I grew up in a home with Book of Kells illustrations on the wall. During a recent trip to Ireland, I bought a couple of illustrations from Trinity College, got them framed, and they now sit on my eastern wall, and pick up the sunlight. Seeing the Book of Kells in person is a daunting and emotional experience, something I highly recommend. Not only is the book extraordinarily beautiful, but it is a pure example of the devotion of these monks to keep language/education alive during a difficult era. You cannot believe the detail in this work, and generations of monks worked on it.
And so this is extremely moving to me: complaints scribbled in the margins of illuminated manuscripts by the monks, hunched over their work by candlelight.
One reads: “This is sad! O little book! A day will come in truth when someone over your page will say, ‘The hand that wrote it is no more.”
But then, one reads: “Now I’ve written the whole thing; for Christ’s sake give me a drink.”
I have a deep love of marginalia as well, something I shared with my father. I’ve written about it before. It is difficult for me to even provide this link here, but I will, because it is related. Written in a dark dark time.
And while I share this wonderful link of monk complaints with you, certain that some of you out there will glory in it as I do, it is only because the one I want to send it to the most is not here anymore.
As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe.
Thanks so much, to Maud Newton, for linking to that piece.