A FINE SET OF THE LIMITED EDITION
Switzerland: Berne, Printed by Urs Graf-Verlag, 1960. Folio. pp. (1) xv, 239, 4 [plates], (2) , 248 [including tipped in coloured plates]. Pigskin and quarter pigskin, title in green along spine. Edition limited to 650 copies only. A fine set housed in a recent buckram bound slipcase. Scarce.
Ireland in the earliest centuries of her recorded history was known throughout Europe as the Island of Saint and Scholars, a place where books were written and treasured. The craftsmen and artificers of early Ireland wrought costly and elaborate shrines for famous books. The Venerable Bede, the historian of early England, writing in the first half of the eighth century, says: “At this period there were many English nobles and lesser folk in Ireland who had left their own land during the episcopates of Bishops Finán and Colmán, either to pursue religious studies or to lead a life of stricter discipline. The Irish welcomed them all kindly and, without asking for any payment, provided them with books and instructors”. The Book of Durrow which is sometimes called `the elder sister of the Book of Kells was probably written in the second quarter of the seventh century. This manuscript is so called because of its association with the important Columban monastery of Durrow, in Offaly, where it was kept for centuries. There is evidence to show that the book was at Durrow at the close of the eleventh century from a manuscript insertion entered into the back of the book. In 1627, Conall Mac Eochagáin, the translator of the Annals of Clonmacnoise, recorded that the book was in the custody of an ignorant man and was used as a cure for sick cattle, the manuscript being dipped into water which was then given to the cattle to drink. By 1677 it was in the library of Trinity College where the antiquary Roderick O’Flaherty made some notes on the book, recording an inscription in Irish on the shrine, which in translation reads: “The prayer and blessing of Colum Cille for Flann son of Maolsachnaill, King of Ireland, who had this shrine made”. Its ornamentation is almost as magnificent as that of Kells, but it is more interesting because of its greater antiquity. The Book of Durrow is the earliest surviving insular Gospel-book de luxe. It contains the Four Gospels in Latin, complete with the preliminaries, in a pure Vulgate text which bears a remarkable resemblance to that of ms. St. Gall No.1395, claimed by C.H. Turner to be the oldest manuscript of the Vulgate Gospels. The contributors to the Commentary are: Dr. A.A. Luce; Dr. George Simms; Prof. Peter Meyer and Prof. Ludwig Bieler. This is the complete facsimile edition with 17 plates in colour and 479 in monochrome.
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