Archive for the 'New Publications' Category

The Eddas of 2011

Continuing our round-up of this year’s new books: these will probably be old, old news to many of you, but surely two of the most significant publications of 2011 are both long-awaited new Poetic Eddas.

1. The Orchard Edda

First, there is the new Penguin Classics translation by Professor Lord Andy Orchard, who now is mainly famous for running Canada. Andy’s translation of the ‘Elder’ Edda was forthcoming and allegedly pretty much finished when I first met him in 1996, so it’s fair to say that the gestation period on this one has been long. And naturally, it’s well worth the wait. I’ve always been happy recommending Carolyne Larrington’s OUP translation, whose merits more than outweigh the faults that some people have perceived in it; but Orchard’s may pip it for useability, simply because its notes and explanatory material are much more copious than in the Larrington.

As anybody who’s heard a conference paper by Andy over the years will not be terribly surprised to hear, the most notable feature of the translation is a predilection for alliteration, although this never becomes overweening. Some will dislike the translation of proper-names, which is always a fraught process, but overall I find Orchard’s version fluent, accurate and idiomatic without resorting to archaism. The only real problem, I have with it, in fact, is its subtitle–‘A Book of Viking Lore’, with every word of which one could take issue, but I can’t really be bothered here and now. Unfortunately, this terminology is used inside the book as well.

So, I certainly am happier with this translation than some people have been. (I don’t really approve of anonymous/pseudonymous reviews, but the commenter raises some valid points.) There’s another early notice of the book on Carl Olsen’s blog, which I’m ashamed to say I’ve only just discovered.

I shall be adding it to the reading lists, happy in the knowledge that the translation is as good as is available, and the notes are extremely useful. I guess no translation will ever satisfy every reader; that’s why we should all translate the Edda for ourselves!

2. Dronke Part III

The second of this year’s new Eddas is the third part of Ursula Dronke’s monumental edition for Oxford University Press. Paratextually, volume three conforms to the standards set by its two predecessors (lest we forget, volume one came out in 1969 and two in 1997: I hope she’s not rushed over this one!), in that it has the distinctive salmon-pink cover and it is exceptionally expensive.

Volume III of Dronke’s Edda is the second of the mythological selections: it comprises HávamálHymiskviðaGrímnismál, and Gróttasöngr. I must confess that I’ve yet to see this book in the flesh, but I’m sure it will contain all of Dr Dronke’s remarkable erudition and her often peerless flashes of insight. Sometimes her readings can be a little adventurous for my timid taste, which makes me chary of using her translation. But alongside the exceptionally valuable commentary that she provides, the singular advantage of the Dronke edition is that has a parallel-text format, so the reader can compare original with the translation with ease.

Has anybody out there seen the Dronke already? Or do you have any thoughts about the Orchard?

A thriving publishing season, Norns and Goddesses

As I started to gather together information about recent publications in medieval Scandinavia, from material people have kindly sent me and from trawling through Amazon’s catalogue, it became clear that 2011 has seen a really impressive number of relevant and interesting books published. I’m going to try to run through as many of these as I can over the next couple of weeks. As ever, if you see something that catches your eye, buying it from Amazon through the link on this site will pay me a tiny commission that I put towards server costs. Don’t forget to recommend these to your local library, too: not all of them are as reasonably priced as Myths of the Pagan North (which I’ll now shut up about). Having said that, our first two titles are both relatively friendly on the pocket. They also feature, in different but I imagine complimentary ways, mythological women.  Read more »

Myths of the Pagan North

If you’ll excuse the shameless self-promotion… I’m very pleased to announce that my new book, Myths of the Pagan North: the gods of the Norsemen (and, in response to queries: yes, the publishers had a hand in the title) will be out later this week. Read more »

Two more books: Odin on the one hand, Sermons on the other

My attempt to get up to date with the backlog of recently published books continues. Slowly.

This time we have a study of contrasts: in the pagan corner, there’s Annette Lassen’s new book about Odin på kristent pergament; from the other end of the Old Norse spectrum, we have a (to me) very exciting collection of essays about the Norwegian Homily Book, Vår eldste bok, edited by Odd Einar Haugen and Åslaug Ommundsen.

Read more »

The Viking Age: A Reader

News of an exciting and potentially extremely useful new book from University of Toronto Press:

The Viking Age: A Reader

Edited by Angus A. Somerville and R. Andrew McDonald

April 2010 / 450pp / 6×9 paperback / ISBN 9781442601482 / $39.95

Drawing on a wide range of original sources, and tracing the astonishing development of the Viking Age from the first foreign raids to the rise and fall of Viking empires, this comprehensive reader is essential to an understanding of Viking history.

There’s a much more detailed account of the contents available at the UTP website. To me, this looks like filling a really important gap in the market, and I’m sure Professors Somerville and McDonald’s book will find its way onto plenty of university reading lists.

It’s out now in North America and will officially be launched in the UK in June, although it seems that it’s already possible to order a copy.

New Volume of Proxima Thulé

[Apologies for the long hiatus between posts — now that the semester is over in London I hope to resume more regular updates.]

François-Xavier Dillmann has written to inform us that the latest issue of the excellent French-language journal of Medieval Scandinavian Studies, Proxima Thulé, has now been published. Here is the list of contents, followed by details of how to order a copy:

Éditée depuis 1994 par le professeur François-Xavier Dillmann, corres­pondant de l’Institut, directeur d’études à l’École pratique des Hautes Études, la revue Proxima Thulé est le seul périodique de langue française entièrement consacré à la Scandinavie ancienne et médiévale.

Le volume VI de Proxima Thulé (automne 2009, 192 pages, une trentaine d’illustrations) vient d’être publié en ce début du mois de mars 2010. Il comprend les études suivantes :

Anders Hultgård, Fimbulvetr ou le Grand Hiver. Étude comparative d’un aspect du mythe eschatologique des anciens Scandinaves.

François-Xavier Dillmann, « Brûler ses vaisseaux ». Remarques compa­ratives sur un épisode de l’Histoire des rois de Norvège de Snorri Sturlu­son.

Jan Ragnar Hagland, Les inscriptions runiques d’Irlande.

Lennart Elmevik, « Il était hospitalier et éloquent ». Sur les épithètes laudatives dans les inscriptions runiques de Suède à l’époque viking.

Elena Balzamo, Olaus Magnus savait-il dessiner ? Quelques réflexions et hypothèses au sujet des vignettes de l’Historia de gentibus septen­trionalibus.

Marie-Christine Skuncke, Gustave III de Suède et l’Opéra.

Les commandes du volume VI (et des volumes antérieurs) de Proxima Thulé (au prix de 30 euros l’exemplaire) sont à adresser — directement ou par l’intermédiaire d’un libraire — à De Boccard Édition-Diffusion

11, rue Médicis. 75006 Paris

Téléphone : 01 43 26 00 37  Télécopie : 01 43 54 85 83

Adresse de messagerie électronique :

Site Internet :

A New History of the Viking Age

A brand-new history of the Vikings!

Penguin have just published The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of The Vikings by the UCL alumnus Robert Ferguson. Ferguson is something of a new name in Viking Studies — although he’s published widely on more modern Scandinavian topics — so it will be very interesting to see what new spin he brings to the subject (as it’s apparently forbidden to write a non-revisionist book about the Vikings these days).

Here’s how the blurb describes it:

For those living outside Scandinavia, the Viking Age effectively began in 793 with an attack on the monastery at Lindisfarne. The attack on Lindisfarne was a characteristically violent harbinger of what was in store for Britain and much of Europe from the Vikings for the next 300 years, until the final destruction of the heathen temple to the Norse gods at Uppsala around 1090. Robert Ferguson is a sure guide across what he calls ‘the treacherous marches which divide legend from fact in Viking Age history’. His long familiarity with the literary culture of Scandinavia – the eddas, the poetry of the skalds and the sagas – is combined with the latest archaeological discoveries and the evidence of picture-stones, runes, ships and objects scattered all over northern Europe, to make the most convincing modern portrait of the Viking Age in any language. The Hammer and the Cross ranges from Scandinavia itself to Kievan Rus and Byzantium in the east, to Iceland, Greenland and the north American settlements in the west. Beyond its geographical boundaries the book takes us on a journey to a misty region inhabited by Hallfred the Troublesome Poet, Harald Bluetooth, Ragnar Hairy-Breeches, Ivar the Boneless and Eyvind the Plagiarist, in which literature, history and myth dissolve into one another.

It’s certainly a handsomely-produced volume, and would I’m sure make an ideal festive gift for anybody interested in the Vikings. There are one or two things that make me initially wary about it, but I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve read the whole thing.

It’s substantially discounted at right now, and if you buy it after clicking on this link, a tiny portion of the proceeds will go towards the upkeep of Old Norse News.

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