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Celtic Art the Methods of Construction


Celtic Art the Methods of Construction Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The construction principles of Celtic art were re-discovered in the middle of the 20th century by George Bain. Until his writing, the intricate knots, interlacings, and spirals used in illuminating The Book of Kells and in decorating craftwork and jewelry seemed almost impossible, "the work of angels." In this pioneering work, George Bain shows how simple principles, no more difficult than those used in needlecraft, were used to create some of the finest artistic works ever seen. He also explains how you can use these principles in re-creating artifacts and in creating your own Celtic designs for art and craft work or even for recreational use.

Step-by-step procedures carefully introduce the simple rules and methods of Celtic knot work and the well-known designs from the great manuscripts and stone work. Later chapters build up to complex knot work, spiral work, and key pattern designs, with special coverage of alphabets and the stylized use of animals, humans, and plants. Altogether over 225 different patterns are presented for your use, with hundreds of modification suggestions, 110 historical and modern artifacts showing designs in use, a great number of letters including six complete alphabets and 25 decorative initials, and a number of animal and human figures used in the original Celtic works.

Artists, students, craftspeople, even children can work with these patterns and instructions for creating dynamic designs for use in leather work, in embroidery and other needle work, in metalwork, jewelry making, card design, borders, panels, illuminations, and in countless other ways. Mathematicians will find a great deal of pleasure in the geometric principles on which the patterns are based. Art historians and others interested in studying Celtic art will find a great number of outstanding art works and the best presentation in English for understanding Celtic design.


In this pioneering work, Bain shows how simple principles, no more difficult than those used in needlecraft, were used to create "the work of angels" that illuminated The Book of Kells. He also explains how you can use these principles in recreating intricate knots, interlacements, spirals, Kellstype initials, human and animal figures, and other distinctive Celtic designs in your own art and craft work. Features over 500 illustrations.

Table of Contents






Knotwork Borders


A. Precursors of Celtic Interlacings

B. The methods of construction

  1. General principles for designing Celtic Knotwork

  2. General principles of methods of construction

  3. Simple Celtic interlacing borders

  4. Celtic Knotwork borders

  5. Applications to craftwork for simple interlacings

  6. Border designs and their application to circles

  7. Knotwork borders

  8. Interlacing borders

  9. Interlacing borders

  10. Interlacing borders

  11. Further border designs

  12. Method of doubling interlacings

  13. Method of mitring

  14. Method of mitring

C. Construction of ornaments, Monymusk Reliquary

D. Construction of Viking ornament, Lewis

Knowwork Panels

E. Examples from Gospels of Lindisfarne and Book of Kells

F. Comparison of similar designs at Salisbury and in Perthshire, Angus and Caithness

G. Design on cross-slab at Ulbster, Caithness

H. Panel from Book of Kells

  1. Simple Knotwork Panels

  2. Knotwork Panel in Pictish proportions

  3. Variations from Plates 1 and 2 from Book of Kells

  4. Example of continuity — St. Madoes Stone

  5. Further methods of constructing Knotwork Panels

  6. Examples from Ulbster and Strathmartin Stones

  7. Reptile Knotwork Panels, Shandwick Stone also panel from Lindisfarne, St. Vigeans, Dunfallandy, Eassie and McDurnan

  8. Panels common to Lindisfarne, Ulbster, Collieburn and Glammis

  9. Construction of Nigg Stone Panel

  10. Example from a Book of Durrow border

  11. Irish and Pictish Knotwork — Durrow

  12. Unit from Book of Durrow

  13. Knotwork in circular panels. Shandwick Stone and Book of Kells

  14. Circular panels — Boko of Kells and Hilton of Cadbol Stone

I. Construction orders — Plate II, Book of Durrow

J. Completed design — Plate II, Book of Durrow

K. Design from Page of Eight Circled Cross, Kells

L. Interlacing in Rossie Priory Stone



M. Aberlemno Stone — use of Triskele in all-over repeats. Examples of travesties of this design made in the past

  1. Methods of constructing spirals

  2. Construction of spiral centres

  3. Spirals and breaking into trumpets

  4. Joining spirals — Kells and Aberlemno examples

  5. Spiral centers from ancient British and Pictish enamel work

6. Examples of spiral centres from M.S.S. and enamel work

  7. Spiral groups — Book of Durrow

  8. Spirals — Kells and Lindisfarne

  9. Spiral Borders

  10. Borders and Terminals from M.S.S. and Ornamented Stones

  11. Spiral panel and Hilton of Cadboll Stone

  12. Panel on Shandwick Stone

  13. All-over spiral patterns — M.S.S. and stones

  14. Examples from Kells and Lindisfarne

Key Patterns


N. Key pattern on arm of Aberlemno Cross showing earlier travesties

  1. The construction of Key patterns

  2. Key pattern borders and mitring

  3. Patterns from Rosemarkie Stone and Lindisfarne

  4. Key pattern borders and panels

  5. Treatment of Nigg Stone and comparison with Maya Keys

  6. Nigg Stone Key panel and variations

  7. Key patterns — Nigg, Kells and Lindisfarne

  8. Comparison of methods by Welsh and Pictish designers in Pembrokeshire and Ross-shire

  9. Reconstruction of panel — Collieburn Stone Kells border and terminal

  10. Comparison of Aberlemno, Aberlady and Lindisfarne keys

  11. Examples of the minute accuracy of Kells scribes. Comparison of Kells and Farr Stone Keys

  12. Further work of Kells scribes. Comparison of Rosemarkie, St. Chads and Kells keys

  13. Application of key patterns to panels

  14. Comparison of designs from Mezin, Russia (b.c. 20,000--b.c. 15,000), Kells Lindisfarne and Farr



  1. Kells script, quill formation

  2. Celtic small and capital "A" from Books of Durrow, Kells and Lindisfarne

  3. Letters B, C, and D

  4. Letters E, F, G

  5. Letters H, I, J, L

  6. Letters M, N, O

  7. Letters P, Q, R, 4th-6th century

  8. Letters S, T

  9. Letters U, V, W, X, Y, Z

  10. Celtic alphabets of late 7th century and 4th-6th century

  11. Ornamented Celtic capital letters

  12. Ornamented capitals from Kells and Durrow

  13. Ornamented capitals from Book of Kells

  14. Symbols and contractions from Celtic M.S.S. and language problems from inscribed stones

  15. Celtic type from an Irish book of 1711



O. Detail from Plate XIX — Kells Studio edition

P. Designs with human figures

Q. All-over drop repeat from Lindisfarne Gospels

R. Construction of design on "Initium Evangeli" page of Kells

S. Panel from Kells page of Eight circled Cross

  1. Bird Motifs in Lindisfarne Interlacing Ornaments

  2. Treatments of Birds, heads, top-knots, necks, bodies, wings, tails, legs and toes in Book of Kells.

  3. Birds as ornament motifs. Kells

  4. Bird ornaments, Kells and Tara Brooch

  5. Birds as interlacing ornaments — Kells, MacRegol and Meigle Stone

  6. Reptiles as Interlacing ornaments — Kells

  7. Reptiles as Interlacing ornaments — Kells

  8. Dog-like Animals — Kells

  9. Animals as Interlacing Ornaments — Kells

  10. Semi-realistical and mythical Animals — Scottish Stones and Kells

  11. "Living Things of the Earth" — Kells Christ Monogram Page

  12. Interlacing Human Figures — Clonmacnoise and Meigle Stones and Kells XPI Monogram Page

  13. Figures in Ornament — Clonmacnoise and Kells

  14. Interlaced Human male figures — Kells

T. Knotwork adapted to irregular shapes — Plate XI Letter T — Kells

U. Kells designs — Plates I, III, XII, and XIV

Plant Forms

  Introduction — The Celtic Tree of Life

V. Designs from Kells Plates II, IV, XIV, and XVII also Meigle and Monifieth Stones

  A1. "Tree of Life" designs — Kells

  A2. "Tree of Life" symbol — Kells, Cadboll, Nigg, Tarbet — Compared with Buddhist, Byzantine and Greek sources

  A3. Comparison of "Potted Tree of Life" examples — Kells, Cottonian M.S., Eassie and Farnell Stones and Maya Art

  A4. "Tree of Life" — Kells and North of England

  A5. Examples from Book of Kells and South Scotland

W. Plant Forms — Kells Plates III, XIV and XIX

Human Figures

  Introduction — Semi-realistic Human Figures and probable Portraits from Books of Kells and Lindisfarne

  B1. Kells Portraits — Infant Christ, The Virgin, St. Matthew, St. Luke, Angels

  B2. Types of Celtic Peoples of Britain and Ireland — Kells, Lindisfarne and MacDurnan

  B3. Hands and Feet — Kells, Lindisfarne and MacDurnan

  B4. Attitudes of Horses from Pictish Stones of East Scotland — Edderton, Meigle, Migvie also Book of Kells

Applications of Celtic Art


1. Design by Leonardo da Vinci, "Concatenation"

2. Design by Albrecht Durer, "Sechs Knoten"

3. Design by Michelangelo for Capitol quadrangle, Rome

4. Bronze champfrein from Torrs, Kirkcudbright

5. Irish Bone Carvings

6. The Trelan Bahow Mirror

7. Doorway, Flaa Church, Hallingdal

8. Wire work from Tara Brooch, Ardagh Chalice and Buckle from Sutton Hoo

9. Magazine Cover Design "Alba"

10. Design for Menu Card

11. Greeting Card, Lindisfarne Birds of Friendship

12. Celtic Greeting Card

13. Gaelic New Year Cards — Kells initial "B"

14. "Horse-shoe" Greeting Card, Inverurie Stone

15. Reproduction of Celtic Hunting Carpet

16. Early British Enamel, Somerset

17. Early British Enamel, Canterbury

18. "Doorway" Design for New Year Greeting Card

19. Design for Greeting Card

20. Greeting Card adapted from Groudle Stone, Isle of Man

21. Greeting Card adapted from the Rossie Priory Stone

22. The Rossie Priory Stone

23. The Aberlemno Stone

24. The Hilton of Cadboll Stone

25. The Author sketching the Hunt at the Nigg Stone

26. The Rosemarkie Stone

27. The Battersea Shiels

28. Detail of design in King Henry VIII, portrait

29. King Henry VIII by School of Holbein the Younger

30. Zoomorphic Carpet design

31. Fireplace Panel

32. Contemporary design by girl aged 16 years

33. Embroidery designed and worked by schoolgirls

34. All over carpet design by the author

35. Group of articles made by the author and pupils

36. Further group of articles

37. Bronze Plaque

38. Bronze Plaque

39. Celtic Art in Knitwear, etc.


Product Details

Bain, George
Dover Publications
Art Instruction
New York
History - General
Design - General
History - European
Art history
Art, celtic
Decoration and ornament, Celtic
Techniques - General
History : General
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Dover Art Instruction
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
12 x 9 in 1.2 lb

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Celtic Art the Methods of Construction Used Trade Paper
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Product details 160 pages Dover Publications - English 9780486229232 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
In this pioneering work, Bain shows how simple principles, no more difficult than those used in needlecraft, were used to create "the work of angels" that illuminated The Book of Kells. He also explains how you can use these principles in recreating intricate knots, interlacements, spirals, Kellstype initials, human and animal figures, and other distinctive Celtic designs in your own art and craft work. Features over 500 illustrations.
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