I love books. I love reading them, holding them in my hands. I love how they look, how they smell, and I love to collect them. I especially love a well-worn book, with fraying at the binding and yellow pages. I love to write in the margins and underline passages, effectively creating a physical map in a three dimensional space so that when I find myself in need of a quote, I can see the page in my mind.
Reading, as I’ve mentioned before, isn’t a purely contemplative experience for me. It’s one that requires my whole being. I see pictures in my head, made richer by the things I’ve seen when I’m not reading and by the images included in the books themselves. I’m affected by the typeface, the cover, the size and feel of the paper, the pictures I add myself in pen. Maybe this makes me shallow, but I think of reading as an embodied experience.
And that’s why I love Medieval books. It’s why I stood and stared at the Book of Kells for almost two hours when I had the privilege to see it. Most people passed through in well under 30 minutes, but I couldn’t tear myself away. I wasn’t just transfixed by the image, I was transported by them. In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, I’m including a few photos of the gorgeous Book of Kells. I have a coloring book of the Book of Kells from a souvenir shop, but my versions of course pale in comparison. They’re still fun though.
To get a look at some super sensuous and well-loved books, check out this article from Medieval Fragments: “Manuscripts for the Rich & Famous (Super Bling)!“.
I especially love this reason author Jenny Weston gives for these incredibly lavish book decorations:
2. To show how much you loved the text. Books, especially religious books, were seen as important carriers of spiritual texts—essentially vehicles of the Word of God. Some chose to honour the significance of the texts by adorning them with beautiful artwork.
Check out the post for yourself, and enjoy the splendor.