The Book of Kells is the most spectacular of a group of manuscripts created in Ireland and northern Britain between the seventh and tenth centuries, a period when Irish monasticism was in the vangaurd of Christian culture. Its earliest history remains controversial but it was in the keeping of the monastery of Kells, Co.Meath, for most of the Middle Ages--hence its name--and has been in the library of Trinity College Dublin, since the mid-seventeenth century. It is a masterpiece of medieval art--a brilliantly decorated copy of the four Gospels with full-page illustrations of Christ, the Virgin and Child and the Evangelists, and a wealth of smaller decorative painting that does not always relate to the sacred text. The strange imagination displayed in the pages, the impeccable technique and the very fine state of its preservation make it an object of endless fascination. This edition includes the most important of the fully decorated pages plus a series of enlargements showing the almost unbelievable minuteness of the detail--spiral and interlace patterns, human and anaimal ornament--a combination of high seriousness and humor. Accompanying the illustrations is a new, up-to-date text by Bernard Meehan, the current Keeper of Manuscripts at Trinity College Dublin. It provides a scholarly analysis of these exuberant inventions, the artists, the text and the writing, and a full account of the historical background to the miraculous world of the book Kells.
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