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The Bog Book

The Bog Book Pendant from Elena Brennan's The Bog Book Collection.The discovery in July 2006 of an ancient manuscript in the raised bog of Fadden more in co Tipperary was the archaeological find of the century.

Never before had such a find occurred, in fact museum staff at first could not believe that any sort of book could have survived being in a bog for so long. But survive it did and with the skill of the the conservation staff at the national museum, under the direction of Anthony Read working with John Gillis from Trinity College Dublin library, an amazing feat of conservation and analysis took place over the next four years.

They discovered that the manuscript was in fact a psalm book, originally containing sixty sheets of calf velum gathered into five parts or quires. The ink used in writing it was made from oats galls and pigments such as orpiment, black red and white lead were used to decorate some parts of the script.

The book was carried in a large leather book cover. Stiffened on the inside with papyrus and with three fastened buttons on the outside. The use of papyrus like the early Irish church to the middle eastern Coptic church, where no link had existed before. They were able to save around 15 % of the book and in many cases, it was the ink of the writing that preserved the velum , with hole words surviving while the rest of the page rotted away.

The book and its cover were placed in a bog hole together with a pig skin bag and covered with a piece of white-haired calf hide. Books were highly valued in early christian Ireland.

So the question remains as to why this book was hidden in a bog. Perhaps it was a monk fleeing invaders, who hid his precious treasure intending to recover it later when danger had parted. Perhaps he was killed before he could tell his secret. Maybe it was placed there as a offering to god seeking redemption or protection from the invaders. Who knows...

Unfortunately we never will but we have to be grateful for the miracle of its survival against all odds.

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