Marble busts line the Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin. Great philosophers and writers from the past gaze down on an innovation very much of the present.
Thanks to a new app, Ireland’s Book of Kells can now be explored digitally; all 680 pages of the historic manuscript.
The original was created by Celtic monks around 800 A.D. and takes its name from the Abbey of Kells that was its home for centuries. Featuring the four gospels of the New Testament, it’s considered a masterpiece in calligraphy, illustration and ornamentation – all rendered on high-quality calf vellum.
Professor Marie Redmond from Trinity College Dublin told Euronews:
“It’s almost as if the book was written or made for this technology, because as it was written it was used as an artifact on altars, so people didn’t actually see the beauty of it. Whereas now, this platform allows people to move around effortlessly and see all the detail.”
Appropriately designed and developed in Dublin, the biggest challenge was handling the huge amount of the manuscript’s content, celebrated for it’s lavish decoration. But treading the fine line between reducing file sizes and maintaining image quality was fraught with difficulty.
“Obviously, with the Book of Kells, you don’t want to do it an injustice by putting pixellated images on somebody’s screen,” said Killian Walsh from X Communications, who designed the app.
The Book of Kells already attracts more than 500,000 visitors a year and is regarded by many as Ireland’s finest national treasure. It’s hoped the app will introduce the magic of the extravagantly illuminated Gospel book to many more.