As medievalists, we all want to get our hands on original manuscripts. Since many manuscripts exist only in one fragile copy, most of our manuscript dreams are destined to be thwarted. Thank goodness for the facsimile.
The Book of Kells by Charles Gidley is largely a facsimile of the Book of Kells. The introduction contains general information on the Book of Kells itself, its history, its creation, its restoration, and illuminated manuscripts of its period. This is all good, but the reason to buy this book is the pictures.
The Book of Kells faithfully reproduces every page of the Book of Kells in full color. However, size varies. The book’s last section has 16 Kells pages per modern book page to show the page order for the entire work. Carpet pages are reproduced earlier in the book as full pages, while titles or individual illuminations may appear one or two per page. It’s not the same thing as having a facsimile of the entire Book of Kells printed large, but it’s certainly a good substitute. The Book of Kells features large printings of everything worth printing large—pages copied only in the 16-per-page section usually contain just text.
The flyleaf says that full facsimiles of the Book of Kells previously cost thousands of dollars, and I believe it. The Book of Kells does not serve the same function as a full facsimile—it’s more of a good substitute—but the cost is well worth it. The Book of Kells runs about $18 new, but can easily be found at used bookstores or on clearance around St. Patrick’s Day (I snagged mine for $8). Be sure to pick up a magnifying glass along with this book—no matter how good your eyes are, you’re going to need it!
Table of Contents
- The Book of Kells