Saturday, 18 September 2010

Faddan More Psalter

Some time ago I blogged about the discovery of the Faddan More Psalter in Co. Tipperary in 2006. Conservation work has been carried out on the Psalter which has allowed for some startling discoveries (see here for more). These are discussed with some experts in a wonderful documentary on RTE called 'Treasure from a Bog' (produced by John Murray and written and directed by the great Alan Gilsenan). This documentary goes through the huge technical challenge that the Psalter presented in stabilizing its condition and retrieving as much as possible for study. About 15% of the book survives, and one single page survives almost intact. This offers valuable clues as to the construction of the book and how the parchment was prepared, pricking, ruling, and the like. However, one of the most exciting, and puzzling, discoveries relates not to the book itself but rather to its leather cover. Very few of these have survived so this was already an extraordinary discovery. Analysis revealed that the inside of the cover was lined with a material not found at all in 8th/9th century Ireland: papyrus. This is such an unexpected discovery that its importance and significance cannot be overestimated, but quite what it means is anybody's guess! Does it connect the early Irish church with the Middle East? If so, what does that mean? Exciting stuff. The Faddan More Psalter and its cover are expected to go on display in the Summer of 2011. You can be sure of an update.

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