Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Celtic book design

In the Book of Durrow (bottom) each Gospel begins with an Evangelist's symbol - a man for Matthew, a lion for Mark, a calf for Luke and an eagle for John. The next page is a carpet page, followed by the initial page. The first letter of the text is enlarged and decorated, with the following letters surrounded by dots. Parallels with metalwork can be noted in the rectangular body of St Matthew, which looks like a millefiori decoration, and in details of the carpet pages. There is a sense of space in the design of all the pages of the Book of Durrow. Open vellum balances intensely decorated areas. Animal interlace of very high quality appears on one page. Other motifs include spirals, triskeles, ribbon plaits and circular knots in the carpet pages and borders around the Evangelists. The Book of Kells (top) is the high point of a group of manuscripts in what is known as the Insular style produced from the late 6th through the early 9th centuries in Ireland. One characteristic of these medieval manuscripts is horror vacui, a design principle of thelogical connotations.