MINIATURIST, Irish
(active 2nd half 8th century)

Book of Mulling

750-800
Manuscript (Ms. 60, formerly MS A.1.15)
Trinity College Library, Dublin

Elaborately decorated initials are found not only in luxury volumes of Irish manuscripts such as the Book of Kells, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Codex Aureus and the Lichfield Gospels, but also in Irish pocket Gospels like the Book of Mulling and Book of Dimma.

The Irish Pocket Gospels books were used by Irish missionary monks travelling on the Continent. The Book of Mulling was written by a scribe called Mulling, hence its name. Early on, the said scribe was identified as Saint Moling (d. c. 697), Bishop of Ferns and founder of the monastery of Tech-Moling in county Carlow (St. Mullin's). But this appealing hypothesis was soon contradicted by a close examination of the script and illumination, which pointed to the late 8th century rather than to a century earlier.

The Book of Mulling contains the four Gospels, a service which includes the "Apostles' Creed". The book ends with an intriguing diagram which was formerly believed to be a plan of the monastery of Tech-Moling, but has been more recently re-interpreted in the light of its relationship to the prayers it accompanies. Originally each Gospel was introduced by an author portrait and an elaborate initial on the facing page. The miniature of Saint Luke is now lost, but all other three openings are extant.

The illumination consists of initials decorated with spirals, interlace, animal heads, and other patterns. The colours used include white, blue, green, yellow, ochre, brown, mauve, purple and cherry red. The script is a fine Irish minuscule.

The pocket gospel book is a distinctively Insular format, of which the Book of Mulling is a leading example.

The picture shows the figure of St John the Evangelist on folio 193, one of the three surviving portraits of the evangelists.