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About the Book of Kells

The Book of Kells is the centrepiece of an exhibition which attracts over 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 fourth 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.

Selected literature on the Book of Kells

  • Bernard Meehan, The Book of Kells: an illustrated introduction to the manuscript in Trinity College Dublin (London: Thames and Hudson, 1994) with 29 full page illustrations and 70 details. Also editions in French and in German.
  • The Book of Kells. MS 58 Trinity College Dublin: commentary, edited by Peter Fox (Luzern, Switzerland: Fine Art Facsimile Publishers of Switzerland/Faksimile Verlag Luzern, 1990)
  • George Henderson, From Durrow to Kells: the insular gospel-books 650-800 (London: Thames & Hudson, 1987)
  • Françoise Henry, The Book of Kells: reproductions from the manuscript in Trinity College Dublin with a study of the manuscript (London: Thames & Hudson, 1974; New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1977)
  • The Book of Kells CD-ROM (Dublin: X Communications, 2000)

Reproducing images from the Book of Kells, and use of the Book of Kells in commercial products

Application for reproduction of pages from the Book of Kells and other College manuscripts should be made:

  • In writing to:
    The Keeper of Manuscripts,
    Trinity College Library,
    College Street,
    Dublin 2,
  • By Fax to: (+ 353) 01 608 2690
  • By email to:

Certain images are available from The Bridgeman Art Library.

  • London office contact details
    • Postal Address: 17-19 Garway Road,
      London W2 4PH
    • Tel: (+44) 020 7727 4065
    • Fax: (+44) 020-7792 8509
    • Email:
  • New York office contact details
  • Paris office contact details
    • Bridgeman Giraudon,
      36 rue des Bordonnais,
      FR-75001 Paris 1,
    • Tel: (+33) 01 55 80 79 10
    • Fax: (+33) 01 55 80 79 11
    • Email:

Transparencies that can currently be supplied are: TCD MS 58 (the Book of Kells) fols 5r, 7v, 27v, 28v, 32v, 34r, 104r, 114r, 124r, 130r, 188r, 202v, 291v, 292r, 309r; TCD MS 57 (the Book of Durrow) fols 1v, 3v, 21v, 85v, 86r.

Copying of images from The Book of Kells CD-ROM (Dublin: X Communications, 2000), or from web pages, is not permitted.

The term 'Book of Kells' is a registered word mark. For permission to use the term in any commercial product, application should be made in writing to:

  • Secretary to the College
    West Theatre
    Trinity College
    Dublin 2
  • Email:

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Contact: | Last updated: December 20 2007 | Back to top