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By R I Page

ISBN-10: 0585213844

ISBN-13: 9780585213842

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I use 'rune' for a letter of the characteristic alphabet that recorded early Germanic texts, North, East and West, though I concentrate on the distinctive branch of the script the Anglo-Saxons developed, commonly for their inscriptions and so surviving evidence suggests minimally for their writings; and by 'runic' I mean consisting of runes, carved or written in runes, inscribed with runes, or concerned with runes. The extended meanings of both words are unimportant to my purpose, but it is worth using a little space to explore some of them, for they trace the course of runic studies in this country and help to account for some misconceptions that survive still.

Reservations about their use, limitations on their reliability, have to be repeated. I have tried to cut this down to a minimum but I doubt if I have succeeded to the satisfaction of all readers. On style, a helpful colleague suggests I should have a note on 'irony'. This is a quality found in much English prose: we do not always say in simplicity what we mean. It certainly enters my own style here and there. However, there are people into whose souls the irony has not entered, and I should perhaps warn them of the dangers inherent in my way of writing, and hope they will read delicately.

Worm illustrated his Monumenta with woodcuts of rune-inscribed stones and other objects in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. His Specimen is an Old Norse-Latin dictionary, with the headwords printed in both runic and roman types. Consequently, seventeenth-century writers came to use the word 'runic' both of the epigraphical script of these monuments, which is its proper signification, and of the mediaeval Scandinavian language of Worm's lexicon and the literature that was written in it. The great predominance of Scandinavian runic remains over those in other countries and other tongues has led to the word 'runic' being intimately associated with Scandinavia down to the present day, while confusion between script and language was to remain at any rate into the nineteenth century.

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An introduction to English runes by R I Page


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