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The Beowulf “Manuscript”

2018 Craft Project

A couple of years ago I commissioned Alex Summers of Red Swan Books to make me a new manuscript of Beowulf. I took delivery in spring of this year at TORM.

Hand finished copy of Beowulf by Alex Summers of Red Swan Books.  - Image copyrighted  Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

As I expected it was a magnificent copy, in modern English for usefulness today and using a very convincing vellum substitute.

Hand finished copy of Beowulf by Alex Summers of Red Swan Books.  - Image copyrighted  Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

It is entirely hand finished with period pigments, including gold, and properly bound by Alex as well. Strictly speaking “manuscript” usually refers to something entirely hand written although it has stretched to include typewritten. This is partially printed but many of the letters and all of the illuminations are hand painted. Although my use of the term might be a little inaccurate, I’m not sure what else to call it.

The intention has always been to decorate the cover in the style of the great treasure books of the period and for that I had been collecting bronze mounts in the intervening period.

Componets for cover of Beowulf "Manuscript"- Image copyrighted  Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

When the book arrived I was able to start preparations for the work to follow.

The mounts are to be set onto a plate of brass which will then be attached to the book cover. The drilling and punching of the necessary holes was done in the workshop ahead of taking it to the Heysham Viking Festival where I would be working on it as part of my living history display.

Progress shot for cover of Beowulf "Manuscript"- Image copyrighted  Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

Unsurprisingly I did not get a huge amount of work done at the show while interacting with the public but it is that interaction that is important when putting on a show.

I did get the Silver intaglios done and the basic layout marked up though.

I posted earlier about leaving one of Britain’s largest Viking Societies because of their attitude about wearing glasses while demonstrating to the public.

Fine craft work like this is just the sort of thing I now require visual support to achieve and as a  result it is the sort of living history that the public rarely gets to see.

The display was hugely popular over the weekend and I spent much of my time explaining how and what I was doing and about the manuscript itself. Exactly the kind of educational display I try to put on.

Best Living History Award at Heysham Viking Festival

I also managed to pick up the award for the ”Best individual living history display”, which was judged by a secret family group over the course of the weekend, so I guess I must have been doing something right even if I was wearing glasses.

Progress shot for cover of Beowulf "Manuscript"- Image copyrighted  Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

Back in the workshop I was able to work faster of course. A couple of days later I laid out the divisions properly with a dotted chevron pattern.

Progress shot for cover of Beowulf "Manuscript"- Image copyrighted  Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

The next day I filled the top and bottom margins with a square knotwork and inscribed it with Anglo Saxon Runes, near the spine with:

Beowulf / I am called

Alex Summers / wrote me

Gary Waidson / had me made

As Wayland / he wrought me

Progress shot for cover of Beowulf "Manuscript"- Image copyrighted  Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

After a days  break to do other things,  I completed the right hand margin and bordered the intaglios to marry them in better with the plate.

This may be ass much as I do for a while, I need to plan the next parts carefully and I want to save some work for my next living history presentation which may well be next year now.

Watch this space for updates.

 

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Lore-and-Saga Living history services and resources for schools, museums and heritage sites. Viking and Roman in school sessions and craft demonstrations. teachers notes and worksheets. Vikings, Saxons, Romans, national curriculum, invaders and settlers, key stage 2, history, teachers information, living history interpreter, in school sessions, storytelling, Roman resources, educational presentations, Viking lore, runes, Roman lore, Viking saga, living history interpretation, Viking resources, Odin, Viking crafts demonstrations, Roman cookery display, Viking silverwork, Roman games, chronology, Viking games, Roman school visits, Viking runes, national curriculum history key stage two, Viking school visits
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