Dover Book

Text Box with description of Book

The Book of Kells is, in its original form, a calligraphed and illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels with other explanatory pages, surrounded by elaborate and intricate ornamental artwork. It consists of around 340 pages of calf vellum, and is believed to have been created about 800 A.D., probably in Ireland, or possibly northern England or Scotland. No one particular artist is credited with the works, and it is believed to be a collaboration of more than one artist. It was the property of the Abbey of Kells, near Dublin, until 1541, but is now part of the collection of Dublin's Trinity College. It is a national treasure and considered to be one of the most beautiful medieval manuscripts in existence. It is in Latin, and uses a lettering style known as Insular majuscule. The artwork ranges from sacred to animal, floral, or fantastical figures, and typical Celtic knots. Many pages utilize huge initials. The four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are portrayed as a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle, respectively. (See my Celtic Stained Glass Coloring Book.)

The Dover edition contains 32 of the original pages. It was edited by Blanche Cirker, who, along with her late husband, Hayward, founded Dover Publications. She has provided a brief explanation of the manuscript in the Foreword section, but if you want to explore this fascinating and gorgeous work even further, I suggest the article on Wikipedia. On that page, there is also a link to access the entire manuscript. Plus Google Images also provides numerous pages for viewing.

Each page in the Dover edition is labeled R or V (recto or verso, in other words, the page on the right side of the book or the left), plus a description of contents of the page.

I have chosen a variety of pages to display here that represent the different variations of artwork that comprise the whole. The first example is one of my coloring pages from the book mentioned above. It also appears on the front cover of this volume and depicts St, Matthew, found on page 28V of the original manuscript. The picture from the coloring book, however, is not an accurate reproduction of the original, especially the border.

From page 3, the next picture is the second half of the second canon in the Eusebian tables, from 3R. Then we see, from page 12, a picture labeled as a portrait perhaps of Christ, from 32V.

St. Matthew, from Celtic Coloring Book

Eusabian Tables, page 3

Portrait of Christ, page 12

In this row is an Eight-Circled Cross, 33R, found on page 13, followed by Matthew 27:38 (Crucifixion) 124R, from page 19.

Eight-Circled Cross, page 13

Matthew 27:38 (Crucifixion), page 19

In the bottom row is the picture on page 22, Mark 15:25 183R, and another image, from page 27, Luke 4:1, full-page ornament, 203R.

Mark 15:25, page 22

Luke 4:1, Full-Page Ornament, page 27

The Book of Kells

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