The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England.
Blackwell Publishers have filled an important gap in the reference section with this first major reference work solely devoted to the interdisciplinary study of Anglo-Saxon England from circa 450 to 1066. The editors, all senior scholars at major British universities, have consolidated the voluminous findings of the past generation of Anglo-Saxon scholars represented by the 150 contributors to this volume. Of special interest is the careful inclusion of recent findings in archaeology, architectural history, palaeography, codicology, and numismatics which are increasingly vital complements to the more traditional literary and historical approaches to this period. The book is richly illustrated by twenty-four black and white plates, twelve maps, and thirty-one figures (line-drawings). Other useful features include a table "Rulers of the English circa 450-1066," an "Index of Contributors,"(listed with the titles of their respective articles) followed by a "Classified Index of Head-Words" (with cross-references).
The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England should be compared to another excellent recent publication: Medieval England: An Encyclopedia, edited by Paul E. Szarbachm, M. Teresa Tavormina, and Joel T. Rosenthal (New York and London, Garland Publishing, 1998). Unlike The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England, this volume covers the entire medieval period and is edited by American scholars. Both volumes provide fairly detailed articles with up-to-date bibliographies for each article. On comparing the two reference books one finds that the different interests and approaches of the contributors are as evident in the article bibliographies as in the articles themselves. In at least one instance, though, the two volumes provide not merely complementary reformation but contradictory information. In the article on "Bede in the Blackwell Encyclopedia" one reads: "At the canonical ages Bede was ordained deacon and then priest"(p. 57). Turning to the Garland volume, see under, "Bede the Venerable (circa 673-735)" one reads: "Ordained a deacon at the age of nineteen (six years before the usual canonical age), Bede then proceeded to the priesthood at age thirty (703)" (p. 115). The Garland article is in this instance much more detailed and, on examination of the ancient canons, quite correct in noting that Bede was not ordained deacon at the canonical age. As one would expect, the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England provides enough articles on the more recondite aspects of Anglo-Saxon England not found in the Garland publication (for example, the article on "bone working" and the article "Aelfwine, Prayerbook of") to warrant its purchase by libraries as a specialized reference for the Anglo-Saxon period.
This book should be recommended, together with Medieval England: An Encyclopedia, to students and scholars at all levels.
Alan W. Reese
University of Saskatchewan