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The painting of St. Jerome by Caravaggio featured on this week's JAMA cover marks the third time in nine years that this extraordinary man has introduced the annual Book Number. Jerome's pre-eminent position in the history of Western writing and letters makes him an appropriate figure for this position, for almost alone among the early fathers of the Christian Church he is remembered as a man of great learning and scholarly achievement, a true lover of books.
That Jerome has appealed to so many artists as well as bibliophiles is hardly surprising, as he was a towering figure bestriding the Church and the crumbling Roman empire in the late 4th and early 5th centuries. As in the paintings shown here, he is usually portrayed in a contemporary setting, always at work on a book— appropriate to his achievement as the first man to translate the Hebrew Bible into Latin. In
Brass A. Jerome, Patron of Books. JAMA. 1972;220(1):82-83. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200010068011