The book of Kells dates from c.800 A.D. and contains the four Gospels in Latin.
Now measuring 33 x 25.5 cm having been trimmed and rebound in the 19th century. It is written on vellum and the Gospel texts are prefaced with Canon Tables and characterisations of the Evangelists.
What makes the Book of Kells unique are the lavish illustrations intertwined with the text with the intention of glorifying God's creations. Their are many full pages containing decorations and symbols such as for the Cannon Tables.
The book was illustrated by what appears to have been four artists whose work has been likened to that of goldsmiths. A number of pigments were used including arsenic sulphate for yellow, red lead or an unidentified organic matter for red and blue was created from indigo or woad.
The Book of Kells was probably used for special ceremonial occasions rather than for daily services. This conclusion has been reached as the transcription of the text was sumptuous but also rather careless with some entire words having been omitted. In other sections texts have been repeated and subsequently painted over to hide the error.
Now bound into four volumes two of which are usually on view in the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin (one showing a decorated page and the other text), the Book of Kells attracts in excess of 800,000 visitors a year.