The Birth of a Book Part 1: Introduction

This detail of the first Hebrew illumination of Arise!Arise! Deborah, Ruth and Hannah, presents the palm tree associated with Deborah, supporting the harp that both alludes to the Song of Deborah, and symbolizes the biblical King David, traditionally considered to be the author of the Psalms. Interested in watching the birth of a new illuminated manuscript? Join me then to watch the progress of my new illuminated manuscript of the biblical stories of Deborah, Ruth and Hannah.

These three stories — Deborah (Judges 3-4), the full Book of Ruth, and Hannah ( I Samuel, 1-2) — compose the full extent of specific women’s narratives in the Hebrew Bible. And each offers a wonderful window onto the lives of very different women in 12th century BCE Israel, a few generations prior to the establishment of the Israelite kingdom.  And different they are! Deborah tells of two women heroines’ (Deborah and Yael) deeds in a tale of defensive battle…culminating in a vivid epic war poem with a gory and surprising victory. Megillat Ruth tells the survival story of a young widow who, along with her thrice-bereaved mother-in-law, becomes the ancestress of King David through a series of acts of profound kindness. Finally, the very prophet, Samuel, who would later identify and anoint King David is the miraculous, God-given baby of the childless Hannah. Wonderful stories, with an extraordinary  scope of human emotion, national significance and spiritual depth.

But there’s a “back story” here.  This book has a profound personal significance for me.  All of these stories track back in one way or another to my late husband, David Band, who was taken from us by spinal cord cancer in March 2009. The Deborah story doesn’t just trace the heroism of my namesake; her two chapters of Judges were David’s haftarah (yes, that’s one of the ways we figured our marriage was baschert), and did he ever enjoy chanting that poem! Ruth presents the genealogy of his namesake, and Hannah’s son Samuel, of course, identified and anointed that storied king.  This book, which will be another collaboration between me and my beloved father-in-law and mentor, Arnold Band, is dedicated to David’s memory. The work is supported in part by a grant from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.

The visual interpretation of these contemporaneous, but diverse stories offers many challenges and opportunities.  My job is to convey the deep human emotions and profound religious and national significance of these stories. We’ll talk about these issues as they arise.  I’ll show you as much of the process as I can. You’ll find photos of the illuminated pages as they progress from bare calfskin vellum (gorgeous stuff, all by itself!)  to glowing creations replete with vivid color and gold leaf. My cockatiel, Peaches, who supervises my studio, will probably insert himself into these photos, too…

So join me as I bring to light these tales of adventure, love and fulfillment. Check back every now and then, and let me know what you think!


PS  If you would like to learn something about the man to whose memory this work is dedicated, please visit David’s website. If you, or someone you love is battling cancer, you may wish to read his several years of remarkable e-mail progress reports sent to friends around the world. The link is at the bottom of that page.

Take a look at the first pair of finished paintings? These are the opening pages of the Deborah story, from Judges.

Here’s how a pair of illuminations begins:

More to come!

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