The Book of Kells is Ireland's greatest cultural treasure dated from the 9th century in the form of a richly decorated copy of the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ.
See the World's Most Famous Medieval Manuscript, the Book of Kells
History of The Book of Kells
The Book of Kells is a group of manuscripts made with what is known as Insular Style. The book is believed to be produced from the late 6th through the early 9th centuries in monasteries in Ireland, Scotland and England and in continental monasteries with Hiberno-Scottish or Anglo-Saxon foundations, though there has been debates about the origin of the book, and how it ended up in Abbey of Kells in the 12th century. In the same century, Abbey of Kells was dissolved and converted to a parish church. However, the book remained there until 1654 when Cromwell's cavalry was quartered in the church at Kells, and the book was sent to Dublin for safekeeping by the government. Over the centuries, the book has been rebound several times and some parts were lost. Part of the book was also sent abroad for four times, the last time was in 2000 when the Gospel of Mark was sent to Canberra, Australia.
The purpose of the Book of Kells
The Book of Kells that is displayed on the library nowadays is in a smaller size than the original one. Now, the book has the size of 13 inches wide and 10 inches high, with 340 folios made of calfskin vellum. However, the original size is believed to be bigger because the manuscripts were severely trimmed durung the rebinding process. With a big size, the book is believed to had a sacramental purpose, with the appearance as its main feature. This thought is supported with numerous mistakes found in the text, incomplete lines and blank spaces, chapter headings that were counted as unnecessary. Meanwhile, the images on the manuscripts are elaborate and detailed.
What is in the Book of Kells
The Book of Kells is originally some manuscripts from different centuries that put together based on the similarities in its artistic style, script, and textual traditions. Inside the book are the Cathach of St. Columba, the Ambrosiana Orosius, fragmentary Gospel in the Durham Dean, Chapter Library, and the Book of Durrow from the 7th century, the Durham Gospels, the Echternach Gospels, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Lichfield Gospels, and the St. Gall Gospel from the 8th century, and the Book of Armagh from the early 9th century. The Book of Kells were reported missing at least two times. During those times, existed the great Gospel of Columkille in 1007 and Book of Kildare in the 12th century. Both manuscripts were believed to be the Book of Kells, though it remains a mystery how the book survived.
Reproduction of the Book of Kells
Some of reproductions of the Book of Kells were made since the nineteenth century. In 1800s, Helen Campbell D'Olier reproduced the pigments used in the original manuscripts. Then in 1951, the first facsimile of the Book of Kells was produced by a Swiss publisher, Urs Graf Verlag Bern. Most of the pages were produced in black and white, though it also featured forty-eight colour reproductions, including all the full-page decorations. The second was produced by Thames and Hudson in 1974, including all the full-page illustrations in the manuscript, a representative section of the ornamentation of the text pages, and some enlarged details of the illustrations. The last recorded reproduction was in 2012 through a book by Bernard Meehan, containing more than 80 pages from the manuscript reproduced full-size and in full colour.
The Book of Kells in The Digital Age
Thanks to technology, the Book of Kells already has its digital copy, produced by Trinity College in 2006 and was made available for purchase through Trinity College on DVD-Rom. Apart from the manuscripts, there were also some commentary tracks about some pages in the book. The manuscripts were also classified into some categories that makes it easier for people to look for specific category in the manuscripts. In 2009, an animated film that tells a fictional story about how the Book of Kells was created was also made. The film was directed by Tomm Moore and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2009. Praises were coming for the animation drawing from the illuminated pages.
How to Get Tickets?
Tickets can be bought online in the official website of Trinity College Dublin. There are special prices if you come with your family or in a group. Children under the age of 12 do not need any tickets.
How To Get Around?
To get around, you will have to go by foot. Aside from the Book of Kells, you are also given the opportunity to enjoy other exhibitions in the same building and see the book collection inside the library.
What Should I Wear?
You can dress as casual and comfortable as you want. Do wear comfortable walking shoes since you are going to walk a lot.
Best Time to Visit
If you want to avoid the crowd, then you can visit the Book of Kells during the weekdays. The museum is open seven days a week. You can also check the opening hours in the website.
Will I Need a Guide?
No, you don't need a guide and there is no guide available. You can walk around on your own just fine. There are leaflets available in 10 different languages and auide guide available in French, English, German, Italian, and Chinese that can be rented for €5.
How To Get There?
You can ride the pulic transportations or drive your own car. You can take a train to Tara Street station and then take a short walk to The Book of Kells.
Photography is not permitted inside the building. Non-flash photography with no tripod is allowed in the Long Room (Old Library)