The Book of Kells


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


ISBN: 9780500238943 Category:

Bernard Meehan


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.

Additional information

Weight 2467 g
Dimensions 25.9 x 34 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 14 October 2012
Number of pages 256
Format Hardback
Dimensions 25.9 x 34 cm
Weight 2467 g


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Bernard Meehan is Keeper of Manuscripts at Trinity College Library, Dublin, owners of The Book of Kells and The Book of Durrow, two outstanding survivals from the early Scottish-Irish Christian world. He served on the government-appointed National Archives Advisory Council from 1987 to 1997.