Book of Kells Facsimile Is Here!

In May the Special Collection Research Center was thrilled to obtain a facsimile of the Book of Kells for inclusion in the rare books collection. After much negotiation, the massive tome was shipped from Italy to App State where it now resides in the archives alongside its companion commentary.

This facsimile was made in a limited run of only 1480 copies approved by Trinity College of Dublin, Ireland. When the word “facsimile” is used it can bring to mind grainy photocopies, this is not that. Full color pages with edges cut to match those of the real Book of Kells, researchers can see water damage, tears and repairs, smudged ink, and holes all faithfully reproduced.

A visitor thumbs through the facsimile Book of Kells

Attributed mainly to a monastery on Iona, an island off the western coast of Scotland, the Book of Kells is thought to have at least been partially produced in Kells when the Columban monks fled to the area in 806 due to a viking raid. The exact number or the identity of the scribes that worked on the book is unknown, but at least three are suspected to have been involved with the creation of the heavily decorated pages and four with transcribing the text.

The Book of Kells facsimile being unpacked

The Book of Kells is known for richly colored and beautifully decorated text using blues, yellows, greens, and reds, layed or singularly. In some places the type of ink used actually damaged the vellum beneath!

Two facsimile pages from the reproduction

Trinity College of Dublin has stated that it is likely that the Book of Kells was largely ceremonial. The transcribed text is shockingly poorly done, with entire words skipped or repeated, missing letters, or decorative elements covering text.

Two sample facsimile pages, capturing repairs to the original Book

At the beginning of the summer, Dr. Valante and two researchers visited the Special Collection Research Center to view the facsimile of the Book of Kells in the SCRC. The researchers were thrilled to be able to touch and interact with this beautiful acquisition and we hope many more will get to see it!

Two students get a chance to have an early look at the art facsimile Book of Kells

     - Contributed by Kari Salisbury, Public Services Assistant

Published: Aug 17, 2023 1:54pm