As a fanatic book reader, one would have thought I have known all about the Book of Kells for ages. However, what actually drew my attention towards it was a 2009 animated movie called The Secret of Kells. The story unravels around a gospel book in medieval Ireland, which allegedly had powers to change the life of anyone reading it ; it was called the Book of Kells.
The Book of Kells (or, as known in Irish, Leabhar Cheanannis) is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book written in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament . Its place of origin is not certain; it was created in a Columban monastery in either Britain or Ireland, created around 800 AD. What distincts it from other gospel books of its time is that it is considered a masterpiece of Western calligraphy. Its method of construction is impressive on its own: it was written on processed calfskin, which was time-consuming to prepare properly but made for an excellent writing surface. Of its entirety 680 pages have survived, and of them only two lack any form of artistic ornamentation. Nowadays, the Book of Kells is regarded as one of Ireland’s most important national treasures.
Nowadays the manuscript is on permanent display at Trinity College Library, Dublin. Besides being very well preserved, what is really important (and exciting) about this, is that the University’s Library has now announced that the Book of Kells in now available in its entirety in the Library’s Digital Collections online repository. According to its announcement, “The Book of Kells transparencies, originally captured by Faksimile Verlag, Lucerne, Switzerland in 1990, have recently been rescanned using state of the art imaging technology. These new digital images offer the most accurate high resolution images to date, providing an experience second only to viewing the book in person.” As if this piece of news wasn’t exciting enough, an iPad app of the Book has also been created and is available online, with added functionality.
For anyone interested to learn more about this treasure, the Library of Trinity College of Dublin is an excellent source of information, and it is also the place to download the app or vie the book online. For any of you that is interested in both books and travelling, if by any chance you find yourselves travelling to Munich, Germany, I highly suggest you take a visit to the Deutsches Museum, where you can find a detailed exhibit about the Book of Kells, along with a (newly) printed version of it – I guarantee you won’t regret the visit!
The Book of Kells as exhibited in Deutsches Museum, Munich