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Called the "chief relic of the western world," the Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript created by monks over a period of several years, dated to the end of the eighth and beginning of the ninth centuries, containing the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Believed to be the work of three scribes, it is written in Latin on calf vellum in Irish script, mostly in its majuscule form.
The text is based on St. Jerome's Vulgate Bible but has much of the Old Latin translation as well.
Painted by hand, the Book of Kells's colourful and detailed illustrations are considered among the finest representations of religious art.
The Book of Kells contains many full-page illustrations, including portraits of Jesus, Matthew, John, and the Virgin Mary. The artwork includes elaborate designs, fine decorations that need to be magnified to be fully appreciated, and representations of foliage and animals, and of abstract and symbolic figures; Matthew is represented as a man, Mark as a lion, Luke as a calf, John as an eagle. Many of the capital letters are of great size, highly ornamented, surrounded by symbolic figures.

The Book of Kells also contains a page of etymologies, numerous canon tables, and summaries of and prefaces to the gospels.

The manuscript consists of 340 folios with relatively large pages, measuring about thirteen inches by nine-and-a-half.

Scholars believe that some thirty folios originally in the Book are missing.

In addition, its cover, decorated with gold, and its jewelled binding were forcibly removed by thieves when the book was stolen in 1007 and were no longer intact with the rest of the book when it was found a few months after the theft.

The preface and some twelve leaves at the end were destroyed in the damage wrought by the thieves, experts have surmised.
Based on the 1920 colour version with extra complimentary scripts.

(ID 145270602)

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