ArticleA Talking Painting
It is quite symbolic that a House of Books (Marsh Library) happens to be one of the most remarkable features of the Land of Storytellers (Ireland). It is even more fitting that this Land's arguably most famous object is a book. To be precise, I probably should call it The Book - because this version of the Bible (the actual content of the book is Four Gospels), known as the Book of Kells, has over centuries become synonymous with Ireland itself.
The Book is traditionally described as an “illustrated manuscript” but this description seems to bely its uniqueness. There are millions of copies of the Bible, and many of them are manuscripts. At least some of those manuscripts are illustrated in one way or another but the illustrations are what in the world of movies is called the “supporting cast”. The main "protagonist" featured by the manuscripts in question is still the “Word of God”. The Book of Kells essentially reverses the roles as its emphasis isn't really on the Word as such but rather on the way it gets delivered. It's tempting to say that every word, if not every letter, in the Book is a miniature picture - an exaggeration as such a statement may be, it emphasizes one's intuitive perception that the Book's images somehow transformed themselves into words, thus acquiring distinct and unequivocal meanings while keeping all their external beauty.
The key component of that beauty is the material the pages are made of - vellum. Combined with a lichen-based dye, it produces warm colours giving off soft golden light. Add to it meticulously drawn letters and intricate patterns so firmly associated with the Book that they became its trademark - and here is the recipe for the phenomenon the above picture gives some vague idea of. Unfortunately, in case of the Book of Kells, imagination has to be heavily relied upon, because the actual book is protected by a glass case, and glass is a perfect spoil sport when it comes to nuanced qualities of light…