Photo by Tim Wildsmith

Dublin and the Book of Kells

Carolyn North

When I was newly married, my husband and I took a bicycle trip from Cork to Dublin in Ireland. We both were working across the Channel in Oxford that year; I was helping to catalog illustrated 12th-century manuscripts at the Bodleian Library. When we came to Dublin that spring, we went to Trinity College where the Book of Kells was on view to the public beneath locked glass, one page of the illustrated manuscript on view each day. I longed to see the whole book, but that of course was not allowed.

“I’m going to ask, anyway,” I told my husband, and I knocked on the office door, to his dismay. The door was answered by the one Irish person I knew, a fellow student from years before at an institute of medieval studies in France! We were astonished to meet again. I told her of my wish to see the whole, precious manuscript; she asked the curator, telling him that I had the right qualifications–which in fact, I did not have–and the next morning I was allowed to see the complete Book of Kells in a private room–as a visiting scholar!

My husband was astonished, but over the years he saw one synchronicity after another happen to me and decided he had married a witch!

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