Celtic Ornaments of Anglo-Saxon and Irish Manuscripts.

Auguste Racinet, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon Ornaments, Irish, Manuscripts,
Celtic Ornaments.

Celtic Ornaments. Miniatures and Ornaments of Anglo-Saxon and Irish Manuscripts.





CELTIC is the name generally given to this style by those who have studied it most recently, but it is often called Anglo-Saxon. Some critics have decided that it is a mixture of the Scandinavian and Byzantine styles, but it is considered by others, especially by J. 0. Westwood (see The Grammar of Ornament, by Owen Jones), as indigenous to the British Isles and the unassisted production of their primitive inhabitants. As essential characteristics of this style in its earliest period, the same writer mentions: first, the absence of all imitations of foliage or plants; secondly, the almost exclusive use of simple geometrical figures, interlacings of ribbons, diagonal or spiral lines, etc.

The thirty-three examples in the accompanying plate belong to this style. They are taken from the following documents:


Nos. 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 25, 28, 29, 30.— The Gospels, or Book of Durrow. (Trinity College, Dublin.)
Symbols of the Evangelists and ornamental pages.

Nos. 4. 33. — Frontispiece of the Gospels of Saint Mark and Saint Luke, from the same.

No. 26. — The Lindisfarne Gospels. Ornamental page.

Nos. 22, 31. — Gospel of Saint Luke. (British Museum.) Frontispiece.


No. 18. — Commentaries on the Psalms by Cassiodorus “manu Bedae.” (Library of Durham Cathedral.) David Conquering.

Nos. 8, 24. — The Royal Psalmist, from the same.

Nos. 2, 14. — The Gospel of Saint Matthew, with the symbols of the Evangelists. (Library of the Convent of Saint-Gall.)


No. 6. — Latin Gospel. (Library of Saint-Gall.) Ornamental page, and the Transfiguration.

No. 10. — Manuscript in the same Library. The Crucifixion.

No. 27. — Psalter at St. John’s Coll., Cambridge. Victory of David over Goliath, and over the Lion, and Commencement of Psalms 1 and 102.

The other, and less important subjects (Nos. 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23, 32) are taken from Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the Library of the Convent of Saint-Gall, and the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.

Those who desire to make a thorough study of this particular branch of art will find all the above subjects fully described by J. O. Westwood in his great work, Facsimiles of the Miniatures and Ornaments of Anglo-Saxon and Irish Manuscripts, from which they have been extracted.

Source: Polychromatic ornament by Auguste Racinet. London, H. Sotheran and Co., 1877.


Leave a Reply

The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World Paperback – December 7, 2021
by Virginia Postrel (Author)

From Neanderthal string to 3D knitting, an “expansive” global history that highlights “how textiles truly changed the world” (Wall Street Journal)