Book of Kells damaged on Australia trip

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The Independent Online

Ireland's priceless Book of Kells has been damaged while being taken to Australia, it emerged today.

A volume of the ninth century manuscript is currently the centrepiece of an exhibition in Canberra's National Gallery of Australia.

The damage - described as "very minor" by Bill Simpson, head librarian atDublin's Trinity College university, where the book is normally kept - was discovered when the volume arrived in the Australian capital on a flight from the Irish Republic.

It is thought that the pigmentation on a part of the calfskin manuscript has been affected, and that it could have been due to vibration on the flight.

But the extent of the damage and the cause are unlikely to be established until an extensive examination of the work is undertaken back in Dublin next month.

The book, which has been exhibited overseas on only three previous occasions, is normally kept on show in carefully-controlled conditions in a specially-built case in the Trinity College library.

The Australian incident coincides with a campaign for part of the book to be put on display in Kells, the town which gives the manuscript its name, which is 40 miles from Dublin in County Meath.

Only this week parliamentary representatives from Meath, including former premier John Bruton, head of the Fine Gael opposition party, met Trinity College officials to discuss the possible move.

The view today in Dublin was that the prospect of the Kells transfer, already being resisted by some university authorities, was now in further doubt.