dedicated group of students working at this facility," Amilie says.

The Center for the Book will also publish a new fine press book by Moser later this year titled "Wood Engraving: Notes on the Craft," a 33-page how-to-book about wood engravings. The book, originally written 20 years ago, was significantly rewritten exclusively for the Center for the Book.

Moser's respect for the Center for the Book and its staff led him to select Kim Merker, founding director of the Center for the Book, and pre-eminent American printer, as one of the project's six typographic advisors. Merker has known Moser professionally for many years and provided assistance to Moser on other projects.

The public can view Moser's work and take part in related events on the following dates:

October 1999 — January 2000: "Open Book: The Book Studies Community at the University of Iowa," in the North Exhibition Lobby of the Main Library. This exhibition features diverse interdisciplinary activities relating to book studies and the arts of the book at the UI and will focus on a variety of activities and creations which make the UI a major center for book studies. Moser's fine press works and reproductions of part of the Bible will be featured.

Nov. 1 — Dec. 1: Exhibition: "The Arts of Barry Moser" and the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible will be on view at the Department of Special Collection, 3rd Floor, Main Library.

Friday, Nov. 12, 8 p.m.: Ida Beam Distinguished Lecture, "Tanakh and Testament: A Reprobate Tinkers with Holy Writ," a free and public lecture presented by Moser. Held at Shambaugh Auditorium. The Bible will be on view at this event.

Moser's visit and related programs are co-sponsored by the UI Libraries, the Center for the Book, and assistance from the UI Ida Cornelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor Program, and the American Printing History Association's Ben J. Lieberman Lecture Fund.

For more information about the exhibitions, contact Sid Huttner, head, Special Collections, at 335-5921, or David Schoonover, curator of rare books, Special Collections, at 319-335-5923. A web site on the Bible project created by the Pennyroyal Press can be visited at