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Pigments in the Book of Kells

Watch this video to discover the different pigments in the creation of the Book of Kells

The vibrancy, beauty, application and combinations of colour in the Book of Kells has fascinated viewers through the centuries.

Determining what materials were used requires analytical work. We can only use non-destructive techniques as we have a policy of non-sampling, so the techniques need to be safe to use directly on the manuscript.

Originally it was thought that up to thirty different pigments were used, but we have narrowed down the number and discovered the very clever use of a small number of plant- and mineral- based pigments which are mixed with white to lighten them, or with extra binder to make them glossier, or layered to create the rich and colourful impression conveyed by the manuscript today.

Pigments: Carbon Black, Iron Gall, Red Lead, Orpiment, Gypsum, Indigo, Orecin, Verdigris Some of the most extensively used pigments in the Book of Kells (Bioletti et al. 2009).

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The Book of Kells: Exploring an Irish Medieval Masterpiece

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