Sublime calligraphy, marvelous art, and amazing initials, have charmed and captivated the audience of the Book of Kells for over twelve hundred years. This remarkable illuminated Gospel book attracts the attention of scholars as well as those more generally interested in the fabulous artifacts of the past.
Everybody knows it was made by an extensive team of scribes and artists. Donncha MacGabhann knew that too. However, he was certain that a thorough examination could clearly identify the various contributions of its creators.
His life and work as an artist and teacher inspired the belief that a close visual study could solve some of its enduring puzzles. The deeper he delved, the more he was convinced that Kells is entirely the work of two individuals. This evolved into a novel paradigm through which he came to know and understand the manuscript. Following years of meticulous research, this book tells the story of Kells’ two Masters and their collaboration to create a Gospel book of unprecedented magnificence. Most poignantly, it reveals the struggle of the lone survivor of the two-man team to attempt the completion of their magnum opus.
The most important outcomes of this book go far beyond the simple attribution of work to different hands. Much more significantly, it affords insights into the imagination which inspired its creators, especially the unique vision of Kells’ great Scribe-Artist. Collectively, these new perspectives reveal a previously unknown ‘Book of Kells,’ one which, as it were, has remained hidden in plain sight.
Challenging long-held theories is no small matter, and in doing so this radical study attempts to be comprehensive. The abundance of evidence may at times seem extravagant in its detail, for both specialists and non-specialists. The reader is therefore encouraged to find their own path in exploring The Book of Kells – A Masterwork Revealed: Creators, Collaboration, and Campaigns.
Donncha MacGabhann, has been engaged in the study of Insular manuscripts and the Book of Kells for the past fifteen years. As an independent scholar he is dedicated to communicating this research both to the academic and the wider community. His papers have been included in the proceedings of several conferences and in other publications. Prior to his academic career, he taught art and art history for many years, while exhibiting his own work widely in Ireland and abroad, receiving several major awards.
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