The Book of Kells, Limited Edition, Reserved Copy LXXI of LXXX
The Book of Kells - Evangeliorum Quattuor Codex Cenannensis
Limited Edition, 1990, Reserved Copy LXXI of LXXX
Complete Facsimile in Kid Leather Binding
Custom Made Clamshell Box by Don Rash, Briar Press
This is a very rare complete facsimile of "The Book of Kells – Evangeliorum Auattuor Codex Cenannensis” published by Fine Arts Facsimile Publishers of Switzerland in conjunction with Trinity College, Dublin in 1990 with a limitation of 1480 copies numbered in Arabic numbers for sale and 80 copies numbered in Roman numerals not for sale but reserved as complimentary copies for the authors and collaborators, as well as for the publisher’s archives. This is reserved copy LXXI of LXXX. In order to photograph the Book of Kells, Heinz Bigler Alelier of Hildisrieden developed a highly sophisticated photographic technique and vacuum system that demonstrated to the Irish Government and Trinity College that the book would not be touched or damaged in any way. Using an air system to turn the pages, he was able to capture the most exacting facsimile of the Book of Kells ever produced.
Considered by many to be the most beautiful book in the world, the original Book of Kells is on display at Trinity College in Dublin where upwards of 500,000 people a year visit the college to view the book. The Book of Kells or Codex Cenannensis is a manuscript copy of the four gospels in Latin, written in celtic style. Originally it was known as Soisceala Mor Columchille or the Great Gospel of Columcille. The book takes its name from the monastery of Kells, Co. Meath, where it remained for centuries. With the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, the last Abbot, Richard Plunkett, gave it to his kinsman, Gerald Plunkett of Dublin, for safe keeping. Early in the following century it came into the possession of Archbishop James Ussher, who kept it in his library at his house in Drogheda. It narrowly escaped destruction during the Rebellion of 1641 and shortly afterwards when Ussher went to England he brought this masterpiece with him. Some fifteen years later it was brought back to Ireland and kept safely in Dublin Castle until 1661 when it was given to Trinity College, where it is on permanent view to all. It is the finest example extant of the art of illumination. Giraldus Cambrensis, the Norman Chronicler, writing in the twelfth century stated: “If you look closely and penetrate the art, you will discover such delicate and subtle lines, so closely wrought, so finely curved, so intricately woven and so beautifully adorned with colours that are still so fresh, that you will acknowledge that all this is the work of an angelic rather than a human hand”, and he concludes “However often and however closely I scrutinize it, I am always astounded afresh, and always find more and more to admire in it”.
Measuring approximately 13” by 10 and containing 680 carton pages, the book was handbound in white kid leather and fully stitched onto double cords by Burkhardt Bookbinders in Monchaltorf, Zurich. The books numbered in Arabic numbers included a separate commentary volume and a case which were not included with the reserved copy. Don Rash of the Briar Press developed a custom handmade clamshell box to house “The Book of Kells”. The box features a vellum spine with hand lettering as well as green bookcloth and sage suede for the inner linings.
The binding is in Very Good+ condition with rubs to the bottom edges and the upper right cover that have been professionally repaired by Don Rash of the Briar Press. As the leather ages, the white leather repair should blend with the natural color. There is some random soiling to the white kid skin leather that is highly susceptible to soiling. Internally, the book is in FINE condition. It is important to note that all of the existing flaws in the Book of Kells were captured and were not retouched. The clamshell box is in FINE condition. Overall, this is a wonderful opportunity to obtain the best facsimile of the Book of Kells ever produced. Museums and libraries own almost every copy that was available for sale. To my knowledge, this is the only copy available in the marketplace. A note on pricing – The original price of the book was $18,500 and it sold out immediately. When one becomes available, it usually sells for a substantial premium over the original price. This copy is one of the rarer reserved copies and would normally sell for a premium to the trade edition. I have taken into account the rubbing to the leather that has been repaired and priced it accordingly.
Photographs of the book, custom made clamshell box, limitation page, and examples of pages from the book appear in the photo section of the listing.