Would you fly around the world just for a book?

I did.


I took a trip to Dublin just to visit the Book of Kells. It’s true. That’s how much of a nerd I am.

This book, written around 800 AD, has held a fascination with me ever since I first came across a reproduction of the Chi Rho page in one of my brother’s books during elementary school. I twisted within the horror vacui, the spaces completely filled with decoration, and lost myself permanently in the labyrinth. (Remind me to tell you about my love of Ariadne, sometime.)


The Book of Kells contains the four Gospels of the New Testament, and is housed in Trinity College, Dublin, smack in the center of town. You enter and exit through the gift shop—sneaky and effective trick, there—into a dark room with images and descriptions of various parts of the book. The exhibit teaches you about what you are going to see before you get to the book itself: a plea for tourists to understand just how beautiful and important one book can be.


Notwithstanding the crowds, it was a special experience for me. Apparently they turn the page every few days. On my day, we were on the incipit page for Matthew. Nestled next to the book were also the Book of Durrow and the Book of Armagh. (Wonder how they said that? Probably something like Monty Python and the castle of Aughhhhhhhhhh.) They even had some super early Caxtons up the stairs. (Caxton was the first printer working in England.)


Our subject today is called the Book of Kells because it ended up in a monastery at Kells, where it spent most of its medieval life. How it survived the plundering Vikings who took summer rampaging trips to Kells is not known.


We are so lucky that such precious books have survived. The loss of such a piece of beauty is not commensurate with its size, but with its value to us. And the Book of Kells, to me, is invaluable.


What a nerdy entry. Do you think you can outdo me in nerdiness? Leave a comment proving you’ve done something just as nerdy. I’ll come back with another nerdy fact about myself.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. vanbraman says:

    How about carrying a copy of Ben Hur with me when I visited the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Which reminds me that it deserves a blog post someday.

    I like to visit literature related sites when I travel for work. One of my favorite visits was to the British Library in London.

    1. Your comment leads me to my nerdy reply: the British Library was the highlight of my trip to London this year. They had a Gutenberg Bible on display AND Fust and Shoeffer’s Latin Psalter! That latter is the first book with a colophon, the first book with varying font sizes, and the first book printed in multiple colors.

  2. Don says:

    Well, this isn’t necessarily book related but I did drive from Concord, NC (where my wife and I lived at the time) all the way to New Orleans just to see our favorite bluegrass band Leftover Salmon play at Tipitnas and then drove back the next day. I’m a HUGE music geek.

    1. Ok, here’s an embarrassing and nerdy related fact about myself. When I was in 5th grade, my two favorite musicians were Paula Abdul and Weird Al.

      1. Don says:

        “Dare To Be Stupid” is a masterpiece 🙂

  3. R Towns Blethrow says:

    carpe diem Why not. Especially if it was something like these:

    Clay Tokens: The Precursors of Cuneiform

    The earliest examples of Mesopotamian script date from approximately the end of the 4th millenium BCE, coinciding in time and in geography with the rise of urban centers such as Uruk, Nippur, Susa, and Ur. These early records are used almost exclusively for accounting and record keeping.

    However, these cuneiform records are really descendents of another counting system that had been used for five thousand years before. Clay tokens have been used since as early as 8000 BCE in Mesopotamia for some form of record-keeping.

    1. Lovely, though I’m naturally more drawn to books–of any age. Thinking on the loss of the Library of Alexandria is painful.

  4. Ron says:

    I actually planned a specific trip to London to take a day at the British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone. You read about something your whole life. You use the term “Rosetta Stone” to describe something that serves as key to unlocking mysteries in your business world. It’s a product! So finally see it and learn up close was neat. I had the same plan to see the Sistine Chapel. Marvels of our world!

    1. Agreed. I’m lucky in that my job entails handling wonders of the world every day. We just put out a Shakespeare Folio on display, for example.

  5. David Shaw says:

    Looks like I’m late to the show on this one. Anyways, I was inspired to join the military because of the romance offered up by “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” My subsequent trip through historic Mesopotamia was a bonding experience with future lifelong friends. In a combat arms unit the nerds naturally stick together. I met my best friend Chris and we spent every minute of downtime debating history, culture, music, photography, politics and worldly problems. An experience I will never forget. Oh, and by the way, Hemingway was right: sleeping soldiers do smell like wet dimes.

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