This is to clarify the contents of this elegant "Great Book of Gaelic." The previous two reviewers may be misleading-- the book is not only Irish but Scots Gaelic in its verse and illuminations-- and the other Celtic languages are not represented. It plays off of the co-editor Theo Dorgan's work with the earlier "Great Book of Ireland" in format and intent. This new Leabhar Mór commemorates 1500 years of cross-channel cultural connection between Scotland and Ireland. The 100 poems in the Irish and Scots Gaelic languages (here with translations) were nominated by poets (both as judges and contributors) and span from the 6th c CE to today. Fifty artists each from Ireland and Scotland were commissioned to use graphic media (calligraphy, typography, collage, photography, and all the varieties of ink, pen, brush, and paint) to enhance and play off the verses. The lines of the poems, in fact, are partially inscribed on each of the artworks: this alone links the hundred poems and representations to each other.
The themes lament and celebrate. The work emerges from a period of hope with the peace in the North of Ireland symbolizing a reapproachment with the warring sides, each of whom in Ulster drew on Gaelic images and rhetoric in their territorial struggle. Also, such efforts as the Colmcille Project seek to re-orient the perspective of not so much British as Celtic isles and nations in the North Atlantic: this book carries such a mission into the realms of the aesthetic and the visual. The attention devoted to English, Scots Gaelic, and Irish, therefore, balances these three living sources of the words and ideas imagined here.
Essays on the poetic traditions, the art, and capsule bios of the writers and artists enhance this handsome volume. The originals were displayed in exhibition before being bound on handmade paper. A website also shows a sample of the work; the BBC also gave radio and TV coverage to this millennial project celebrating Gaelic history and identity. The content rewards close study, often with a magnifying glass, as you'd view a medieval manuscript. The scope recalls such disparate monuments as the Apocalypse Spanish texts of Beatus of Liebana (themselves inspiration for Umberto Eco's "Name of the Rose"), the ancient portrait of a Roman matron, fashion shoots and gallery photography, iconography, and doubtless dozens more influences I lack the erudition to compare.