In Love – wonderful!

Not a man, of course. That would be complicated and potentially difficult and intimidating and not even goodness knows how it ends.

No. Book of Kells.

Kind of predictable, but still.

Oh how I love thee.

Not just the luxuriously detailed images, with knotwork and more knotwork and animals and frames and borders … The script itself, round and clear and so evenly written I couldn’t hope to write that well. And the tiny, tiny decorations turning up even in ordinary text, as finely done as the thinnest cut quill point or brush might allow. Like here:

Book of Kells - folo 10 r Detail

Yep, bigger format than I usually use, but just look at it. Smooth lines and fine lines and thick lines and carefully added triangular tops of the b, p, i letters – I’ve blown the high definition pictures up as far as possible, but even then they looks like made in one piece. Which it isn’t – I’ve seen this sort of uncial script written in a different museum, and it’s hypnotic: every letter in several strokes with those little finishes added, and at points the angle of the quill has to change, but the resulting letters look seamless.

Written by angels? That would have been easy; angels are reputed to be free of human failings and flaws like impatience, haste, and possibly substance abuse. The men who created this had to overcome all their weaknesses and get into a near-meditative state to write like this, letter after letter, line after line, page and page.

And if that sounds easy, keep in mind that a scriptorium needs as much light as it can get, clear glass window panes are a SciFi luxury for an 8th century monk, and candles or fire in a scriptorium? Are you kidding? Just dress warmly, because as lovely as Ireland is, it’s climate can’t even be called warm today, and that’s after humans busily trying to heat up their planet for a century now.

That’s the thing about an ancient hand-writing: you are looking at, of if you’re lucky, holding a piece of paper and you know that a hundred years ago, or 1000 years ago, someone slowly filled it with words. You don’t know his name or life or birth or death, but the piece of paper (or vellum) is like a thin line between you, bridging centuries.

One of My Enemies Cut Me


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