The Turn-in-the-Path Imagery in the Book of Kells: Lost Practices for Managing Difficulties of Textual Layout in Bookmaking

By William Endres.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Turn-in-the-path imagery (also known as head-under-wing) is a feature of insular illuminated manuscripts. The term refers to the use of an assortment of animals to signify the insertion of text into blank space on the preceding line or the insertion of a letter or letters that only rarely occur anyplace other than at the end of a line. Scholars have focused on how turns-in-the-path contribute to meaning: emphasize principal gospel passages by increasing the decoration, highlight important words and passages by separating them from the normal flow of text, and encourage rumination by interrupting the regular path of reading. However, scholars have overlooked the important use of turns-in-the-path to resolve conflicts between images and text in layout. In this essay, I examine the ways scribes and illuminators use turns-in-the-path in the Book of Kells to gain flexibility in the layout of text, enabling them to manage difficult issues of layout and enhance aesthetic possibilities, and deal with physical constrains in their craft, like handling blemishes in vellum.

Keywords: Illumination, Book of Kells, Craft of Illumination, Turn-in-the-Path, Head-under-Wing, Imagery, Uses of Images, Page Layout, Design

International Journal of the Book, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.119-130. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.506MB).

Dr. William Endres

Assistant Professor, Department of English, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Dr. William Endres is an assistant professor of English with a secondary appointment in Computer Science at the University Kentucky. He is a visual rhetorician interested in historical uses of images as a way to understand and gain perspective on current practices of image-use brought about by digital technologies.

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