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The Book of Kells Quick Fact #1The original book is over 1,200 years old. It was one of the first books created in the form of a codex. “A codex is a book in the format used for modern books, with separate pages normally bound together and given a cover. It was a Roman invention that replaced the scroll, which was the first form of book in all Eurasian cultures. Although technically any modern paperback is a codex, the term is only used for manuscript (hand-written) books produced from late Antiquity through the Middle Ages.” ~ Wikipedia Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #2The original manuscript was created in 800 AD by a community of monks in Celtic Ireland. It is on permanent display at Trinity College in Dublin. The text is written in Latin and is supplemented by illustrations, such as decorated initials and borders. The copy which is on permanent display at the Washington-Centerville Public library is one of only 1480 copies. This limited and rare edition was created in 1980 and is virtually indistinguishable from the original Book of Kells. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #3The text of the book is written in Latin and is “based on the Vulgate (the translation of the Bible completed by St. Jerome in AD 384) intermixed with strong elements of the version that preceded it, known as the Old Latin translation.” ~Bernard Meehan, The Book of Kells (London, 1994) Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #4The original book was stolen in 1066, but was found a few months later. The jewels from the cover were stolen, however, the rest of the book was undamaged. The book, in 4 volumes, has been on permanent display at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland since the 1800s. One page of the book is turned each week for viewing by over half a million people each year. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #5The book was intended to be displayed on an altar and not to be used as a functional book. It was written in a society where neither kings nor commoners could read and in a time period where the light of learning was lit in Ireland, but dark in Europe. Irish monasteries, including the Abbey of Kells, were centers of learning and attracted students from England and Europe. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #6The original book was crafted by the hands of four calligraphers and several artists. It is written on vellum. Vellum was used in most medieval manuscripts. It is a calf-skin material that has been soaked in lime, stretched and dried at room temperature. Experts say that the material will last for more than one thousand years and is much more durable than paper. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #7The book has 33 fully illustrated pages. The most famous page is the “Chi Rho” page. This page shows the Greek letters XPI which translate into a ch, r, and i in English which is the abbreviation for “Christi”. The page has been described as “the most elaborate specimen of calligraphy ever executed.” ~ Westwood Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #8In addition to 33 completely illustrated pages, the book also has two thousand illuminated letters and illustrations including interlacing, knot work, human figures, and animals. The knot work is so fine that some cannot be seen with the human eye. One humorous illustration shows a mouse stealing a wafer. Some pages are called “carpet” pages because their designs have the appearance of a fine oriental carpet. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #9The original book was written and decorated using black, yellow, green, purple, lilac, pink, and red inks. Many manuscripts of the time only used four inks. The pigments used by the artists were imported from all over Europe and beyond. Some pigments came from as far away as Mesopotamia. Several calligraphy styles were used by four different artists. The text was generally written across the page with no breaks in between the letters. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #10The illustrations in the book are based upon the most famous art forms from the la Tene art period in Celtic Europe and from regional styles in Britain. Some of the most magnificent stone sculptures, jewelry, and ironwork were created during that time period. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #11History of the Times: Celtic tribes from Europe colonized Ireland between the 8th and 1st centuries BCE. This was called the “Iron Age”. With them they brought a great artistic tradition. Roman troops left Britain in the early 5th century Britain was inhabited by many tribes like the Angles, Jutes, Picts, and Saxons. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #12History of the Times: Clans were governed by warrior nobility and kings. The kings made policy, declared war or peace, but did not own the property of the village. Succession to the throne was not inherited. All free men voted. Charlemagne was assuming power in Europe. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #13History of the Times: Most Celts were farmers, some were craftsmen, and a few were warrior nobility. The Celts were a cultural group linked strongly by their language, religious, and political beliefs. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #14History of the Times: Early Celtic society was illiterate except for a primitive alphabet called “ogham”. St. Patrick arrived in Ireland in the latter part of the 5th century and is credited with introducing the Roman alphabet and enabling Irish monks to preserve parts of the extensive Celtic oral literature. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #15History of the Times: In Ireland, the Roman Catholic Church was the only centralized institution that survived the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Vikings were ascending upon Ireland. The Danes attacked and conquered. Towns like Dublin were turned into Viking strongholds. During these raids, monasteries and towns were plundered. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #16Making of the facsimile: To preserve the original book, a machine was designed to hold the book in the air for photographing. It took over 10 years to photograph the pages and publish the book. The facsimile is bound in leather and printed on paper rather than vellum. Only 1480 copies of the book have been made copies were reserved for Anglo-Saxon countries. Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #17The Book of Kells at the Washington-Centerville Public Library: Our Library is honored to display this rare donated facsimile edition of the Book of Kells, the world-famous 9th century illustrated manuscript acclaimed as the most beautiful book ever written. The Library, which advances no religion or belief system, presents this destination book that has transcended its religious origins to become an object worthy of study - as a window into the past and a source of artistic inspiration for the future. © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
The Book of Kells Quick Fact #18“The Book of Kells is a physical metaphor of exploration, of expanding ideas, of delving deeply into all areas of human pursuit - it’s a stimulus and invitation, to the community.” ~ Roger Crum, PhD. University of Dayton Celtic Clip Art Courtesy: © 2007 Washington-Centerville Public Library
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