The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, consisting of the 4 Gospels of the New Testament together with numerous prefatory texts and tables. It was produced 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 actually been produced c. 800 ADVERTISEMENT.
The text of the Gospels is largely drawn from the Vulgate, although it also includes numerous passages drawn from the earlier variations of the Bible known as the Vetus Latina. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and represents the pinnacle of Insular illumination. It is also commonly considered among 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 go beyond that of other Insular Gospel books in luxury and complexity. The decor integrates conventional Christian iconography with the ornate swirling motifs common of Insular art. Figures of people, animals and legendary beasts, together with Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in lively colours, jazz up the manuscript’s pages. Much of these minor ornamental elements are imbued with Christian symbolism and so additional stress the themes of the major illustrations.
The manuscript today consists of 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 sophisticated ornamentation that covers them consists of 10 full-page illustrations and text pages that are dynamic with embellished 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 seems the work of a minimum of three various scribes. The lettering is in iron gall ink, and the colours utilized were stemmed from a vast array of substances, a few of which were imported from far-off lands.
Today, it is housed at Trinity College Library, Dublin which typically has on screen at any offered time two of the current 4 volumes, one revealing a significant illustration and the other showing typical text pages. A digitised version of the entire manuscript might also be seen online.
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