A Breathtaking Work of Art. Book of Kells. A Gift to Our Library

The Book


The Book of Kells is an artistic masterpiece. An illuminated manuscript written around 800CE, this exquisite work of art has stood for 1,200 years as the greatest example of medieval illumination and is one of the most studied books in the world. The Library is honored to display a rare, donated facsimile edition of the Book of Kells as an object worthy of study - a window into the past and a source of artistic inspiration for the future.

Essential Facts

Facts About the Original Book
  • The original Book of Kells was created more than 1,200 years ago around the year 800 CE
  • Written in Latin, hand-lettered on vellum with almost 2,000 illuminated letters, 33 exquisitely decorated pages, as well as knotwork and interlacings so small they cannot be seen with the naked eye
  • One of the earliest surviving books in the form of a codex, the shape of book we know today
  • Created as a magnificent religious work of art, as it is a version of the four gospels of the Christian Bible
  • Part of the cross-cultural history of art, merging visual traditions that are Celtic, Christian, Islamic, North African and Near Eastern
  • The Book takes its name from the village of Kells, northwest of Dublin, Ireland
  • The book was written in the scriptorium of the monastery of the Colm Cille order founded by Saint Columba
  • The manuscript was never finished. Many people believe that the Book of Kells was begun at Iona and continued at Kells, when the monks fled there to escape Viking raids
  • 680 pages have survived, 33 of which are richly illuminated
  • Illuminated letters, often with animals intertwined, are from the rich tradition of Celtic animal art
  • Inks were made from precious gems like lapis lazuli from as far away as Mesopotamia, and other substances
  • Design of the book uses the device called "diminuendo" in which the letters of words introducing a new section are formed in decreasing sizes
  • Fine interlacing and knotwork appear in the book, so fine that it cannot even be seen without a 10- power maginifying glass - which wasn't invented until hundreds of years after the book was written
  • Originally, the book was probably housed in a shrine, a case encrusted with precious jewels, gold and relics. That case was never recovered after the book was stolen around 1000 CE and found buried under the sod
  • The original Book of Kells was presented to Trinity College, Dublin in 1661, and has remained there ever since
  • Quick Facts Slideshow
Facts About the Facsimile Edition, a Gift to our Library
  • One of only 1,480 copies of a rare and beautiful limited edition virtually indistinguishable from the original
  • These facsimiles are the first and only copies of the entire Book of Kells
  • Created in the 1990s, it is the combination of artistry and technical achievement and established an entirely new standard in publishing history
  • An extraordinary volume in its own right, an object worthy of study - a window into the past and a source of artistic inspiration for the future
  • Published by Faksimile Verlag Luzern, the facsimile edition is composed of two volumes - the facsimile of the Book of Kells and a companion volume of extensive scholarly studies of the Book. A summary transcription of the topics in the companion volume is also available at Washington-Centerville Public Library
  • The word facsimile comes from the Latin meaning, "Make it the same!"
  • Normal color printing is limited to four colors, yet on some pages of the Book of Kells facsimile, 10 colors were used in printing
  • The holes in the original volume appear in the facsimile; these come from bacteria and places where the leather (vellum) was thin and holes were made
  • Presented in memory of Dr. Orviel Fallang by Mrs. Ruth (Fallang) Anderson and her children to Washington-Centerville Public Library and held in trust for our community
"Anyone who examines the leaves of this celebrated manuscript will be overwhelmed by the consummate skill of the artists who produced it, in primitive conditions over 1200 years ago." - Bernard Muir, Melbourne University

Page Turning

The Book of Kells, at Trinity College in Dublin, was originally a single volume but was rebound in four volumes in 1953 for conservation reasons. Two volumes are normally on display - one opened at a major decorated page, the other at a text opening.

Because the Washington-Centerville Public Library facsimile edition is bound into one volume, two pages are viewable at a time. Pages are turned periodically throughout the year with major decorated pages featured during certain holiday seasons (Easter, Christmas, etc.).

The Donors

Mrs. Ruth (Fallang) Anderson donated the Book of Kells to Washington-Centerville Public Library in memory of her husband, Dr. Orviel Fallang. Dr. Fallang was a long-time Library patron and a local veterinarian. The book was purchased after his untimely death as a way to honor his memory. She and her four children -- Dennis Fallang J.D., David Fallang M.D., Michelle Fallang Patterson Ph.D, and Jennifer Fallang Bell M.D. -- all of whom graduated from Centerville High School, donated this book to the Library so many people could share in its history and beauty. Mrs. Anderson passed away in early 2011.

The Book of Kells donation is just one example of giving to the Library. Many other library projects are the result of other endowments or donations.

Our Library is honored to display this rare, donated facsimile edition of the Book of Kells, the world-famous 9th century illuminated manuscript acclaimed as the most beautiful book ever written.

The Library, which advances no religion or belief system, presents this destination book which has transcended its religious origins to become an object worthy of study - as a window into the past and a source of artistic inspiration for the future.