The Book of Kells is old and I’m not talking first Harry Potter old. In fact, I’m not even talking The Lord of The Rings old. The book is believed to have been created in 800AD in an Irish monastery and the Latin manuscript is 340 folios, a.k.a 680 pages. It takes its name from the Abbey of Kells, the abbey that was home to the manuscript for many years, but now it is on permanent display in Trinity College Dublin. Thanks to modern technology and the 21st Century monster that is the internet (just kidding, we love you), you can now view the book in its entirety online.
The book has long been on display in Dublin, but visiting it comes with an entry fee. Pair this with the cost of, you know, getting there, if you aren’t Irish, it adds up to a hefty price to read a book. Plus, the University only has two pages on display at any given time. This new digital edition, however, has the manuscript in its entirety and is totally free.
So what’s the deal with The Book of Kells? What makes it so famous? In short, it is actually a collection of ancient books that retell the Gospels. It is full of lavish and extravagant illustrations that were way ahead of their time, with 12th Century writer Gerald of Wales describing them as “the work of an angel, and not of a man”. These illustrations are the most important aspect of the manuscript, with much of the text jumbled and messy. It appears that the text was never the focal point for the monks at work, and as such, it is not what The Book of Kells is remembered for today.
Shockingly, only thirty folios have been lost throughout the years, though the manuscript has undergone several rebindings. Careful preservation has ensured that the manuscript is legible today. The book calls a “specialized climate-controlled case” home, keeping it safe, dry and clean. Digitizing the manuscript is a very positive move towards longevity and since the internet is forever, there’s no fear of loss or decay!
So, if you can’t quite make a trip to Dublin happen, pour yourself a Guinness and read The Book of Kells in your own home instead.
featured image via trinity college dublin
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