The Garland of Howth

The Garland of Howth (TCD MS 56) is larger than the Book of Mulling and the Book of Dimma,1 and thus  does not fall within the category of the  so-called ‘Pocket Gospel Book’, a typically Insular  phenomenon to which I shall return in a future post. Unfortunately only two illuminated Gospel openings have survived out of the four, as the beginnings of Saint Luke and Saint John are now lost, but what remains is wonderfully intricate and idiosyncratic.

The Garland of Howth, 8th-9th century, TCD MS 56, f. 22r © The Board of Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin. 2015.

The manuscript takes its name from a tradition according to which it was found on Ireland’s Eye, an island north of Howth, and later brought to Howth on the mainland.

As you can see from the images on this page, it is rather damaged, but it is also one of the most intriguing manuscripts of the group, as it has barely been studied. This is not all that surprising given that, as a high grade manuscript, it is difficult to access, and one cannot rely on existing images, as they are scarce and of poor quality.  This will soon change dramatically, as it is going to be fully digitised and published online. We will give you a preview of the new images as soon as we start. We will also be carrying out pigment analysis on this manuscript, using micro-Raman spectroscopy, which should yield interesting results and complement the analyses carried out on other early Irish manuscripts.

Catherine Yvard, Research Fellow


  1. 24.3 cm high x 17.5 cm wide vs respectively 16.5cm x 12cm and 17.5cm x 14.2cm.