Printed Page Bookshop
January 2024

The mystery of Ireland's greatest cultural treasure
Many bibliophiles -- and many tourists to Ireland -- have heard of the Book of Kells, an extravagantly illustrated manuscript and Celtic gospel book in Latin that attracts visitors from around the world to Trinity College, Dublin.  That's what we know with certainty.  What we don't know is exactly when the manuscript was created, or where, or by whom. 
Scholars believe the book was created in a monastery either in Ireland or Scotland, and may have had contributions from other monasteries in these areas.  It is believed to have been created around 800 a.d. The manuscript takes its name from the Abbey of Kells, County Meath, which was its home for centuries.
The manuscript today comprises 340 leaves or folios for a total of 680 pages.  It is bound in four volumes, each about 13 inches by nine inches.  The leaves are calf vellum; the unprecedentedly elaborate ornamentation that covers them includes illustrations that are vibrant with decorated initials and interlinear miniatures.  The script of the text appears to be the work of at least three different scribes.  The lettering is in iron gall ink, and the colors used were derived from a wide range of substances, some of which were imported from distant lands.
Kells Abbey was pillaged by Vikings many times at the beginning of the 9th century, and how the book survived is not known.  The earliest historical reference to the book is from 1007, and notes that the book was "wickedly stolen during the night."  It was recovered a few months later, minus its golden and jeweled cover.  The book remained in Kells until 1654.  In that year, Cromwell's cavalry was quartered in the church at Kells, and the governor of the town sent the book to Dublin for safekeeping.  The book was presented to Trinity College in Dublin in 1661 and has remained there ever since, except for brief loans.  It's on display there, where it is visited by a half million people every year. A page is turned every few weeks.  Verrrrry carefully.

This Month's Puzzler
On January 4, 1965, this American-born English poet died at age 76 in
London. Born in St. Louis in 1888, he graduated from Harvard in 1909 and
then studied philosophy for a year at the University of Paris. He won a
scholarship to attend Merton College, Oxford University, and went on to
became a British citizen in 1939. One of the greatest poets of the 20th
century, he was also a respected playwright, an influential literary
critic, a gifted essayist, and a talented editor. His works helped to
revitalize English poetry, ultimately helping him win the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1948. In addition to his poetry, he was also the author of
many powerful prose lines, including this one:

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
Who was this man?  (Answer below)

Interested in learning how to repair books?  Check this out
It takes a lot of time and training to become skilled at saving and restoring books.  We are always in awe of the people who are capable of doing that.  Sophia Bogle is one of those people, and now she's sharing her knowledge through a series of online classes -- and most are free. Just go here:

Puzzler answer

T.S. Eliot.  If you like our Puzzler, find more on our Facebook page.  
Thanks to Dr. Mardy Grothe for the use of his puzzler.  Visit him at

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