Book will not return to Kells-TCD


It's been to Canberra, but it's never going to Meath.

At least not if the Board of Trinity College Dublin has its way. "Regretfully", it announced yesterday, it would be declining a request by the people of Kells for a loan of the Book of Kells.

The people of the Meath town are "perplexed and disappointed". Kells Urban District Council had applied to borrow four volumes of the 1,200-year-old manuscript for a planned exhibition in its £1 million heritage centre, just completed.

Mr Bill Simpson, head librarian at Trinity College, said the decision had been taken "on the grounds of security and environmental concerns".

To perplexity and disappointment on hearing the news, Mr Brian Reilly, chairman of Kells UDC, added scepticism on hearing Mr Simpson's explanation.

"Given that we had said `yes' to all of Trinity College's requirements and specifications, I can't understand why they have said `no'," he said. The environmental and security systems planned for Kells would surpass Trinity's.

"State-of-the-art environmental protection systems, state-of-the-art intruder systems, state-of-the-art heat detection and fire suppression systems, and a better case or safe than even Trinity College has" were to be provided.

While the college has decided it would not be safe to send the book - even accompanied by one of its own curators - to the next county - where it was written - it has been on display around Europe as well as earlier this year in the Australian capital, Canberra. On that trip the book was found to have lost some pigmentation, though it is not clear whether this occurred in transit or had happened before it left Trinity.

The Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Mr Dempsey, said he too was disappointed and called on Trinity to think again.