Highlighting the Book of Kells Reproduction at St. Thomas Libraries – St. Thomas Libraries Blog
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Highlighting the Book of Kells Reproduction at St. Thomas Libraries

Meet The Book of Kells, also known as The Book of Columba, an ancient Celtic gospel created around 800 AD. Our reproduction of The Book of Kells was given to The University of St. Thomas by John O’Shaughnessy, grandson of Ignatius Aloysius O’Shaughnessy, who was the largest financial benefactor to St. Thomas during his time. The original Book of Kells was created by monks living in the historic areas of current day Ireland or Scotland. They illustrated the gospel stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in beautiful detail in a style known as an illuminated manuscript. We’re not sure exactly who created the Book of Kells, but researchers have identified at least 4 different types of handwriting and art styles. They believe each section was written by different monks, currently referred to as A, B, C, and D. 

Internal picture of the book of Kells - a decorated letter P takes up the whole page

The Book of Kells wasn’t just for reading. In fact, while the book is famous for its stunning pictures and designs, it contains some errors in writing and repeated passages. The book’s focus was on the art, not the writing. It was known as a sacred object filled with symbols, hidden meanings, and beautiful illustrations.  

Close up of the letter p which ends in a human face

You can find the reproduction of The Book of Kells and other books John O’Shaughnessy donated in the O’Shaughnessy room, also called the Leather Room, on the first floor of the OSF Library behind the Stacks Cafe. Thanks to his donation, we can see The Book of Kells in full color; the reproduction is complete with the specific physical markings and scrapes that mar the original book. 

small hole on the text page of book of Kells

As you flip through the book, you’ll notice big pictures marking the start of different sections, and pages with beautiful artwork at the beginning of each Gospel. The book is housed in a leather presentation box, embellished with silver plated metalwork and embossed with gold knotwork designs inspired by decorative elements from the original Book of Kells.

black and silver book case with delicate gold detail

Come visit the Book of Kells and wonderful treasures at the University of St. Thomas libraries!  

Blog Post and photos by: Hannah Brenden, St. Thomas ’24

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