For the Irish so Loved the Book…

For the Irish so loved the Book… They built shrines in which to house them.

On this St. Patrick’s Day, I’m reminded of the monks who illuminated the Book of Kells and other precious manuscripts. Beyond their talents as artists, scribes and custodians, their dedication to preserving vital texts sometimes extended to the creation of ‘cumdachs’. And they are stunning.

A cumdach or book shrine is an elaborate ornamented box or case used as a reliquary to enshrine books regarded as relics of the saints who had used them in Early Medieval Ireland. They are normally dated later than the book they contain, often by several centuries. (from Wikipedia).

Today is an ideal time to take a moment and appreciate the beauty of some of these unique and exquisite contributions from the Irish that will speak to every book lover’s heart.

Cumdach or Book Shrine of Molaise | est. 1001 AD - 1025 AD

Cumdach or Book Shrine of Molaise | est. 1001 AD – 1025 AD

bday 3-17 repro of Shrine of O'Donnell - Cathach or Battler

Reproduction of the Shrine of O’Donnell – Cathach or Battler (original dated 1084)

bday 3-17 shrine for a book was found on the bed of Lough Kinale in 1986

Shrine for a book | Found in the bed of Lough Kinale in 1986.

bday 3-17 Shrine_of_Book_of_Dimma

Reproduction of Shrine of the Book of Dimma, Roscrea, Co Tipperary. 12th century (original in Library of Trinity College, Dublin)

bday 3-17 St Columba psalter holy book 561 ad to 1843 ad

St. Columba psalter (est 561AD to 843AD)

Domhnach Airgid Shrine

The shrine known as the Domhnach Airgid (“silver church”) was originally 8th century, but little is visible from before a major reworking around 1350 by the abbot of Clones.

The Stowe Missal | the metalwork is elaborately decorated, with some animal and human figures, and one face and the sides probably dates to between 1027 and 1033.

The Stowe Missal | the metalwork is elaborately decorated, with some animal and human figures, and one face and the sides probably dates to between 1027 and 1033.

Bibliophile Birthday: Georges Melies, the ‘Inspiration of Hugo Cabret’

Georges Melies

Georges Melies

Born on this day in 1861 , “Cinemagician”, Georges Melies was re-introduced to a whole new generation of film fans (and bibliophiles) through Brian Selnick’s monumental 2007 book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”. Thank God.

In the very nascence of film-making, Melies was an illusionist-turned-filmmaker who recognized the contributions that manipulating audience perceptions could have on moving pictures.  He is credited with being one of the first film-makers to use stop-motion tricks, dissolves, time-lapse photography and hand-painted color in movie making. He moved stage magic into the realm of movies…and the craft has never looked back since.

bday 12-8 georges melies hugo cabret selznick artIn 2007, author-illustrator Brian Selznick built a beautiful story filled with Caldecott-winning illustrations that re-introduced the man who took film-making from its toddlerhood into the realms of real movie magic. The name and contributions of Georges Melies are resurrected (both in the book AND in the real world) in an instance where art imitates life…and vice versa (thank you Oscar Wilde!).

“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” almost qualifies as a wordless book, with page after page of story-telling illustrations punctuated by intermittent pages of text.  The dark frames surrounding each page of illustration create a lovely silver-gray effect as the closed book is viewed edge-on.  It’s a thick book and on the shelf it looks like one of the most challenging tomes in the Kids/YA section. But in truth, it’s an ideal choice for reluctant/challenged readers as well as adult fans of the finest illustration arts.

When we see the wonders of special effects in film today – sitting through one on-screen spectacle after another – it’s easy to become inured to the magic behind the movie-making. We don’t really think about the journey from the earliest days of cinema to the full-on multimedia experiences we enjoy today.

Today is a good day to remember Georges Melies and his vision with a wonderful re-read of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”.