I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trinity College

Fortunately I'd planned to devote Saturday to indoor activities -- shopping and the Book of Kells -- as the streets were too treacherous to make any more long hikes across Dublin a possibility.

Outdoor photos were unfortunately all that were allowed at Trinity, so these pictures are only a small part of what I saw. The Book of Kells! I had thought I didn't really care for Celtic art, all those intricate interlocking zigzags, but the way the colors were used (still vivid after twelve hundred years) made me see the ornamental knots and swirls with a different eye. And I've always loved how you can see the daily life of medieval artists incorporated in their work -- the birds and animals peeking from the borders, the clothes and hairstyles of the saints -- while the main lineup, in this case the Gospels, plays in center court.

The Book is bound into four volumes, two of which are on display, so you only see four pages of the actual manuscript, two of text and two of the full-page illustrations, but the accompanying exhibit includes photos of many of the illustrations, along with information on how the sheets of vellum were made, where the materials for the paints came from, how the book was bound, and its history. I was especially fascinated by the way the initial words on the text pages were decorated. Et for example is the first word in many of the paragraphs and it's never painted the same way twice.

You leave the Kells exhibit through the Long Room, part of the Trinity College library, with hundreds of thousands of books in shelved alcoves with vaulted ceilings. There are marble busts of writers outside each alcove, a wonderful spiral staircase going up to who knows what, and the air smells of wood and old books. It's the most wonderful library I've ever seen, and I wanted to sit there forever and read. Just read.

One oddity: the books are arranged by size, with the shortest books on a shelf closest to the ceiling. Each subsequent shelf is a little taller than the one above, and the books fit the shelves exactly. It's a very efficient use of space, but you'd have to have the world's most detailed card catalog to be able to find anything.

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