The Faddan More Psalter
One of the reasons I became interested in buried books is the fact that in Britain and places with similar climates, a book covered in damp earth is likely to rot away to nothing in no time at all. Flesh and soft body tissues don’t survive burial, so why should books? Of course there are a few odd areas of the world – parts of Scandinavia, Ireland and Germany – where well-preserved corpses have been recovered from peat bogs after hundred or even thousands of years. Bog bodies, sure, but who ever heard of a bog book?
In 2006 a book was dug out of a peat bog in County Tipperary, Ireland, by a bulldozer driver. In the years following its discovery conservators worked to uncover the extraordinary story of the Faddan More Psalter, named after the area where it was found.
The cover as found
The psalter, or book of psalms, consists of a text, written on vellum, dating to around the year 800 and likely to have been produced locally. The manuscript was found inside a leather wallet or folder, with a lining of papyrus – evidence of a link between the Irish and Egyptian Coptic churches during this period.
The cover conserved
It isn’t clear how the book came to be buried, but monks were known to have used bogs as hiding places for valuables in the face of Viking raids, so it is possible that the Faddan More Psalter – like so many buried books – was placed in the ground for protection by somebody who didn’t live to recover it. Today the Faddan More Psalter is on display in the National Museum of Ireland.
Gillis, J. and A. Read. nd. The Faddan More Psalter: a Progress Update. National Museum of Ireland.