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The Books of Kells has some company as Trinity unveils four priceless manuscripts

The Garland of Howth, the Book of Dimma, the Book of Mulling and the Codex Usserianius Primus will now be shown for the first time.

fig 45 Dimma Source: Trinity Library

FOUR PRECIOUS, AND priceless, manuscripts dating back to the Dark Ages will be unveiled at Trinity College today, after a three-year project to conserve them.

The Garland of Howth, the Book of Dimma, the Book of Mulling and the Codex Usserianius Primus have been repaired, analysed and digitised and are now ready to go on public display for the first time.

Former President Mary Robinson will unveil the early Christian manuscripts today at a special ceremony.

The manuscripts themselves date from as early as the fifth century, and scholars say they reveal the secrets of Ireland’s earliest painters.

The Codex, for example, is one of Ireland’s earliest known surviving manuscripts. It is an incomplete copy of the four Gospels on parchment. It is not known how, but it came into the possession of the Trinity Library in the 17th century.

captrue 4 Source: Trinity Library

Its script suggests that it may have been written in a monastery on the continent, but there are annotations in early Irish which show it was in Ireland from an early date.

Restoring the manuscripts to a level that would make them fit for public viewing was a “painstaking process”, scholars said.

They have now been digitised so will be available to view online, or can be viewed on a rotational basis at the Book of Kells museum.

fig 16 Howth XRF Source: Trinity Library

College librarian and archivist, Helen Shenton, said: “We hope it will enable further research of the manuscripts’ unique artistry, texts and intriguing histories.

Since their creation the manuscripts have had limited accessibility and now, almost thirteen centuries later, these national treasures are finally publicly available for all to study, scrutinise and simply enjoy.

The restoration was supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s global Art Conservation project.

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Sean Murray

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