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Reflecting on the Book of Kells

Kells banner image June 2015 croppedA meeting around the Book of Kells, the world’s most famous medieval manuscript, was held in Trinity College Dublin on September 10th and 11th.

Bernard Meehan, M&ARL
Bernard Meehan, AMARC Chair

Entitled ‘The Book of Kells: Rethinking and Researching a Great National Treasure’, it featured leading manuscript, conservation and imaging experts who presented papers on research trends and techniques, and on the challenges faced in displaying great manuscript treasures.DSC_1512

The meeting, organised by the Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections, was hosted by the Library of Trinity College Dublin. It proved again that the study of the Book of Kells is a huge draw; attendees came from all over Ireland, from England, Scotland and Wales, and some travelled from France, the Netherlands and Iceland. After a warm welcome by the Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton, talks focused on the background to research on the great manuscript, on its pigments, and on new approaches to the use of colour.

Tomm Moore, Cartoon Saloon
Tomm Moore, Cartoon Saloon

There were comparative talks on other great medieval documents, including Edward J. Cowan (University of Glasgow) on the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath in Scotland, which, in contrast to the Book of Kells, is seldom displayed; and Claire Breay (British Library) on the Magna Carta in the British Library, where a major exhibition to mark its 800th anniversary has just closed. A highlight was an entertaining talk by Tomm Moore, co-founder and creative director of Cartoon Saloon, Kilkenny, entitled ‘Bringing the Book of Kells to Hollywood’, in which he traced the process of getting the Oscar-nominated The Secret of Kells to the big screen.

Claire Breay, the British Library
Claire Breay, the British Library

Thanks go to everyone involved in the organisation of the day: Dr Suzanne Paul, of Cambridge University Library, Meetings Secretary of AMARC; staff in M&ARL, the Long Room Hub and Conservation, especially Clodagh Neligan. Thanks also go to Raghnall Ó Floinn, Director of the National Museum of Ireland and Elizabethann Boran, Librarian of the Worth Library, who provided private tours.

Bernard Meehan

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