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Matthew Crosby – The Book of Kells: Art or Design?


Matthew Crosby                                                                                                       Art85 Project 1

The Book of Kells: Art or Design?

The Book of Kells is a Gospel book written in Latin, that has the the four Gospels of the New Testament. It was created by Celtic monks around the year 800 in Ireland. The text of the Gospels is largely known for the pictures within it. It’s known as one of Ireland’s greatest national treasures. “It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and represents the pinnacle of insular illumination (Wikipedia Line 3)”. Being known for having beautiful pictures inside it which represents the faith the Celtic monks had for the lord and the bible, it’s not surprising that the question of it being art or design would be brought up.

In my opinion I say the book is design, mostly because I when I look at it I don’t feel any emotion towards it like I would for a piece of art. Back then people might have thought that it was art and representing the faith perfectly, but in modern day to me it just doesn’t cut it. I do think of it as design because it’s serving as a purpose to blend drawings with the words and pages of the book to give it a unique feature to differentiate itself from other works of the gospel. Although just because it’s not doesn’t mean that the monks didn’t work effortlessly to make it, “Even so, the Book of Kells is the culmination of Celtic illumination. Its noble design has generous margins and huge initial letters. Far more full-page illustrations than in any other Celtic manuscript are executed with a remarkable density and complexity of form (Meggs pg43 Line15)”.

I may be an idiot for saying this, but I think the illustrations in the book are too complex to be art. My reasons for this are the text that’s mixed in with the illustrations, which are basically telling me the message they want me to know about the religion as a design choice. And since they blended words with the pictures it kind of takes away the ability to feel any emotion towards the illustration when you’re reading it instead of just looking at it and realizing what it’s trying to tell you on your own; not because the picture itself told you with the text right in front of it.

Although I will say that even though mixing text with the illustrations was a design choice, it looks like a cluster mess that even if I could read Gaelic letters it would be awkward to read and be very confusing to understand. Be that as it may I still stand by my statement that the Book of Kells is a work of design meant to have purpose in separating itself from other gospels and bibles.

 

 

 

Works Cited

“Book of Kells.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells&gt;.

 

Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998. Print.

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