Four ancient manuscripts are to undergo special preservation work to be digitised and put on show beside the Book of Kells.
The priceless works, including the earliest known surviving Irish parchment of the four gospels, will be treated, technically examined and recorded as part of Trinity College’s world-renowned library collection.
The oldest is The Codex Usserianius Primus, an incomplete manuscript which dates from the fifth century.
Another is the eighth century Book of Dimma, possibly produced at Roscrea, Co Tipperary, containing the gospels and illuminated initials and portraits of the evangelists in red, yellow, blue and black pigments.
The remaining two are the Book of Mulling, an eighth century illuminated pocket-gospel associated with the monastery of St Mullins in Co Carlow, and the Garland of Howth, also from the eighth century, a parchment manuscript associated with St Nessan’s monastery on Ireland’s Eye in orange, white, yellow and blue pigments.
Susie Bioletti, head of conservation at Trinity, said the funding for the project from Bank of America Merrill Lynch is the most generous grant the library has secured for work on early Irish manuscripts.
“We are extremely grateful for the opportunity it now affords us to concentrate our attention on four of our great treasures,” she said.
“Their grant will enable scholarship and public engagement with the manuscripts as we share these national treasures with our Irish and global visitors.”
The funding is part of the bank’s global art conservation project which has awarded grants to museums in 27 countries for 71 conservation projects since 2010.
Once conserved the manuscripts will be made available via Trinity College Dublin Library’s digital collections and exhibited alongside the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow and the Book of Armagh.
The collection makes up the pre-eminent collection of early Christian book art in the library.
“Our Art Conservation Project is designed not only to conserve artworks and shine a light on the need for the preservation of artistic and historic treasures, but also to educate communities, and convey respect for the varied cultures and traditions throughout the world,” said Andrea Sullivan, head of corporate social responsibility with a division of the bank.
Peter Keegan, country executive for Ireland at the bank, added: “When complete, they will feature for the first time in a new display alongside the Book of Kells at the Trinity College Dublin Library, making them accessible for future generations of students, historians and visitors to appreciate and enjoy.”
The bank funding was used last year to restore a diverse range of works including Tudor portraits of Queen Elizabeth at the National Portrait Gallery in London; four portraits by John Butler Yeats at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin; and three Jackson Pollock paintings at Museum of Modern Art in New York.