Celtic Studies Resources

The Book of Kells: Two Works, two scribes

Dr. Bernard Meehan of Trinity College, Dublin, the leading scholar regarding The Book of Kells, has, via new research, concluded that Kells was originally two separate works, created up to half a century apart on the islands of Kells and Iona.

Meehan theorizes that the Gospel of John and the first few pages of Mark were created by a scribe on the Scottish island of Iona sometime during the last quarter of the eighth century.

He suggests that the remainder of The Gospel of Mark and the Kells texts of the Gospels of Luke and  Matthew were created up to 50 years later in the Irish monastery of Kells itself.

Handwriting evidence suggests that the Iona monk who created his spectacular copy of St John’s Gospel was, stylistically, a very traditional scribe who had learned his craft at some stage in the mid eighth century. His scribal activity appears to have ceased abruptly, after he completed verse 26 of the fourth chapter of St Mark’s Gospel.

Dr. Meehan is the author of the just published The Book of Kells: Official Guide.