KEY and GLOSSARY
Locate the page (e.g., f. 60r) on digitalcollections.tcd.ie/concern/works/hm50tr726?locale=en (below)
In Turning a-Page-a-Day, the Latin text is shown, line-by-line, as found in the Book of Kells.
Frequently words are not separated and these are indicated by the use of a diagonal stroke (/); a ‘turn-inpath’ is indicated by three (///).
Abbreviations (e.g., ihs and xps) and spelling variations are shown in red, as is the use of the et-ligature (&) at the end of a word. Other features, such as deviations from the standard Vulgate text, are also in red.
The Vulgate spellings are shown in the adjoining box (other unusual features are also noted here).
Next, there is a line-by-line translation in English of the Gospel text.
In the box to the left, black numerals show the relevant Eusebian Sections (ancient text divisions used in Kells). Beneath these, numerals in red indicate the Canon Table to which the sections belong.
Then follows a discussion of the Scribe-Artist’s handling of the Gospel text. This includes layout, initials, and calligraphic highlights as well as noting any additions that belong to his second campaign of work.
Beginning each entry is the folio number followed in brackets by the quire number and the page to which it is joined (bifolium). Below this is the chapter and verse reference, and a summary of the Gospel text.
Abbreviations: these are common in early manuscripts with the sacred names most frequently abbreviated in Kells (see Nomina Sacra)
Accent: These finely drawn marks, which lengthen vowels, are widespread throughout the manuscript, although not applied with any consistency. Used extensively in some areas, sparsely in others, they are absent from about 90 text pages.
Anthropomorphic: refers to human forms incorporated, e.g., in initials or interlace (see Zoomorphic).
Argumenta: is the term used for a type of biographical note on each of the Evangelists, often used as prefaces to authenticate the authorship of the Gospels. These are on ff. 12r-13r (Mt.), ff. 15v-16v (Mk.), ff.16v-18r (Lk.) and ff. 18r-19v (Jn.).
Ascender: the upright part of letters b, d, h, and l that extends above the headline (see Descender).
Bifolium (bifolia): most of Kells’ pages are bifolia, i.e., pairs of conjoint leaves (see Centrefold, Folio, Singleton, Quire).
C-shaped superscripted u: an unusual version of the letterform often used to save space at line-ends.
Campaign: in Kells, there are two distinct phases of work identified as the first and second campaigns. Of Kells’ two creators, the Master-Artist and the Scribe-Artist, only the latter survives to complete the manuscript. His work in the second campaign shows a deterioration in quality; this becomes noticeably poorer in the later phase of this campaign.
Canon Tables: these tables (ff. 1v-6r) show the correspondence of similar details, statements, or stories, between two, three, or all four Gospels, in addition to those only occurring in a single Gospel. The tables are numbered references to each of these details/statements/stories (called Eusebian Sections). They were included by Jerome as a standard feature in his revision of the scriptures late in the 4th cent. (see Eusebian Sections).
Capitula: is a term used for the Chapter headings of the various Gospels (aka breves causae). In Kells, these occur in the prefatory material between ff. 8r-25v (combined with the Argumenta)
Carpet Page: A decorative page without text, usually incorporating a cross motif. The only such page in Kells is f. 33r (aka the eight-circle cross carpet page).
Cathach: a psalter dated to the late 6th cent. (RIA MS S.n., The Cathach/The Psalter of St Columba). This book of psalms is traditionally believed to have been written by St Columba (see foll.).
Cathach Motif: a decorative feature incorporating a spike surmounted by a small circle added to some initials in the Cathach. This also occurs in a number of Kells’ initials.
Centrefold: the central bifolium in a quire (see Bifolium, Folio, Quire, Singleton).
Chi-Rho: the name of Christ is always abbreviated with the Greek letters chi and rho. In Kells, this monogram dominates f. 34r, the so-called Chi-Rho page (see Nomina Sacra).
Clustering: the repetition of features on a page, or neighbouring pages is a characteristic feature in the work of the Scribe-Artist.
Descender: the lower part of letters p, and q extending below the baseline (see Ascender).
Diminuendo: a gradual reduction in the size of letters following an initial, and preceding the main script.
Display-Lettering: sequences of large letters, including those following the great-initials on the opening page of each Gospel (aka ‘display capitals’ and ‘continuation lettering’).
Evangelist (and Evangelist symbols): the authors of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (symbolised respectively by the winged figures of a man, a lion, a calf, and an eagle).
Eusebian Section: divisions of the Gospels thought to be based on those originally proposed by Ammonius of Alexandria. These were devised by Eusebius in the 4th cent. (see Canon Tables).
Exemplar: the original book used by a scribe in making a copy.
Explicit: the closing of a section of text (see Incipit).
Extended-letter: a letterform ‘stretched’ to make it longer than normal. While these occur sparingly in other Insular manuscripts, over 740 are found in Kells (most frequently m, of which there are around 430 instances). Subject to the Scribe-Artist’s constant variation they constitute a decorative ‘family’ (see Marginal Arabesques and Uncial-a).
Et-ligature: the abbreviated form of et (‘and’). This occurs with great frequency in Kells and is the most common initial in the manuscript (over 900).
Folio: a single folio comprises two pages – recto and verso (front and back). Kells leaves are numbered or ‘foliated’ on the recto. They are identified, e.g., as f. 60r and f. 60v (see Bifolium, Centrefold, Singleton).
Gospel Book: the New Testament accounts of Christ’s life attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (see Evangelist).
Half-uncial: the ‘lower-case’ or ‘minuscule’ versions of letterforms (see Uncial).
Incipit: the opening of a section of text. A decorative page at the beginning of a Gospel text. In deluxe manuscripts like Kells, this is often referred to as the Incipit or Incipit page (see Explicit).
Insular: refers to the shared artistic culture of the islands of Ireland and Britain c. 550-900. Majuscule: see Uncial.
Marginal Arabesque: the most prominent marginal decorations in Kells are here described as arabesques. Typically triangular, and usually incorporating a fine-scrolled edge, these motifs are appended to letters that have headstrokes. Like streams of bunting, they extend into the margin (usually on the left).
Occasional instances are found in other Insular manuscripts. The Lindisfarne Gospels, for example, only has a total of six occurring on just two pages. However, in Kells, as with so many of its features, they occur much more frequently. Almost 250 occur on 158 pages and they are spread over 35 of the 38 quires. They are subject to significant elaboration and variation and constitute a decorative ‘family’ (see Extended-Letters and Uncial-a).
Miniscule: see Half-uncial.
Nomina Sacra: The most frequently occurring abbreviations in Kells are the nomina sacra (sacred names). These include the various parts of iesus (ihs, ihm, ihu), and christus, the first two letters of which are transliterated in the Greek chi and rho, and the third indicating its Latin ending (xps, xpm, xpi, xpo). Also abbreviated are the words for God and Lord: deus (ds, di, dm, do), and dominus (dns, dnm, dne, dni, dno).
Although not always referring to the third person of the Trinity, spiritus, in its various parts (sps, spm, spu, spui), is also usually abbreviated, as are the various parts of sanctus (scs, sci, sco, scm, scam, sce).
Palaeography: the study of ‘ancient writing’ and manuscripts in general.
Quire: manuscripts are bound in quires (aka gatherings). Like ‘booklets’ these are collections of usually five bilfolia, making a total of 10 leaves / 20 pages.
Signe-de-renvoie: a symbol marking, e.g., a missing text which may be added in the margin.
Singleton: while most of Kells’ pages are conjoint bifolia, these are sometimes single leaves (see Bifolium, Folio, Quire).
S-shaped superscripted m: an unusual version of the letterform often used to save space at line-ends (see Superscripted).
Subscripted: refers to letters (or words) that are added in the interlinear space directly below the writing line (see Superscripted).
Superscripted: refers to letters (or words) added in the interlinear space directly above the writing line (see C-shaped Superscripted u, S-shaped Superscripted m, Subscripted, Turn-in-Path).
Suspension: where the final letters in words are not written but instead indicated by dots. One of many space-saving devices used by early scribes.
Tall-e: a distinctive version of the letterform used frequently in Kells (see Reading Tip on f. 63v).
Tall-s: a distinctive version of the letterform used frequently in Kells (see Reading Tip on f. 63v).
Tironian Notae: refers to a shorthand system devised by Cicero’s secretary Tiro in the 1st cent. BCE
(see also Abbreviation and Nomina Sacra).
Turn-in-Path: is an unusual arrangement of text where a sentence is continued, not in the following line, as we would normally expect, but in an empty space in the line above. These are distinct from superscripted and subscripted letters, which are added in the spaces between the lines of writing (see Subscripted, Superscripted).
Uncial: the ‘upper-case’ or ‘majuscule’ versions of letterforms (see Half-uncial).
Uncial-a: is often a feature at (or near) line-ends and is subject to the Scribe-Artist’s typical variation.
Occurring on over 420 instances they constitute a decorative ‘family’ similar to the ExtendedLetters and the Marginal Arabesques – for all instances, see MacGabhann, The Making of the Book of Kells, 2016, figs .3.358 – 3.390: sas-space.sas.ac.uk/6920/2/MacGabhann – Complete Illustrations.pdf
For Extended-Letters see figs. 3.259 – 3.315 and for Marginal Arabesques, figs. 4.41 – 4.48.
Vellum: the prepared calf-skin on which Kells is written (‘parchment’ usually refers to sheep and goat
Vertical-m: a 3-shaped squiggle often used in Kells to save space at line-ends.
Vertical-n: like vertical-m, (but occurring less frequently) this letter formed with two bows is also used to save space at line-ends.
Zoomorphic: refers to animal forms incorporated, e.g., in initials or interlace (see Anthropomorphic).