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Making of Kells

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Dee Mc

on 28 April 2015

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Transcript of Making of Kells

The oak apple is a tumour, about the size of a small marble, which grows mainly on the leaves and twigs of oak trees. It is formed when a gall wasp lays its egg in the growing bud of the tree, and a soft pale-green apple-like sphere begins to form around the larva.
Orpiment was not found in Ireland, but was obtained from Hungary, Macedonia, Asia Minor, or parts of Central Asia.
While orpiment has a vibrant yellow, it was difficult to use, being toxic and foul smelling.
Kermes red was produced from the bodies and eggs of a female Mediterranean (Turkey) Kermes insect which lives in clusters on the leaves of the prickly kermes oak.
Who made
The Book of Kells?
Monks created many
illuminated manuscripts
Like the Book Of Kells
Before the printing press
was invented some
500 years ago
every book was written
by hand!
In the First Century
(c.2000 years ago)
books started to be made in
the shape of books we use today.
Before this, books were “rolled up”
(scrolls), and usually made from
papyrus, a plant found mostly in Egypt.
The making of
Book of Kells

facsimile copy of the Book of Kells.
The new books were written by hand and called manuscripts.
At least three main illustrators
worked on creating the
'main pages' in the book...
...and many scribes worked on completing the text and adding decoration to the pages.
Monks had to make the whole book
including the pages and coloured inks.
The manuscript pages or folios were made from vellum (which is animal skins).
The monks started by making the vellum pages from calf skin...
About 150 calves were used making the Book of Kells
To write and draw the monks would
have used a quill...
...a sharpened bird feather
(preferably from a goose or swan)
Making the inks
It was more
than gold
during the
The inks used
to write and decorate the pages
were made from natural materials like
shells, minerals and plants

Blues and purples:

, a plant from the Mediterranean
red :
from a Mediterranean insect
lapis lazuli
a semi precious stone
from Afghanistan
a Toxic mineral
, corroded copper
Black (iron gall black) and brown:
The oak apple, from a growth on oak trees
These colourful inks came from many different sources...
Writing the book
Many monks spent their whole lives copying manuscripts, not just of the Bible but many
other texts.
The monks worked in special
work rooms
Pages were ruled for text with a wooden or bone instrument, following the guidance of holes made on either side of the page with a stylus or the point of a knife.
To copy a manuscript a monk would have the example above or next to his work space with a weight on a string to hold the page he was copying.
If mistakes were made they were scraped off with a knife before the ink set.
If the ink had already set, corrections were often written in the margins of the pages.
Binding the book
When the scribes had finished, the pages
were put in order in loose 'gatherings'.
The book was made by:
-stacking 'gatherings' of pages
- sewing one to another
- sewing & knotting the first and last
'gatherings' into the book's inside cover.
Covering The Book
Thieves stole its cover
(which was probably made from precious metal and gems)
and threw the book into a ditch.
The cover has never been found,
and the book suffered some water damage.
They soaked the skin in water and lime and scraped off any hair.
They then had to stretch and flatten the skin and cut out pages, this took
many days.
The Book of Kells
The Book of Kells was stolen in the 11th century
(around 1006 AD)
An alternative to the more expensive blue pigments like Lapis lazuli, Turnsole could produce a wide range of blues and purples and reds.
These were dried
and crushed.
Verdigris was produced by the corrosion of strips of copper with vinegar fumes. After the pigment was scraped from the plate, it was mixed with wine and allowed to thicken.
When the larva inside is fully developed into an insect, it bores a hole out of its vegetable cocoon and it flies away. The hard nut which remains is roughly crushed up and infused for some days in rainwater in the sun or by the fire.
All photographs from the Book of Kells
© By kind permission of The Board of Trinity College Dublin
iStock: www.thinkstockphotos.co.uk © Shiran De Silva
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