Art History, Book History, Book of Kells, Christianity, Early Middle Ages, Hagiography, Ireland, Literature, Manuscripts and Palaeography, Monasticism, Religious Life, Roman Empire, Scotland, St. Columba
The Production and Planning Process of the Book of Kells
Roxanne V. Jones
(San Jose State University)
Master of Arts, Department of Art and Art History, San José State University, August (2011)
In describing manuscripts such as the Book of Kells, it is often noted that they were copied from pre-existing documents, suggesting that the task of making such manuscripts was easy. While the scribes did use pre-existing manuscripts as an exemplar, the layout of the manuscript had to be carefully planned before ink or pigment could be placed on the page because the nature of the materials they used–the ink, pigments, and vellum–were often scarce and expensive. Scribes did not have the luxury of having an endless supply of materials at their disposal.
Preparation of the material took time. Once the scribes had the appropriate materials, they had to ensure that they used them judiciously to avoid any mistakes so that nothing went to waste. From the perspective of manuscript production, this thesis examines specific sections of the Book of Kells to demonstrate how manuscripts were made and the importance of planning the work before placing ink and pigment on the vellum. It shows that there was much more work involved than simply copying the text from one manuscript to another.