Gustave Doré was a prolific French artist and printmaker from the 1800s whose wood-engraved illustrations graced books from authors like Dante, Lord Byron, and Edgar Allen Poe. But for many art connoisseurs, Doré’s most notable body of work consists of more than 200 biblical illustrations found in the two-volume title, “La Grande Bible de Tours.”
Now, more than 135 later, Christians can enjoy Doré’s classic illustrations within the pages of the CSB Adorned Bible, a new resource by Holman Bible Publishers of Lifeway Christian Resources in partnership with 2K/Denmark, industry leaders in Bible design and typesetting. The CSB Adorned Bible features Doré’s art alongside the text of the Christian Standard Bible translation in the hope that his classic wood carvings will help etch biblical stories in the minds of modern-day disciples.
“When people read the Bible, especially the narratives, they aren’t just consuming propositional information; they’re reconstructing events in their own minds as they read through the pericopes of the text,” said Andy McLean, publisher of Bibles and reference at Lifeway. “Beautiful artwork — as well as exquisiteness of the typeset, packaging, and cover — can inspire awe and reverence for God’s beauty found in the pages of Scripture as well as aid Christians by inspiring their sanctified imaginations as they read the text.”
McLean points to the example of Doré’s masterpiece, “The Prodigal Son in the Arms of His Father,” which references the familiar parable from Luke 15:11-32.
“There’s something beautiful in Doré’s picture — the broken and despondent son in the arms of a welcoming father, a grateful father who holds his head up in thankfulness at the return of his lost son — that helps the reader gain a mental picture that illustrates key points of the parable,” said McLean.
To help readers focus on these key points, the CSB Adorned Bible magnifies select people or portions of Doré’s artwork and places it alongside the corresponding biblical text. This allows modern-day readers to appreciate the masterful precision and detail required by a more archaic artform such as woodcarving. For example, there are no shades of gray in the CSB Adorned Bible’s artwork, says Jeff Godby, graphic designer. Any tonal appearance in the prints is a result of intricate hatchings and line work within the carvings.
In addition to boasting more than 200 high-quality images from a 19th century artist known for revolutionizing the world of illustration, the CSB Adorned Bible features a single-column setting, wide margins, gold accents, and ornately designed drop-caps to begin each book. These features were inspired, in part, by Old Testament blueprints, said McLean.
“The impetus in creating this Bible was inspired by the biblical instructions given to Moses in creating the priestly garments. In Exodus 28:2 (CSB), the instructions were to ‘make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for glory and beauty [emphasis added],’” said McLean.
“This same motif and the connection between glory and beauty carries forward to the eventual construction of Solomon’s temple, with its precise and ornate decor. This gives us a symbol of how the medium — whether it be priestly garments, a temple, or even a Bible’s layout and design — should be commensurate and point to the message: the glory, beauty, and holiness of God.”