The Getty Center
Date: Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Time: 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Location: GRI Lecture Hall
Past Event

In 2006, one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries ever made occurred in a peat bog at Faddan More, County Tipperary, Ireland. The remains of an illuminated manuscript (now dated to ca. 800) with a leather cover and the remnants of perhaps an associated bag were found by chance during turf-cutting operations. The find made international headlines as the first Irish manuscript discovered in over 200 years. The first ancient manuscript ever found in a wetland environment, its preservation and conservation presented many challenges.

John Gillis, Senior Conservator of Manuscripts and Rare Books, Trinity College Library Dublin, tells the story of the discovery of the Faddan More Psalter, which contains the fragmented remains of 150 psalms from the Old Testament and includes areas of illumination and decorated lettering. The lecture will chart the complex and challenging conservation process of cleaning, stabilizing, and drying the pages to ready them for display at the National Museum of Ireland, and the exciting discoveries made along the way. Gillis presents the methodology behind recording and dismantling the fragmented text block and the dewatering of the saturated folia and leather cover. In conservation terms, much of the technique employed was developed as work progressed, breaking new ground for the conservation of waterlogged vellum manuscripts. Gillis will describe the binding's cover, which survived remarkably well preserved in the bog and is one of only a handful of extant original early medieval Western book covers. Drawing comparisons with book structures from lands as far away as Egypt, Gillis's research will show how the Fadden More Psalter raises provocative questions about the connections between Ireland and the desert monasteries of Egypt, adding substantially to the history of book making and monastic life in early medieval Ireland.

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