This illuminated manuscript created by Irish or Scottish monks in the eighth or ninth century, contains the Latin text of the four gospels, plus prefaces and various other bits and bobs. It is probably Ireland's greatest art treasure, dating from a time when Ireland was preeminent in this spectacular form of devotional art. It has been housed in Trinity College Dublin since the 17th century, and is now on display in the college's Old Library, where it has become Dublin's number one tourist attraction.

The book was most likely produced at the monastery of Iona by followers of Saint Columba, and is sometimes known as the "Book of Columba". Its latter-day name refers to Kells in County Meath, where it was kept for many years, until 1541.

Trinity College Dublin, where the book is kept, are extremely paranoid and protective of this manuscript; this is understandable given that the entrance fee to the library is one of their major sources of revenue, and the book also generates much peripheral spending by tourists staying in and around the campus.

After loaning one of the 4 volumes of the book to Canberra, Australia in early 2000, there was some controversy when the manuscript was found to have a 'slight pigment damage', which was suspected to be due to vibration of the aircraft during transit.

This perhaps influenced a decision by the College not to loan any part of the book to the newly-opened Kells Heritage Centre, despite the planning of a 24-hour armed police presence, and numerous other security measures. The manuscript has only been loaned 4 times in the 340+ years that the College has been in possession of it.

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