Publication Date

Summer 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Art History


Anne Simonson


Book of Kells, Manuscript production, Manuscripts

Subject Areas

Art history


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.

APPXB8-11.PDF (426 kB)
APPXB11-17.PDF (440 kB)