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Book of Kells

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Trinity College Library, Trinity College, College Street, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
T: +353(0)18962320
F: +353(0)18962690
E: bookofkells@tcd.ie

The Book of Kells was written around the year 800 AD and is one of the most beautifully illuminated manuscripts in the world. It is kept at Trinity College in Dublin city centre.

The Book of Kells is the centrepiece of an exhibition which attracts more than 500,000 visitors to Trinity College, Dublin each year.

Written around the year 800 AD, the Book of Kells contains a richly decorated copy of the four gospels in a Latin text based on the Vulgate edition (completed by St Jerome in 384 AD). The gospels are preceded by prefaces, summaries of the gospel narratives and concordances of gospel passages compiled in the 4th Century by Eusebius of Caesarea. In all, there are 340 folios (680 pages).

The script is embellished by the elaboration of key words and phrases and by an endlessly inventive range of decorated initials and interlinear drawings. The book contains complex scenes normally interpreted as the Arrest of Christ, His Temptation, and images of Christ, the Virgin and Child, St Matthew and St John.

Originally a single volume, it was rebound in four volumes in 1953 for conservation reasons. Two volumes are normally on display, one opened at a major decorated page, the other at a text opening.