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The Book of Kells

Bernard Meehan


A sumptuous volume on Ireland’s revered national treasure and the world’s most beautiful illuminated manuscript


The Book of Kells is one of the great treasures of medieval Europe.

Produced around 800, it presents a text of the Gospels employing decoration that is not only extraordinarily rich and colourful but also, in places, deeply enigmatic.

This new book will enrich people interested in manuscripts, in design, in Celtic art, in religious imagery, and in the world of Irish studies. It will be a revelation even to those familiar with the great Book of Kells. We are guided through full-page depictions of Christ, the Evangelists and their symbols, lavish openings to the Gospels, inventive lettering, and combinations of complex interlace, animals and human figures.

The book elucidates the imagery, with descriptions of how animals, including lion, peacock and snake, functioned symbolically, and explores the relationship between text and decoration, the scribes and artists, and technical aspects including the production of the manuscript, which remains mysterious.

The exceptional illustrations feature more than eighty actual-size reproductions of full pages, and enlarged details that allow the reader’s eye to dwell on the intricacy of decoration that is barely visible in the manuscript itself.

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'A sumptuous volume containing more than 80 pages from the manuscript reproduced full-size and in full, ravishing colour … a triumph of scholarly investigation and interpretation'
Financial Times

'We think we know the Book of Kells, but the plates in this bargain of a book still take your breath away; and its author knows that the unknowns are at least as interesting as the knowns'
Times Literary Supplement

'Each reproduction is accompanied by Bernard Meehan’s clear and considered exegesis on one of the most complex artefacts of the Christian tradition … If only all art historians were such illuminating companions'
Marina Vaizey, V&A Magazine

'The value of the new edition of ‘The Book of Kells’ is not merely in the quality of the illustrations but the lucidity of the explanatory texts by Bernard Meehan … I bask in pride that we did not destroy this masterpiece of European art'
Colm Tóibín

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback in slipcase

Size: 32.0 x 24.5 cm

Extent: 256 pp

Illustrations: 250

Publication date: 29 October 2012

ISBN: 9780500238943

About the Author

Bernard Meehan was (until his retirement at the end of 2016) Head of Research Collections and Keeper of Manuscripts at Trinity College Dublin, where the Book of Kells is on permanent exhibition. Meehan has published extensively on the Book of Kells, most recently The Book of Kells, published by Thames & Hudson in 2012: ‘a triumph of scholarly investigation and interpretation’, according to the Financial Times.