Reading List, Books, Articles and Links


Celtic Art and Design, History, Culture and Customs 

In order to assist with your search for knowledge I have put together the following collection of links and reading suggestions. Each is an article or book that I have personally read and would recommend to further your understanding of Celtic subjects. Some of the linked articles are part of this site and were written by myself, Stephen Walker, other articles are off-site by various writers. Unfortunately many of the best books are out of print. I plan to add a list of my favorites soon. Books that are in print are available from

Celtic Art and Design

There are two kinds of writing about Celtic Art. There is the university art history and archaeology departments stuff and there is the watered down, popular market romanticized stuff. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.  The academics write very responsibly and factually for the most part, as they are writing for other scholars who will tear them apart if they state anything they cannot support with credible evidence. The downside is that they tend to be dry and difficult reading if you do not already know quite a lot about the subject. They also deal with Celtic Art only in the past tense which is a great disappointment if one  is looking for Celtic Art as a living tradition. The popular writers tend to be very creative in their interpretations of Celtic Art and their writing is appealing to those who are looking to Celtic Art for mystery and excitement. Nothing wrong with that, Celtic Art is mysterious and exciting but these writers are often fast and loose with the facts and often perpetuate half-truths and wishful thinking. There is a regrettable tendency for these writers to generalize broadly about The Celts, without regard for time and place. My purpose is to select material that supports Celtic Art as part of a living and exciting tradition without perpetuating bogus beliefs and creative ignorance. 

A new book IONA CELTIC ART the Work of Alexander and Euphemia Ritchie by E. Mairi MacArthur, The New Iona Press, 2003, is available from Walker Metalsmiths for $21.95.

Books Click on any title to order   

Art of the Celts (World of Art) by Lloyd and Jennifer Laing. The history of Celtic Art from the Iron Age down to the Celtic Revival of the 19th century. Highly recommended for getting started understanding what Celtic Art is all about. 

Celtic Art : The Methods of Construction by George Bain
The classic textbook for Celtic design. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to learn to design Celtic Art. A "how-to" book.

Celtic Knotwork by Iain Bain an alternative method written by the son of George Bain that appeals to those who think more like engineers. Personally I prefer the book listed above since it is more of an intuitive method. It all depends on how you think and both books are quite valuable.

The Book of Kells by Bernard Meehan
An illustrated introduction by the current Keeper of Manuscripts at Trinity College in Dublin. Meehan provides a scholarly analysis of the Gospel manuscripts, the artists, the texts and a full account of the historical background to the miraculous world of the Book of Kells. Readable text and excellent photos. A very good place to start getting serious about understanding Celtic Art in a historical context.

The Work of Angels: Masterpieces of Celtic Metalwork, 6th-9th Centuries Ad   [out of print] By Susan Youngs (Editor) This book is the masterwork on Celtic Metalsmithing. It is a catalog of a joint exhibition that was put together by the Irish, Scottish and British Museums of all their best pieces. Articles answered questions that I had been wondering about for twenty years. Thrilling photographs. One of my all time favorite books. Nearly out of print.

CELTIC DESIGN SERIES By Aidan Meehan. Each book contains an interesting collection of lore, designs as well as "how to" information. Beautifully laid out in calligraphy with drawings and illustrations. 
Celtic Design : A Beginner's Manual...
- Step and Key patterns, Spirals, lettering and layout, materials and technique
Celtic Design : Knotwork : The Secret...- layout, boarders, knots and plaiting
Celtic Design : The Dragon and the... - The Viking impact on Celtic Art
Celtic Design : Animal Patterns - beasts, birds and people panels and boarders
Celtic Design : Spiral Patterns (Celtic... - from Megalithic through Ultimate La Tene and Golden Age
Maze Patterns (Celtic Design)
- origins and development of these very ancient designs
Celtic Design : Illuminated Letters
- the decorated alphabet in it's development from early Celtic illumination through the Golden Age
Celtic Design : The Tree of Life (Celtic...
- Explore this enduring symbol of life's unity from the Golden Bough of the Druids through Celtic Christian Gospel illuminations and crosses.


Articles by Stephen Walker published in Dalriada Magazine

Celtic Interlace; An Overview Part 1 

Celtic Interlace; Continuum Part 2  
Celtic Interlace; Continuum Continued (part 3)
In Search of Meaning (part 4)
Celtic Art of Jeff Fitzpatrick  

Celtic Art Group on Yahoo Groups This is an online discussion forum. The Group Homepage has links to many contemporary Celtic artists and designers.

History and Symbolism of Celtic Knotwork brief article by Stephen Walker with links to other Celtic Art sites
Celtic Cross History and Symbolism  article by Stephen Walker
Celtic Revival Crosses article by Stephen Walker about the Celtic Cross since 1850.
Iona Celtic Art article about the revival of Celtic craftsmanship on the Isle of Iona by Alexander Ritchie and how his work begat the Scottish Celtic jewellery of our times. Warning: the page opens as a shopping opportunity but includes some historical information lower on the page.


Books Click on any title to order

How the Irish Saved Civilization : The Untold Story of Irelands Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe  by Thomas Cahill

Columbia's Island : Iona from Past to Present by E. Mairi MacArthur
The story of the place that was the center of Celtic Christianity from the founding of Colum Cille's mission in 563 A. D. Dr. MacArthur traces the population her island from prehistoric times through the present. From the inhabitants of the Iron Age fort and of the medieval village beside the Cathedral, right up to the men and women who worked the land and sea and adapted to the changes of this century. 

In Search of the Picts - A Celtic Dark Age Celtic Nation  by Elizabeth Sutherland 
A very readable book that explores the mysterious puzzel about the Picts, the inhabitants of Northern Scotland whose unique culture prior to 800 AD contributed greatly to our wealth of Celtic Art in the form of stone carvings. I wish more books were written in this style as it assumes a popular readership without dumbing down the subject and poses some creative speculations without wafting off into New-Age fantasies.

History and Symbolism of Celtic Knotwork
brief article by Stephen Walker

Culture, Customs and Religion

Carmina Gadelica: Hymns & Incantations
by Alexander Carmichael (Compiler) A landmark work of folklore collecting. Carmichael traveled the West Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the late 1800's to put together this remarkable book of oral tradition. A must have book for anyone serious about Celtic Christianity or Highland folklore.

Celtic Christian Spirituality : An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources by Oliver Davies (Editor), Fiona Bowie (Editor)  Very good translations of original sources with an excellent introduction to put it all into context. Untainted by the more dubious agendas that frequently are attached to modern Celtic Christianity.

Marketing the Celts
an essay by Cath Filmer-Davies The University of Queensland. A controversial essay about the authenticity of modern Celtic endeavors. She makes some excellent points however I feel she is somewhat rigid in her interpretation of the word "Celtic" 

The Celtic Wedding Resource Site

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