I have problems deciphering the first versal on folio 179v in the Book of Kells.

I suspect it stand for Jesus? If yes, which letters does it involve? (I suspect the fish is supposed to be a "dash".)

Is there any reference/starting point that explains such versals/abbreviations? I am also interested in a list with common ligatures in Half-Uncial/Insular Majuscule.


2 Answers 2


The manuscript letters are I and h making the word Ihs. ΙΗΣ is the Greek contraction for Jesus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christogram


So others know what is being talked about I am inserting a picture of the versal (ie the ornate capital letter):

versal from Matthew

The transcription is as follows:

Ihs autem dixitei egosum et vi
debitis filium hominis seden
tem adextris virtutas et venientem cu
mnubibus caeli.

It is from the 26th Chapter of Matthew and says:

Jesus however said to them "I am" and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Almighty and coming on the clouds of heaven.

Note that it is the Vulgate, so you can always find an approximate transcript by referring to standard editions of the Vulgate, although there will be minor differences and alterations. For example in the usual Vulgate it gives either "virtutis Dei" or just "virtutis" but in the Book of Kells it says "virtutas".

  • Thanks Tyler. I found the word Jesus by googling the autem dixit et ego sum. I didn't know what to make of the [stuff] before the S. Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 19:31
  • @MarcvanDongen It actually says "dixit ei", not "dixit et". Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 19:36
  • Oops. My bad. I meant to write dixit ei... Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 19:38
  • @MarcvanDongen You know in Ireland if the pupil makes a mistake he is hit over the shoulders with a rod for each mistake. Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 19:40

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