Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Black Classics – Old English, Old Norse and Mediaeval Literature

When I attended the University of Melbourne in the 1960s I enrolled in a course of Middle English. The lecturer for this course was a delightful old scholar called Professor Ian Maxwell who also ran a course in Old Icelandic and hosted a discussion group for enthusiasts of Old Norse. In the Middle English course we had to read books like The Canterbury Tales and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the original. Although I only studied Middle English for one year, I did develop an interest in early English literature, hence these books in my Black Classics collection. Needless to say, they have been gathering dust for many years.

sir_gawaine earliest_english_poems
1964 Edition
Detail from Medieval Illuminated Manuscript
1966 Edition
Detail of the Franks Casket
quest_holygrail monmouth_history
1969 Edition
Detail from L’Apparition du St Graal in a 15thC manuscript
1973 Edition
King Arthur – a detail from a French manuscript

Two editions of Beowulf…

beowulf beowulf_70s
1963 Edition
A prose translation by David Wright
Cover – a helmet from Sutton Hoo treasure
1973 Edition
A verse translation by Michael Alexander
Cover – detail of enlarged escutcheon on the rim of the large hanging bowl from Sutton Hoo

1963 Edition
Detail from a 14thC manuscript of the Conquest of Constantinople

lives_of_saints celtic_misc
1981 Edition
The Voyage of St Brendan, Bede’s Life of St Cuthbert & Eddius’s Life of Wilfrid
Cover – Athelstan presenting the Book to St Cuthbert from Bede
1971 Edition
Detail of an illumination from the Book of Durrow

Norse Sagas

king_harald vinland_sagas
1966 Edition
Detail from Baldishot Tapestry
1965 Edition
Axehead from the grave of a Viking chief

Medieval German Literature

nibelungenlied strassburg_tristan
1965 Edition
Detail from the Hundeshagen Codex, the only surviving Nibelung manuscript with illustrations
1965 Edition
Also contains The Tristan of Thomas
Detail of a woodcut in an early edition of Tristan

Next – the last of the Black Classics – a miscellany


Ben Gage said...

great blog, thanks for the reminder of another age of reading....

Anne S said...

Thanks Ben, glad you enjoy it.

I've been a bit slack of late putting up new stuff, but I'll get back into the groove soonish.