The Book of Kells Dublin

The Book of Kells ( is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the 4 Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created in a Columban monastery in either Britain or Ireland and may have had contributions from numerous Columban institutions from both Britain and Ireland. It is believed to have been created c. 800 AD.

The text of the Gospels is mainly drawn from the Vulgate, although it likewise consists of numerous passages drawn from the earlier versions of the Bible called the Vetus Latina. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and represents the pinnacle of Insular illumination. It is also commonly considered as one of Ireland’s finest national treasures. The manuscript takes its name from the Abbey of Kells, which was its home for centuries.

The illustrations and ornamentation of the Book of Kells surpass that of other Insular Gospel books in overindulgence and intricacy. The decoration integrates traditional Christian iconography with the ornate swirling motifs common of Insular art. Figures of human beings, animals and legendary beasts, together with Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in dynamic colours, enliven the manuscript’s pages. A number of these minor ornamental components are imbued with Christian symbolism and so additional emphasise the styles of the major illustrations.

The manuscript today comprises 340 leaves or folios; the recto and verso of each leaf total 680 pages. Since 1953, it has been bound in four volumes. The leaves are top quality calf vellum; the unprecedentedly intricate ornamentation that covers them includes 10 full-page illustrations and text pages that are lively with decorated initials and interlinear miniatures, marking the furthest extension of the anti-classical and energetic qualities of Insular art.

The Insular majuscule script of the text appears to be the work of a minimum of three different scribes. The lettering is in iron gall ink, and the colours used were originated from a wide range of substances, a few of which were imported from distant lands.

Today, it is housed at Trinity College Library, Dublin which normally has on display at any provided time 2 of the current 4 volumes, one showing a significant illustration and the other revealing normal text pages. A digitised version of the whole manuscript may likewise be seen online.


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