I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!



Working on a new version of the bibliography and sharing it here. These books are recommended—or warned against—by members of the group and other medievalists. Please write with any additions you suggest!

Fagan, Brian. The Great Warming
A follow-up to The Little Ice Age, excellently written and dealing with the climate optimum. Only two chapter really deal with Britain, but these chapters should not be missed!

Fagan, Brian. The Little Ice Age
Although dealing primarily with 1300–1850, it also sets up the preceding warm era.

Feuerlichte, Roberta Strauss. Vikings (World Around Us)
Gloriously farbily illustrated graphic examine of Norse culture during the Viking Age, with illustrations by such noted comic artists as George Evans, Sam Glanzman, Gray Morrow, Norman Nodel and Angelo Torres.

Ferguson, Robert. The Vikings
A general study of Norse life during the Viking Age, incorporating the most current resources.

Fischer, David Hackett. Historians Fallacies
I cannot recommend this book enough. Just a cursory glance will change the way any reader looks at sources, historians and logic.

FitzHugh, William W. and Elizabeth I. Ward (eds.). Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga
A series of articles on aspects of Viking territorial expansionism, with appendices on representations of Vikings in popular culture and Viking reenacting, among other subject. Based on the traveling museum exhibit.

Frossier, Robert. (Translated by Lydia G. Chochrane). The Axe and the Oath: Ordinary Life in the Middle Ages
One might think from the subtitle that this would be an ideal book to read for living history that tries to re-create ordinary everyday life. That person would be wrong. The book is rambling, arrogant, defensive, undisciplined with nothing to back up the author’s assertions that people just never changed. What is worse, besides a lack of any provenance for the author’s statements, there are absolutely no citations, no bibliography, no index and no illustrations. Popular history should not be this unpopular.

Gabriele, Matthew and David M. Perry. The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe.
A general history of what has been called the Dark Ages, pointing out the irony of that term and with a good collection of humor. People who dislike the term “Dark Ages” assert that it will become standard popular history.

Girouard, Mark. The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman
Account on the Victorian medieval revival inspired by such writers as Scott, events as the Eglinton tourney and other aspects of popular culture, until its doom in the First Worl War.

Graham-Campbell, James. The Vikings: The British Museum, London
Catalog for a museum exhibits containing high-quality shots of artifacts.

Hadley. D. M. And Letty ten Harbel. Everyday Life in Viking-Age Towns
An examination and study of Norse communities in England and Ireland from 800–110.

Hall, Richard. Book of Viking Age York (English Heritage)
Informative and illustrated book written by the late director of the York Archaeological Trust.

Harty, Kevin. The Vikings on Film
Not currently up to date but very interesting.

Haywood, John. Encyclopedia of the Viking Age
A good collection of essays on the era.

Haywood, John. Viking: The Norse Warrior’s [Unofficial] Manual
A light-hearted but informative book that features contributions from Kim Siddorn and other Regia folk.

Higham, Nicholas. The Anglo-Saxon World
A good overview of early medieval England.

Holman, Katherine. Historical Dictionary of the Vikings
Good collection of entries on the era.

Holman, Katherine. The Northern Conquest: Vikings in Britain and Ireland
Up to date overview of Anglo-Scandinavian and Hiberno-Scandinavian relations. Very illuminating.

Howarth, David. 1066: The Year of the Conquest
Gloriously opinionated book that also covers everyday life in pre-Conquest Britain.

Hunawalt, Barbara A. The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England
Strictly speaking, outside the realm of Regia, but a peasant’s lifestyle remained the same for centuries. An entertaining and unique examination of common folk in the Middle Ages, relying to a great extent upon coroners’ roll. Sometimes macabre but always illuminating. Recommended.

Ingstad, Helge. Westward to Vinland: the Discovery of Pre-Columbian Norse House-sites in North America
Popularized account of the excavations at L’Ans aux Meadows done by the co-founder of the site.

James, Peter and Nick Thorpe. Ancient Inventions
A collection of inventions or innovations, how they were discovered and how much earlier they existed than commonly supposed.

Janaga, Eleanor and Neil Max Ennanuel. The Middle Ages: A Graphic History.
An amusing illustrated look at all of medieval history. Not a comic book.

Jarman, Cat. River Kings.
A history of the Norse concentrating on new discovers, interpretations and the Silk Road.

Jochens, Jenny. Women in Old Norse Society
Fine examination of the role of women in Norse society.

Johnston, Ruth A. All Things Medieval: An Encyclopedia of the Medieval World (2 Volume Set)
A compendium of articles, perhaps geared toward younger readers, tt deal with a good many subjects of interest to persons examining the Middle Ages.

Jones, Gwyn. The History of the Vikings
Well written overview of the Norse culture of the Viking Age.

Jones, Terry. Terry Jones’ Barbarians
Strictly speaking not our period but a very illuminating look at maligned peoples. From the television series.

Kolofny, Annette. In Search of First Contact
An innovative and opinionated look at the Norse in North America with great emphasis on the natives.

Koenigsberger. Medieval Europe, 400-1500
This is a real winner.

Labarge, Margaret Wade. Small Sound of the Trumpet
On medieval women.

Lacey, Robert and Danny Danziger. The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium
Not really a cautionary tale comparing the turn of the First Millennium with the then-upcoming turn of the Second, but a good look at everyday life using the Julius Work Calendar as the internal theme. Dealing specifically with England.

Leahy, Kevin. Anglo-Saxon Crafts: Revealing History
This accessible volume addresses different crafts practiced by the Anglo-Saxons, including woodworking, leatherworking, pottery and textiles. Looking at surviving artifacts, Leahy comments on construction and technology.


Working on a new version of the bibliography and sharing it here. These books are recommended—or warned against—by members of the group and other medievalists. Please write with any additions you suggest!


Al-Amin, Nashid. True Myth: Black Vikings of The Middle Ages
Controversial book that many Aryanists will froth over, but he makes quite a few good points that academic have tended to ignore and to overlook.

Alexander, Caroline. Lost Gold of the Dark Ages: War, Treasure, and the Mystery of the Saxons
A table featuring many excellent photographs of items from the Staffordshire Hoard, along with historical background.

Allison, David B. Living History.
Small and informative book on living history at living-history sites and museums.

Almgren, Bertil (editor). The Viking
Large-format and heavily illustrated coffee-table book that tells a lot about Viking culture and how certain things—for example, the loom and the turtle broaches—were accomplished. Expensive and outdated in some areas, but well worth it if you have an interest in things Norse and are willing to check on statements.

Anderson, Gunnar (editor), Vikings: Beyond the Legend
Color photos from te 2014–2015 Viking Exhibit when it appeared in Australia.

Anderson, Jay. Time Machines: The World of Living History
The seminal work about living history in all its aspects. The chapter on the SCA is “Princes Valiant.”

Aries, Philippe and Georges Duby (eds.). A History of Private Life Vol. II
Good book for an understanding of medieval times and people. Good pictures

Aston, Michael. Interpreting the English Village: Landscape and Community at Shapwick, Somerset
A detailed look at a single community through the ages.

Baker, Alan. The Viking
A modern and imaginative interpretation of Viking culture that harkens back to the worst Victorian romanticism. No notes, no real bibliography (just a list of other secondary and tertiary sources). AVOID!

Baldwin, John W. The Scholastic Culture of the Middle Ages, 1000-1300
Deals with the end of Regia’s period. On Stephen Silver’s Medieval Universities Bibliography.

Bjarnason, Egil. How Iceland Changed the World.
A popular history of Iceland, unfortunately with no references.

Boswell, John. The Kindness of Strangers: The Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance
This book is not nearly as grim as the title suggests. The author argues that abandonment usually did not mean death, that children who could not be supported in one family usually found their way into families who wanted and needed them. Extraordinarily well written.

Boswell, John. Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe
Well-documented, gay-friendly (Boswell was gay and died of AIDS) recounting of hushed-up tolerance of earlier Christianity.

Brehaut, Ernest (Trans.). An Encyclopedist of the Dark Ages
On Stephen Silver’s Medieval Universities Bibliography.

Brink. Stefan. The Viking World (Routledge Worlds)
A fine collection that looks at artifats from and everyday life in Viking-Age Scandinavia.

Brown, Nancy Marie. Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths
Innovative book that examines the non-period Snorri Sturlusson, who wrote and probably invented tales of Norse mythology.

Byock, Jesse. Viking Age Iceland
An intensely vibrant and interesting view of Icelandic culture during the Free State

Cahill, Thomas. How the Irish Saved Civilization—The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe
A look at the Irish preservation of books during the early Middle Ages.

Campbell, Gordon. Norse America: The Story of a Founding Myth.
A frustrating look at Norse settlement of the New World. Not recommended at all.

Crawford, Sally. Childhood in Anglo-Saxon England
A recommended book on how children were treated and acted in Anglo-Saxon England.

Grollemood, Larissa, and Bryan Keene. The Fantasy of the Middle Ages.
A publication of the J. Paul Getty Museum dealing with medieval fantasy in popular culture. More concerned with knights and damsels rather than Norse aspects. It does deal with medievalesque LARPs and Rennaissance Fairs.

Crawford, Sally. Daily Life in Anglo-Saxon England
An outstanding book dealing mainly with the physical culture, drawing on the latest research. Great, even if it gives the Regia site as regis.com! One of Greenwood’s excellent “Daily Life Through History” series.

Deary, Terry. Gruesome Guides: York (Horrible Histories).
The Horrible Histories series are written for younger readers but are always informative and fun. This one is a history of the central city of the Danelaw.

Deary, Terry. The Smashing Saxons (Horrible Histories)
The Horrible Histories series are written for younger readers but are always informative and fun. This one covers Anglo-Saxon culture.

Deary, Terry. The Vicious Vikings (Horrible Histories)
The Horrible Histories series are written for younger readers but are always informative and fun. This one deals with Norse culture.

Du Chaillu, Paul. The Viking Age (2 volumes)
Early but profusely illustrated overview of Norse culture that is pertinent still today.

Dyer, Christopher, Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain 850-1520
A good book on everyday life, but it unfortunately covers such a wide period of time that it is often cursory. Nevertheless, a good place to start.

Erdoes, Richard, A.D. 1000: Living on the Brink of Apocalypse
At first glance, yet another book about the turn of the First Millennium, but actually written some twelve years before and brought back into print for the Y2K scare. The subtitle pretty much describes the theme of the book.


Working on a new version of the bibliography and sharing it here. These books are recommended—or warned against—by members of the group and other medievalists. Please write with any additions you suggest!


Grewe, Rudolf (trans.) Libellus De Arte Coquinaria: An Early Northern Cookery Book
Four versions of the earliest cookbook since Classical times, not necessarily period for Regia, but probably from the twelfth century and closer to foods of the Viking Age than any other. Recipes are translated, not redacted.

Hagen, Anne. Anglo-Saxon Food & Drink
Irreplaceable volume dealing with foods known to be consumed by Anglo-Saxons prior to the Conquest, with notes on availability, uses and cooking methods. Invaluable.

Serra, Danzel, and Hanna Tunberg (editors). An Early Meal?: A Viking Age Cookbook & Culinary Guide
If you are in photography of food, an excellent collection of photographs, but only a mediocre collection of recipes and essays.

Tannahill, Reay. Food in History
An overview of culinary history. No recipes but plenty of information Often this can’t provide adequate coverage because there’s simply too much to cover.

Wilson, C. Anne. Food & Drink in Britain
If you want to know when and how ingredients or foods were first used, Wilson is the first place to look. Probably the most valuable reference book in English cooker.


Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion
A good overview of historical costuming, handicapped by its scope but containing a wealth of primary illustrations.

Brooks, Iris. Various titles

Burnham, D. Cut My Cote

Crowfoot et al. Textiles and Clothing
For serious costume nuts.

Cunnington, Cecil Willett and Phillis. Handbook of English Medieval Costume
According to some historivcal costumers, Cunnington is the single most valuable source for costumery.

Ewing, Þor. Viking Costume
Overview of aspects of Norse clothing, drawing from earlier sources, archaeological investigation and the author’s own conclusions.

Gæsel, Nille. Viking.
A book dealing with garments of the Viking Age by a well-known expert with plenty of diagrams, patterns and illustrations. She designed costumes for the film, “The Northman.”

Norris, Herbert. Church Vestments: Their Origin and Development
Specialized look at ecclesiastical costume. A standard work with many patterns and illustrations. Because illustrations are redrawn from primary sources, care should be taken when using the book.

Norris, Herbert. Costume and Fashion: v 2—Senlac to Bosworth
Deals with the very end of the period covered by Regia. A standard work with many patterns and illustrations. Because illustrations are redrawn from primary sources, care should be taken when using the book.

Norris, Herbert. Costume and Fashion: v 1—Through the Earlier Ages
A standard work with many patterns and illustrations. Because illustrations are redrawn from primary sources, care should be taken when using the book.

Nurman, Britta, Carl Schulze and Torsten Verhulsdonk. The Vikings Recreated in Colour Photographs. Europa Militaria #16
Color photographs of Viking reenactors, a delightful hybrid of fact and supposition.

Rabiega, Kamil. Viking Dress Code.
Book on costuming using recent discoveries and plenty of illustrations.

Stergård, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland
Dealing with archaeological finds from Greenland, including the famed 14th-century gowns, it has a minimal direct association with Regia’s period but is incredibly fascinating nonetheless.

Owen-Crocker, Gail. Dress in Anglo-Saxon England, Second Edition
Excellent source on the details of Anglo-Saxon costume. Minimally useful as practical guide as most of the information is aimed at researching the entire kit. Highly recommended!

Volken, Marquita. Archaeological Footware.
Fairly complete look at footware of Europe. With timelines, photographs of extant shoes, patterns and much more. Very recommended!

Wagner, Eduard. Zoroslava Drobna and Jan Durdik. Medieval Costume, Armour and Weapons
Use this book with caution. It is mainly re-drawings from medieval manuscripts. A contemporary review of the original German book stated that the authors were obviously not costumers, so I would recommend using it only as a starting point.

Wilcox, Ruth Turner Wilcox. Various Titles


Working on a new version of the bibliography and sharing it here. These books are recommended—or warned against—by members of the group and other medievalists. Please write with any additions you suggest!


Brown, Peter. Augustine of Hippo
One of Norman Cantor’s Short List.

Douglas, David Charles. William the Conqueror; the Norman Impact upon England
Biography of the Bastard.

Duckett, Eleanor Shipley. Alfred the Great
Biography of vastly over-estimated Anglo-Saxon monarch.

Lavelle, Ryan. Æthelred II: King of the English
Apologist, revisionist biography of one of the—if not the—worst of the English kings.

Lawson, M. K. Cnut: England’s Viking King
Biography of the Norseman who sat the English throne so well.

Walker, Ian W. Harold: The Last Anglo-Saxon King
Biography of the last Anglo-Saxon king.

Williams, Gareth. Eirik Bloodaxe
Biography of one of the early significant figures in the Danelaw.


Bealer, Alex W. The Art of Blacksmithing
Good beginning blacksmithing book—includes some armor and weapons making.

Chinnery, Victor. Oak Furniture: the British Tradition
Covers all types of furniture very well, though from a British, present in Britain, or affecting British furniture making perspective. This is an excellent work, profusely illustrated and footnoted, and the discussion reflects the best of modern scholarship and resources.

Diehl, Daniel. Constructing Medieval Furniture
A practical guide with historical notes.

Fleming, James Evans. The Blacksmith’s Source Book
Excellent bibliography on the history of Blacksmithing. Annotated source to 300 works.

McDonald, Fiona. Textiles: A History.
A handy and illustrated book dealing with histoical textiles and production.

Mercer, Eric. Furniture: 700-1700
An overview of the development of furniture, with many excellent illustrations, both from primary sources and of the pieces themselves.

Oates, Phyllis. The Story of Western Furniture
An overview of European furniture styles and usages.

Watkins, F. L. Age of Wood
A look at woodworking during the Viking age, including woods, tools and methods.



One of the most controversial parts of any serious living history endeavors are eyeglasses.

It is untrue that early man possessed no way to correct his eyesight. From ancient times, magnifying lenses—generally crystals or curved transparent goblets filled with water—were used to help with fine work, to start fires and to cauterize wounds. Workshops manufacturing these lenses have been found from Gotland to Constantinople. However, these were large, heavy, unwieldy and only minimally transportable. The modern concept of spectacles was invented in the later thirteenth century and, unlike many technological advances through the ages, was at once widely adopted. By 1290, only a few years after their development, spectacles were being praised as essential. In 1306, an anonymous monk wrote, “It is not yet twenty years since the art of making spectacles, one of the most useful arts on earth, was discovered. I, myself, have seen and conversed with the man who made them first.”

For post-13th-century eras in Western Europe, the use of simple frames and, in some cases, even often acceptable alternatives, even though critics noted that

A. Most spectacles are worn to correct near-sightedness, and those corrective lenses date only from the sixteenth century.

B. Even though early optics were often crystal and often tinted, hardly ever purely transparent, sunglasses were not invented until the eighteenth century. Any sunglasses—whether they are eyeglasses or even transitional eyeglasses—are immediately inappropriate.

C. Early spectacles were often difficult to wear because rigid ear pieces were invented in the eighteenth century and were kept on the face by unwieldy straps, races, ribbons, spring nose pieces and sometimes by balancing them on the nose itself. Sometimes, they were even kept on a stick or otherwise held up to the eyes.

C. Spectacles were a sign of old age and infirmity, and worn by many Europeans only in private.

D. Spectacles were a sign of learning and, in painting, often used as shorthand for portraying the subject as educated and literate. Unless there was a reason to brag about literacy—and this was scarcely so in pre-Industrial revolution Europe—there was no reason to make such an ostentatious display of the ability.

However, for persons portraying pre-thirteenth century eras, such as our own, even this controversial work-around is unavailable. A Viking wearing spectacles is comic and inappropriate. Although inappropriate eyeglasses have often been a part of burlesque and comedy, and although Robert Wooley’s black Harry Potter-like frames were hilarious in films such as Cockeyed Cavaliers, hopefully your intent is more educational and less humorous.

There are, however, ways to work around the problem.

Surgical Correction

One should never enter into any sort of surgery lightly. Before any non-emergency surgery, be certain that you exhaustively confer with your physicians! Laser eye surgery—commonly known as Lasik—and the implantation of permanent lenses are both available. The former is still expensive and probably not covered by most insurance. It is has not been around long enough that we know the long-term effects of Lasik, so no one knows how long the beneficial results may last or even long-term side effects. The implantation of lenses is usually to correct cataracts or other eye ailments and should not be approached lightly.

Contact Lenses

The most obvious remedy are contacts. Contact lenses, which are small corrective lenses that are placed directly upon the eye, convey the illusion of using no device at all. Since all good living history—with the exception of practical archaeology—is, at its base, illusion, this a very suitable remedy.

There are people who are familiar only with the more primitive forms of contact lenses—heavy, uncomfortable glass appliances that could only be worn by a short time—that were invented in the nineteenth century. They had become relatively comfortable to wear for short times by the 1930s and had attained great popularity by 1940s. Rigid plastic lenses became available at this time, and soft plastic lenses were developed into the 1960s, although they did not became commercially available until the 1970s.

These lenses all did not breath and could not be worn for extended periods of time. Disposable extended wear and gas-permeable lenses only became available in the 1980s and 1990s. A new generation of disposable, extended-wear gas-permeable lenses was introduced just before the turn of the millennium.

If you attempted without success to wear contact lenses prior to this time, see your optometrist for sample lenses. You might very well be surprised that your ancient prejudices were for naught.

Getting Accustomed to Going Without Eyeglasses

Most folk can go without spectacles. In an era with low rates of literacy and no way to correct them, people of our period were much less concerned about perfect eyesight than we are today. Continued reliance on corrective devices has in some cases weakened the eyes and has increased our reliance on spectacles for convenience and comfort. There is, however, a great distance between convenience and necessity.

Practicing going without spectacles should not start at an event. Do it first at home, and do not try to overdo it. Do not be too active at first, and stay away from dangerous activities. You might find that there are certain things you cannot do; please accept these limitations so that you do not endanger yourself or others. Reenacting should not be run by egos!

Hints for Going Without Spectacles

Much about living history is, to modern sensibilities, inconvenient and, perhaps, uncomfortable. However, if you are willing to compromise, you will find that it is not impossible! Here are a few hints for not using your eyeglasses at Regia events:

A. Realize that spectacles must be abandoned only during public hours within the confines of the ropeline. Outside, the use of spectacles are allowed, although you might find that continued use of no spectacles may make the transition more easy.

B. Before public hours begin, police the area in which you plan to stay to make certain there are no dangers that you will not see.

C. Find a pursuit that does not require good vision. These are pursuits to be practiced in public at events. You can. Of course, wear spectacles when practicing a craft in a non-public setting.

D. Move slowly without your spectacles. Even if you are accustomed to striding quickly about, you will find that taking your time is safer. After all, your ancestors did not have tv programs or soccer games to rush to!

E. Allow fellow reenactors to guide you about if necessary.

F. Use a walking stick to help walk around.

G. Be careful around weapons, tent stakes and fire!

H. Request—and expect—that you campmates will keep the area relatively clean of debris and dangers, even as you expect them not to leave unsheathed steel around!

I. Keep your spectacles convenient—I used to slide them up a sleeve—so that they are relatively accessible if you desperately need them.

J. Acquire a magnifying globe or crystal that is acceptable to the Authenticity Officer. It is presumed that these were also used as jewelry.

K. Put your spectacles on again when public hours are over or when leaving the ropeline. Some persons in your situation, however, prefer to go without spectacles whenever they are in period kit. As my wife said after a recent weekend event, “Oh, the green blobs have leaves…”

You will also often find that you have compensated so well that putting your spectacles back on after an extended period without will leave you slightly confused and dizzy.

Try it before rejecting the idea. You may find it easier to do than modern life has made you believe!

If Wearing No Spectacles Leave you Unsafe, Nauseous and Debilitated

If you are not capable of nor willing to go without spectacles and cannot otherwise correct your visual disabilities, and you will not abide by the limitations imposed, find another hobby. Don’t expect the whole hobby to change its principles for you.


Working on a new version of the bibliography and sharing it here. These books are recommended—or warned against—by members of the group and other medievalists. Please write with any additions you suggest!


Alexander, J. J. G. (ed.). Insular Manuscripts: 6th to the 9th Century
Vol. 1 of “Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles,” with an introduction, 354 illustrations and a detailed catalog.

Backhouse, Janet. The Lindisfarne Gospels
All major decorated pages and several representative canon and text pages, along with a comparison with other Celtic art.

Bain, George. Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction
Basic work on Celtic knotwork, keywork, etc, first published in 1951.

Bayeux Tapestry, The
A primary primary source. Available in various sizes and editions, both in color and monotone, the larger and more accurate a reproduction you can find, the better. Note that some persons decry using it for primary documentation, citing artistic liberties such as the color of horses. For the most part, it is easy to distinguish between what is a fairly faithful observation and artistic interpretation.

Benson, John H. & A. G. Carey. Elements of Lettering
Good book of history & technique for experienced calligraphers. Most scripts are illustrated with no further instruction. The Rotunda is beautiful.

Bouet, Pierre (editor). The Bayeux Tapestry: Embroidering the Facts of History
Series of essays from a conference on the Bayeux Embroidery, including points of how realistic details are, how colors and were attained and a set of photos from the back side. Available in English but only through French sources. If you have any interest in so many subjects, very recommended!

Bridgeford, Andrew. 1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry
Fascinating look at the Embroidery, explaining its techniques, meanings and history and why it’s not just an act of Norman propaganda.

Brown, Michele. The Lindisfarne Gospels: Society, Spirituality & the Scribe
An innovative book that sets the Lindisfarne Gospels into the context of artistic influences of the time.

Dodwell, C. R. Anglo-Saxon Art. A New Perspective
Hazel Uzzell notes: “The title is deceptive as it covers: Art survivals and written sources. Anglo-Saxon tastes. Artists and Craftsmen in Anglo-Saxon England. Painting and carving. Textiles. Costume and vestments. Jewellery, silver and gold. Anglo-Saxon Art and the Norman Conquest. In my opinion, it is one of the best books that I have read on the period.”

Drogin, Marc. Medieval Calligraphy: Its History and Techniques
A perfect balance of history and technique. Reproduces period examples and explains what to look for. Half the plates have transcriptions. Available in an inexpensive Dover reprint.

Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus : the Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
Ostensibly about the Bible, religion and changes in scripture caused by a variety of sources, what it says about professional scribes and details of copying manuscripts is both useful and interesting.

Fox, Michael, and Stephen R. Reimer. Mappae Mundi: Representing the World and its Inhabitants in Texts, Maps, and Images in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Overview of mapmaking with many color illustrations, though none of the maps themselves.

Graham-Campbell, James. Viking Art (World of Art)
An excellent collection of artwork of various kinds from the Viking Age.

Henry, Francoise (ed.). The Book of Kells: Reproductions
Coffee-table book in a slipcase, with color plates reproducing major illuminations, followed by an historical article.

Jackson, Eleanor. The Lindisfarne Gospels: Art, History and Inspiration.

A small but beautifully printed book on the Lindisfarne Gospels, dealing glosses among other things.

Johnston, Edward. Writing & Illuminating & Lettering
The first and one of the most consistently revered “bibles” of the art.

Lovett, Patricia. The Art and History of Calligraphy
A clear, well-illustrated book on calligraphy and manuscripts with a very interesting section on production of a manuscript. It dealswith a good many eras.

McKendrick, Scot and Kathleen Doyle. The Art of the Bible: Illuminated Manuscripts from the Medieval World
Period and non-period facsimiles of pages from mediaeval manuscripts, including marvelously detailed pages from the Harley Psalter. Large and wonderfully reproduced pages.

Nordenfalk, Carl. Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Painting
Introductory article on book illumination in the British Isles during the 7th through 9th centuries, with color plates and commentary.

Page, R. I. Runes (Reading the Past)
Easily read and not new agey

Pollington, Stephen. Rudiments of Runelore
Good, brief introduction to the Fuþark by a man who helped name our group.

Shepherd, Margaret. Learning Calligraphy
The book I recommend to all beginners. Only five alphabets are studied, but each is examined in depth.

Svaren, Jacqueline. Written Letters: 22 Alphabets for Calligraphers
Little basic instruction, but graceful, accurate interpretations of modern and historical scripts.

Temple, Elzibeta. Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts, 900-1066
Vol. 2 of “Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles,” with a short introduction, 370 illustrations and a detailed catalog of 106 manuscripts.

Thornbury, Emily V. Becoming a Poet in Anglo-Saxon England
An intriguing and informative examination of Latin and English Poetry from the early middle ages, with many samples and examples.

Watson, Aldren A. Hand Bookbinding: A Manual of Instruction
A good book. The illustrations are so clear you almost don’t have to read the text.

Webster, Leslie. Anglo-Saxon Art
Profusely illustrated of artwork from Anglo-Saxon England, including items from the Staffordshire Hoard.

Weitzmann, Kurt. Late Antique and Early Christian Book Illumination
Survey. This period had mostly pictorial instead of abstract decoration.

Whalley, Joyce Irene. The Student’s Guide to Western Calligraphy
The emphasis is on script, but there are examples of simple illumination.


Working on a new version of the bibliography and sharing it here. These books are recommended—or warned against—by members of the group and other medievalists. Please write with any additions you suggest!


Dickinson, Tania. Early Anglo-Saxon Shields (Archaeologia)
A slim but effective overview of the construction methods of Aglo-Saxon shields.

Heath, Ian. Illustrated by Angus McBride. The Vikings (Osprey Elite 3)
A sample of the British-written Elite series, which are larger and more specific books than the companion Man-At-Arms series. They are designed for gamers and modelers, not scholars, and feature neither notes nor bibliography. Still, they are good introductions, on a vast range of subjects.

Hjardar, Kim, and Vegard Vike (Translated by Frank Stewart). Vikings at War.
A recent translation of a Norwegian book and has many excellent pictures.

Peirce, Ian. Swords of the Viking Age
Profusely illustrated and exhaustive list of swords from the Viking Age.

Pollington, Stephen. The English Warrior from Earliest Times till 1066
Any book by Pollington is fabulous. He writes well and in a satisfying manner, answering your questions and not just (as it were) talking to hear himself talk. This volume has a glossary and fabulous illustrations. It is fascinating and educational reading even if large portions deal with periods that are pre-period for us.

Short, William. Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques
Book by the leader of Hurstwic, who bases his text not only on artifacts but on the Icelandic sagas and oop manuals.

Siddorn, Kim. Viking Weapons and Warfare
Authoritative book by Regia’s founder, with many photographs of Regia events as well.

Wise, Terence. Illustrated by G. A. Embleton. Saxon, Viking and Norman (Osprey Men-at-Arms 85)
A sample of the extensive, British-written Man-at-Arms series. They are designed for gamers and modelers, not scholars, and feature neither notes nor bibliography. Still, they are good introductions, on a vast range of subjects. This volume covers Regia’s period well.


Working on a new version of the bibliography and sharing it here. These books are recommended—or warned against—by members of the group and other medievalists. Please write with any additions you suggest!


Adkins, Lesley, Roy Adkins and Victoria Leitch. The Handbook of British Archaeology.
Fascinating collection of essays and articles about methods of British archaeology. Originally published more than quarter century ago, this completely revised and updated edition is packed with the latest information and now includes the most recent developments in archaeological science and every section has been extensively updated by a team of experts.

Arwidsson, Greta. The Mästermyr Find: A Viking Age Tool Chest from Gotland
Informative and well-illustrated volume on the famous Mästermyr tool find.

Aspects of Saxon and Norman London: Finds and Environmental Evidence (London & Middlesex Archaeological Society Special Paper)
Profusely illustrated examination of London in the Early Middle Ages.

Carver. Martin. The Sutton Hoo Story: Encounters with Early England
Earlier than our period, but fascinating look at the Sutton Hoo find, with text, photos of the discovery, illustrations of the artifacts and photographs as well.

Comey, Martin G. Coopers and Coopering in Viking Age Dublin.
Line illustrations of cups and other interesting wooden objects from the Hiberno-Scandinavian culture.

Dobney K. M., D. Jaques, James Barrett and Cluny Johnstone. Farmers, Monks and Aristocrats: The Environmental Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon Flixborough
Excellent collection of essays on various types of environmentally-oriented artefacts found at Flixborough.

Evan, D. H. And Christopher Loveluck. Life and Economy at Early Medieval Flixborough, c. AD 600-1000
Excellent collection of essays on various types of artefacts found at Flixborough.

Fanning, Thomas. Viking Age Ringed Pins from Dublin.
Line illustrations of pins from the Hiberno-Scandinavian culture.

Hall, Richard. Viking Age Archaeology (Shire Archaeology)
Brief but profusely illustrated Shire publication written by the late director of the York Archaeological Trust.

Hammond, Brett. British Artefacts: Late Saxon, Late Viking & Norman
Nice collection of illustrations.

Hodges. Richard. Goodbye to the Vikings? Re-reading Early Medieval Archaeology
Collection of interesting articles.

MacGregor, Arthur. Craft, Industry and Everyday Life : Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn from Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York
One of the profusely illustrated, phenomenal books from the York Archaeological Trust, showing finds from excavations in York, plans and small essays on the craft. This one features antler, bone, horn and ivory work.

Mainman, A. J. Anglo-Scandinavian Pottery from 16-22 Coppergate (CBA Research Reports) (Vol 16)
Profusely illustrated examination of pottery work from the York Archaeological Trust.

Mainman, A. J. and N.S.H. Rogers. Craft, Industry and Everyday Life: the Small Finds from Anglo-Scandinavian York
One of the profusely illustrated, phenomenal books from the York Archaeological Trust, showing finds from excavations in York, plans and small essays on the craft. This one features miscellaneous finds.

Morris, Carole A. Craft, Industry and Everyday Life: Wood and Woodworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York
One of the profusely illustrated, phenomenal books from the York Archaeological Trust, showing finds from excavations in York, plans and small essays on the craft. This one features wood work.

Mould, Quita. Craft, Industry and Everyday Life: Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York
One of the profusely illustrated, phenomenal books from the York Archaeological Trust, showing finds from excavations in York, plans and small essays on the craft. This one features leather work.

Ottaway, Patrick. Anglo-Scandinavian Ironwork from 16-22 Coppergate, York: c.850-1100 A.D
One of the profusely illustrated, phenomenal books from the York Archaeological Trust, showing finds from excavations in York, plans and small essays on the craft. This one features ferrous work.

Rizzoli (editor). From Viking to Crusader: The Scandinavians and Europe, 800-1200
A museum catalog that offers an extensive number of black-and-white photos of the exhibited items, along with essays and wonderful color photos. Out of print and hardly likely to be brought back into print, copies are expensive when available.

Rogers, Walton. Textiles, Cordage and Raw Fibre from 16-22 Coppergate (The Archaeology of York)
One of the profusely illustrated, phenomenal books from the York Archaeological Trust, showing finds from excavations in York, plans and small essays on the craft. This one features textile production.

Rogers, Walton. Textile Production at 16-22 Coppergate (The Archaeology of York: The Small Finds)
One of the profusely illustrated, phenomenal books from the York Archaeological Trust, showing finds from excavations in York, plans and small essays on the craft. This one features textile production.

Schietzel, Kurt. Spurensuche Haithabu
German language examination of artifgacts from hedeby, with marvelous line illustrations and photographs. An English translation is planned.


I first published this nearly twenty years agom but it is still amusing and pertunent…

The past was not safe. There was a reason that the average life expectancy was so low.

There were no regulations to ensure your safety. There were no guard rails. No warning label on swords (This Sword May Be Dangerous to your Health.) No nutrition sticker on the skyr you drank this morning. You were on your own, and you learned how to avoid dying or…well, you didn’t. See above about the average life expectancy.

People took responsibility for their own actions and probably kept an eye out for someone who would have torn that warning sticker off the sword.

Nowadays, we don’t. We take it for granted that if we do this, we take that or we wear this that we will live forever. People expect that they will be protected. Anything that might remotely be unsafe is not good, and all too many people justify an action by cloaking it in safety concerns, and there is probably a coterie of lawyers somewhere sending their kids through college by writing safety regulations. Many of these safely regulations are good. Others protect the lowest common denominator. Not all safety legislation and guidelines are foolish or superfluous, and I am certain not in favor of removing all such protection, but in many cases, they become absurd. What is needed is common sense and to tell when the accuracy of something must be compromised for safety concerns.

If today’s safety specialists had their way back then, when a Norse rode a bicycle into combat, he’d have had to wear a bike helmet and just paint the horns on the side. Now you might say that Norse never wore horned helmets, but then bicycle crash helmets had never been invented during the Viking Age and even the most rudimentary bicycles themselves were undreamt of. But let’s use bicycles and bicycle helmets in this essay.


Obviously, if you want any sort of accuracy, you would not use bicycles in your Viking-Age reenactment. Not even if you “disguise” it, so that it looks like a horse, or a goat, or a dragon, or anything else. What it will end up looking like will be a fairly nice variable speed Huffy with a furry blanket over it. Not exactly how you want to educate the tourists.

The bicycle did not exist. One can rant about thinking outside the box all her wants, but the fact that you can’t find proof that the Norse-Cycle didn’t exist—you’ll never find, “Olaf went off to the Fjords on his Huffy, so some people might affirm to some people that means that he might have had a bicycle. He didn’t. A person putting forth that theory is wrong. Misguided perhaps or stupid perhaps but wrong definitely. An Oseberg bicycle was not found, and bicycles weren’t sunk in that fjord by Roskilde and even Lee Majors didn’t ride a bicycle in The Norsemen. I don’t care. You can sort through Norse graves until Doomsday (some time in the eleventh century, I believe), you could squint at all the runestones you wanted to and you could read any translation of the Sagas you want, and you will not find a bicycle. The bicycle did not exist. Take a deep breath, and repeat after me: The-Bicycle-Did-Not-Exist.

Bicycles aren’t the only thing that the revisionist history and retro-documentation wants to believe exist. But unless you have a clear, uncomplicated description or proven artifact or some other unimpeachable authority, it did not exist. Washing does not make it so, believing crackpot theories does not make it so and finding something that looks like it if you squint at it from five miles off in the dark while wearing your Uncle Joel’s glasses does not make it so. Go try to make a good reproduction of one of the many Norse artefacts that do exist and quit wasting your time and everyone else’s by trying to prove that your fifth-grade art project was real.


Let’s forget the fact that bicycle helmets are as anachronistic as the bicycles. Without bicycles, bicycle helmets just would be superfluous. It’s much the same as if you had a grizyk helmet today, when gryziks won’t be invented for another 240 years. You could have chariot helmets or maybe waggon helmets or maybe horsie helmets. But they didn’t. Remember all those Frederick Remington paintings of cowboys wearing horsie helmets astride their cow ponies. I don’t either.
Considering the modern state of litigation, as well as the safety first mind set, common sense seldom comes into the equation in modern reenactment. There will always been risks that you have to take in order to do something. Just leaving the house can be dangerous. You might be struck by a bus, have a heart attack while walking down the street or be hit on the head by the remnants of a meteor. Chances are, though, that no dire thing will happen. You have to balance the possibility of harm with the probability.

However, most of what we deem safety issues are convenience issues. Wearing comfy shoes is a comfort issue to most persons. So is wearing spectacles, modern jewelry or that great bleeding goat in a pentangle that you got at the naked pagan fest. Do the benefits outweigh the compromises? Does it give an miseducational or unrealistic spin on history? Does it conflict with the established regulations of the group or the site? Is it a genuine safety concern, or is that just a rationale to retain comfort?

Most safety concerns, such as horsie helmets, must be carefully studied and examined with common sense. Only if a practice is, after due reflection, suitably unsafe to require a compromise should that compromise be made.


Let’s say that there is a nearby reenctment. You ride a bicycle to it. You wear a bicycle helmet. But when you get to the event, keep the bicycle out of the living-history areas. Quite obviously, most people will have to use a bicycle, or some form of modern transportation, to get to a reenactment. That does not invalidate the historical concerns. It is a compromise that you have to make, and there are other compromises which you must make almost without thinking.
Safety is paramount in this hobby, if for no other reason than a preventable injury in such a controversial and ill-understood hobby would be disastrous. A pr nightmare even if it did not involve legal action. There are hard and fast rules about safety. Compromises are made all the time without us even thinking about them. No one—well, no reasonable person—will fault you for opting out of complete and total accuracy. Firepits are kept well away from the public behind ropelines although ropelines are hard accurate. In rebated steel combat, you hardly ever see a combatant bragging to a buddy how sharp his seax is or, for that instant, a Civil War reenactment that uses live rounds. There are hardly any groups that force you to butcher your own meat at the show, and even fewer make certain there are weevils in the bread. You don’t have to wear lead make-up if you’re Elizabethan, eat off lead pewter if you’re colonial or rip out fillings or inject yourself with some exotic infection. Compromise, as I noted, is common sense. Use it.
And be certain that you ride a bike to use wingas!


I am an atheist. Not a pagan. Not a Protestant. Not a Jew, a Muslim nor a Zoroastrian.

Yet in my Anglo-Scandinavian impression, I wear a religious pendant about my neck. I have bound many books that reprint Psalms, Gospels and Homilies. I have written my own homilies and compiled a harmony or two. I have carved and constructing crucifixes for hanging, preaching crosses and reliquaries (well, my wife does use one as a jewelry/spinning box 🙂 ). Many people who do not know my personal lack of beliefs might muse happily to themselves, What a good true Christian!

A contradiction?

Hardly. Reenacting is, more than anything else, acting. Guess what? I am not an Anglo-Scandinavian. You are not a fierce Viking warrior. The woman at the loom is not a Norse or Englisc good wife. It is called acting. Pretending. Asking the audience to join in on being deceived. It does not matter how ridiculous my behavior might be. It was what was believed and done at the time. It is part of an accurate portrayal of the time! And I am proud to do it!

It is one of the reasons that I came to despise the anti-religious aspect of a medievalesque LARP. They said it was so that it did not offend anyone; I was offended by the fact that tried to force farby impressions and actions. I act out religious motifs in Regia presentations and do many other things that would give vapors to that medievalesque LARP.

Religion was so very important to many cultures of the past. Throughout history, religion has been important. The number of cultures not shaped by religion—or by a militant reaction to religion—is few indeed. Yet, in much of living history, religion is neglected, misinterpreted and at times forbidden. However, if the purpose of living history is to provide a realistic view of everyday life—as I believe it is—then the neglect of religion is not merely a hindrance to understanding but in many cases actually serves to dis-educate both participants and spectators. They approach and react to what they see as the Past in a way that is false and misleading. Forbidding any attempt to present such an important aspect of their culture is akin to a command, “Be authentic…but not too authentic.” It is akin, in my mind, to teaching the nineteenth-century flat earth theory in a medieval culture!

For example, in Regia, we have priests, monks and nuns. They are not hidden, but no one is offended. They add to the medieval environment. And that is why I emphasis the importance of religion in reenacting. (I have concentrated here and at reenactments on the Christian religion. Almost nothing is known about Norse and Englisc pagan religions because Christian endeavors and censorship has been so successful. Most of what is “known” has actually been invented by modern pagans!)

The only thing that really concerned me when I started to incorporate religious actions and artefacts into reenactment was whether it would offend the genuinely religious. I made inquiries to many sources. Those who responded said, “As long as you are being honest and not making a burlesque of your presentation, I have no problem with it.” Now that is akin to a film or a teevee show where some actor is portraying a cleric when he is anything but. Only the most radical and extremist of religious zealots will object to this, or to a Jew portraying a Christian or anything else that they see in an orinary film or teevee presentation. For that same reason, a reenactment that presents an honest interpetation of a religious pratice should not be condemned.

Be honest. Do not be a burlesque. Try to present another aspect of everyday life. Have fun, and be accurate. Research to insure that accuracy might be as enjoyable as researching historical garments, researching common food of the time, research what kind of swo…well, not not if sharp and shiny and blingy things are your most important concerns because they are sharp and shiny and blingy! 🙂

If you are atheist, agnostic, Latter Day Saint, a Baptist, a Catholic or a pagan, that should not affect how you portray the past. You should do your best to portray the past as it was.

So sing a hymn (the earliest music for the middle ages that we know), crown or marry participants, hold masses, pray over your troops and hold a religious ceremony for your village (we do have written ceremonies from the time that show us exactly what to do), it is all part of accurately re-creating history!


So many LARPists who like to brag about their accuracy while making it as simple and comfortable for the LARPists. We are talking about LARPists who ignore anachronisms such as sneakers or spectacles, who allow the use of synthetics since they think they look like wool, who just say it is no worth it to anal about accuracy since “no one will notice.”

However, the most aggravating LARPist justification for farb is the so-called “ten foot rule.” This assures the hap-hazard and lazy reenactor that anything they keep with ten feet (or another distance) is okay since no one will notice any inaccuracies. Of course, beyond the actual inaccuracy—which some LARPists go to great lengths to minimize or to justify—there are three reasons why the Ten Foot Rule should bee avoided.

It Normalizes Farbishness

The LARPist becomes Erique Claudin! You become satisfied with farb as long as it can disguise your face. Your display is now is just something that you can hide behind, and you become eager to hide all your farb behind scars of your own farb.

The Disguise of Farb Becomes More Important than Accuracy

The focus of the game changes from wanting things to become more accurate. You come to be intrigued by developing something that will fool onlookers at ten feet and not by doing the accurate thing. You are not so nearly interested by research you were earlier found intriguing or by finding an accurate way to accomplish things.

It Makes you Satisfied and not Want to Improve

Living history never ends. At least in theory. Reenactors are always learning new things and should never be satisfied with what they know. At least should. One should want to learn more rather than be satisfied with what you know and to come up with new ways to disguise it. Being able to hide your shortcomings means that you need not be as concerned with accuracy or with learning as you once were.

One might think that I do not think that the ten-foot rule is a good idea. For me, I certainly do. There are plenty of reenactors out there who do see it as a good thing. They proudly state that anal accuracy should be disregarded and that the hobby should just be what is enjoyable for them. And that is the philosophy that they gleefully share with MoPs. It is very difficult though for me to call them reenactors, participating in serious living history. What they are most proud of, I am not, and I can only hope that readers out there agree with me!


When I was young, I went through a phase of buying old funny books. my mother regularly lectured that I was being foolish, since the seller probably just printed new copies of the vintage books! Now keep in mind that these were not high-ticket items. Reprinting an Action Comics number 1 and selling it for a few million dollars is one thing. Reprinting a coverless copy of Sun Girl and selling it for a buck and half is something else entirely. Duplicating signs of aging paper is not inexpensive…no matter what mama insisted…

This started my wariness about “authentic” old artefacts. After all, there are samples of
With the modern Interweb and with modern technology, it might seem that the fear of buying something that is incorrect is out of control. For the most part that is entirely true, since almost without exception, the reprints are clearly labeled as reprints, different sizes and changed in some vital manner. Easy to determine the invalid modern reproductions…and yet people seem to almost deliriously demand to be hornswoggled!

Today, sixty years later, I no longer buy old funny books. Instead, I have atendency to buy actual extant artefacts of the Viking Age. But what I learned from old funny books remains pertinent. And that is the subject of this post. As is appropriate, let us examine the situation more closely!

Use of Terminology

It is easy to find artefacts purporting to be “authentic.” Ads often use the terms “traditional,” “vintage,” “ancient,” “authentic” and the like are danger signals. An ad which uses such terms without defining them are probably trying to take advantage of you. This does not mean that there are fallacious or useless, just that you need to study the ad more closely. Do not take anything the ad says for granted, and regard it—investigate it—more closely. Ask questions, both about what you see, what you have seen and what the ad says, and carefully regard any answer the seller gives you!


If the price of an artefact is too good to be true the artefact probably isn’t true. This simple truism is valid in so many situations and can hardly be made more qualified or complicated.


Check the background of the seller. Read comments and regard how reliable the seller is, both in matters of reliability of fulfilling orders and in regard how reliable the seller is in its description of an object. There is always a chance that the seller himself might be stacking the deck, but repetition of phrases and such can often be a warning signal in itself.

Composition & Appearance

Coins made out of pewter, artefacts of aluminum, canteens of pleather and the like are all obviously incorrect, and you must carefully regard the artefacts before buying them, always a drawback to ordering over the Interweb. Always make certain that returns are allowed, and get that farb off you hands as soon as you determine it is farb. That includes matters of size—most period pendants are rather small and not WWF medals—and aging. Artefacts that have been aged are very different from what sellers often do to their products. Be certain to compare what is offered for sale with photographs of actual artefacts that have not been cleaned up!

Rarity of Artefacts

Almost every museum has more artefacts than it can display. For the most part—but not always—these are the mean, ordinary and common objects. Any rare or unique artefacts that are offered for sale are probably either illegally obtained or counterfeit. I concentrate on buying the mean and ordinary, by I know there are many who only want glittering and attractive bling and eagerly buy it and might eagerly buy what is offered and think it is a miracle that it is available and not kept out of my hands by an elite museum.

A Note on Replicas

After seeing so many ads for “authentic replicas” with no documentation, not showing the originals and being of dubious accuracy, I find it difficult to buy anything for what I cannot find its original inspiration and am hesitant to buy it when they do not show their inspirations. It is not that I want an exact duplicate of the original—in fact, I am rather repulsed by exact reproductions in a pre-industrial era—but I do not want something that is imagined out of the whole cloth either.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, you have a method to determine the authenticity—and accuracy—of artefacts being offered for sale. Such methods might not have been included above, and I would love to hear what your method(s) are. Please share with your fellow reenactors!


The Psalterium Sancti Ruperti (Salzburg, Archiv von St. Peter, Cod. A I. 0) is the smallest Psalter in the world. With pages measuring only 37 x 31 mm, Psalterium Sancti Ruperti from the library foundation of St. Peter in Salzburg is a gem of bookbinding. Most likely written in the third-quarter of the 9th century in north-eastern France, it resides today in the oldest library in Austria. Additionally, its early medieval binding is unique and consists of an open book spine of the codex, whereby the two trusses with booklet seams and also two headbands are left visible. The psalter was probably created for a royal of some kind.

A special book binding feature is the open book spine of the codex, whereby the two trusses with booklet seams and also two headbands are left visible. Up until now, no other early middle-age codex with the aforementioned presentation has been found—therefore this Psalter is an absolute unique specimen of early middle-age book production.

Fascinating by the psalter, I decided to make a copy—not an exact duplicate but a version inspired by the original and one that was much simpler because o my skill and abilities. And almost immediately understood that my effort would be somewhat less than thoroughly a complete and faithful copy. I just did not have the ability t do everything exactingly, though I would try to be as close as my physical abilities would allow, and I decided to

I downloaded a version of the psalter in the vulgate and made those changes, such as punctuation, that I tend to make for such efforts. I put the edited Vulgate in the dummy. For my purposes, I put a hard return at the end of each page and then rendered the last words or phrase as redline. I chose Beowulf 8 point, with 14 pt gutters on all sides in four columns and five rows

The original had 234 pages. I made a dummy specifying the page number, and I placed each page from the dummy on the appropriate page. I chose 20 pages for each signature. I cut the pages, collating the pages and folding them double into signatures. Make certain that the unnumbered pages are in the proper order. I used small rubber bands to secure them and keep them in the proper order. Be very careful: they are small and very slippery! A page from the dummy may be marked to be 5 cm long, and marks for four.

Place this folded dummy into the folded signature, and—using an awl—pierce the signature at the marks. To sew these signatures, use thread—linen or hemp. I use the Coptic binding method I use on Cuthbert Gospel style bindings. These signatures are then compressed for two or three days. I cut front and back covers into of approximately 5.75 x 7 cm rectangles of 3 centimeters thick of poplar, though oak or another hard wood would also be valid. Keep in mind in the age before mass production, most things were manually made and some minor variations are expected.

I made one using thicker cord; it sucked. With the later ones, I used 5ply waxed linen to connect the covers. Not entirely stable, and I stayed away from the trusses at the current time, but I came up with an acceptable variation which pleases me if not anyone wanting an exact duplicate.


For beginning reenactors, the most necessary items of kit required to participate will be personal apparel. We have dealt with expounded on requirements before. Briefly put, the bare basic requirements are:
• A dress (for women)
• A tunic (for men)
Trousers and footware are often useful, as are fabric sashes used as belts.

However, as participation increases, one will often pieces of kit that you will want. A few examples follow:


Coming as wraps, as sewn bag types and naalbound socks (such as the famous sock displayed in York), generally made of wool or linen (flax, hemp or nettle).

Leather Belt and Buckle

Especially required for men. Samples of extant buckles (and slides and strap ends as well) are easy to find, and seem to have been made of cast metal (especially brass) or carved bone. The leather straps should be half an inch or so

A Pendant

Most often religious pendants such as a cross of a Mjollnir. They are both available in many different styles, often dependant on the age and location, so do research and decide what style you prefer!

A Knife

Everyone, even slaves, had a utility seax of some sort. Small and simple knives are the most preferred, though larger and more complex blades were worn depending on wealth of the wearer. Keep in mind a more expensive and sophisticated knife should be worn only with higher-class, richer clothing.

A Pouch

Various accurate types are available. They were apparently not publicly displayed but were hidden beneath the wearer’s clothing. A script or the such was displayed.

A Comb

Essential, not merely to keep neat but to comb out nits and fleas; most seemed to have ben made from antler, though they also were apparently made out of bone or wood. Runes—usually they seem to be a reminder of possession’ “Sven’s comb”—were often carved on the comb. Many combs came in a case that helped kep it safe during transit.

Flint and Strike-a-Light

Strike-a-lights have been used for a long time, and the styles often did not change with time. Strike-a-lights from the eighteenth century were often little different from those of the Viking age. Be certain to make certain the strike-a-light you choose is based on one from the time you are reenacting. Flint is great to have, and while tinder can be made, having tinder with you of some sort is always convenient. Tinder fungus, tow and shavings of easily flammable wood are good; there is a controversy that char cloth was not used.


Actually not omnipresent, but teaching MoPs what coins of the time looked like is very good. A piece or few of slash silver would also be great, and a balance and weights is a good addition an necessary if you are doing a trader impression.


There has been a lot of talk lately about immersion events. What is an immersive (or immersion) event? Let’s take a look.

“An immersion event is like a street theater and is done to recreate a specific historical event, for example, a wedding or a trail that happened. These events are always acted.” and “Creating an immersive event starts with stripping everything back. To create a truly immersive event, you need to get the foundations right. What story are you trying to tell? How can you tell it in an engaging, relevant way? How can you make people feel something

There are two thoughts. One is that an immersive event is something that is being done for an audience. The reenactors make certain that everything is accurate and are actors, usually but not always recreating a wedding, a battle or some other specific event. I find it difficult to think of this as an immersion event for the simple reason that for any serious reenactor, this is no different from any other event except for the use of rebated steel weapons.

The second thought is the immersive events must be kept totally private. Having persons around in modern dress—even if they are not properly part of the event—detracts from the central theme of the immersive event. In fact, there are those who say that kit must be broufgr into the event ara on participants backs or on the back of a pack animal or via cart. To a great extent, the immersion event becomes experimental archaeology.

Whichever method you choose, your activities should be governed by the tech that is available. This means that your garments should be period in cut and, of course, composition. But there are other matters you should carefully regard:

  • No automobiles or any other mechanical conveyances of any kind.
  • No eyeglasses, telescopes or binoculars of any sort. (since this is experimentl archaeology, contacts should be avoided too)
  • No visible tattoos or piercings (except for some ear piercings on Norse women)
  • No electricity should be available.
  • Do not bring any historical kit, such as a candle lantern, that cannot be documented for this period.
  • Do not bring any electric or butane lanmps or lanterns.
  • Do not bring any matches or a modern lighter. Bring a strike-a-light, flint an tinder.
  • Do not bring any tobacco. (You can bring marijuana if its use and possession is legal)
  • Do not bring a phone or other camera, as well as any photographs.
  • Do not bring any firearms.
  • Do not bring any pre-recorded music (and of course video) and anything to play it on.
  • Do not bring any paperbacks or, in fact, any books in moderen English.
  • Do not bring any modern paper or cardboard.
  • Period books should be on parchment.
  • Do not bring any modern pens or pencils.
  • Do not bring any umbrellas.
  • In conversation, do not refer to anything post-period.

There are no period recipes, but we do know of foods that were and were not available. Avoid anything that was not available.

Can you think of anything else you should avoid?

An emergency packet—with phone, matches and other forbidden items—should be available but should not be opened unless absolutely needed!


When I was younger, I was inoculated with the popular myths about the Middle Ages. You know, they drank beer and no water. They never took baths. They wore a lot of fur. And more, all of which have been proven to be wrong but is still being taught.

But today, I want to talk about one of the most irritating myths that everyone knows. Succinctly put, that is that every drunk, dirty and furry person never went more than seven miles from home. Sometimes, we are told ten miles, but I have found the basic information in books that I find myself trusting on other matters.

Of course they traveled. For a variety of reasons. While they might have stayed close to home most of the time, but that is mostly true today for most people. They were not averse to traveling. They were not averse to trading for items that were not from their culture or, even, from their time. For example, look at the Helgö Buddha, which came to Sweden from India. Or jewelry that was made with objected recycled from ancient Rome. Or silver coins from the Middle East, which were found all over Britain and Scandinavia. These are not the things you obtain from Farmer Sven the next farm over.

People of the time:

• Travel to do business (see the Mästermyr tool chest)
• Travel for trade (and raiding; see the Vikings)
• Traveling to explore and to colonize (see Jorvik, Dublin and other sites)
• Travel to fairs and markets (generally but not always close)
• Traveling on Pilgrimage (more popular in later times but still done earlier)

In fact, so many Englisc went on pilgrimage to Rome, a “ community existed in Rome where these pilgrims would stay called the Schola Anglorum or Schola Saxonum. It was a small district located on Vatican hill that held militias and was visited by kings and merchants, those on ecclesiastical business and pilgrims to the shrines of the saints.” And “As unlikely scenarios go, the one that saw a band of English exiles fleeing William the Conqueror and setting up a colony on the shore of the Black Sea takes some beating.” It was known as Nova Anglia or as Nīwe Englaland. In other words, New England.

After we agree that the people of the time—both the Englisc and the Norse—traveled further than was commonly thought by people a millennium later, things open up greatly to more possibilities. For example, the list of what was carried—in chests or in pouches becomes much expanded. You can find articles listing what was found in the pouches in graves that will give a good idea of what the wearer would carry with him. This list gives a good idea of what the traveler might want to carry with him on his travels.

So, when you are writing your impression biography—which I recommend—don’t be afraid that you are just writing another pulp fantasy story if you have traveled more than eleven miles from home. Chances are that you did…and then you spent a lot of time gathered about the fire in winter!


There is a tendency for fantasy history afficionados to focus on the richer, more glamorous, noble, royal, more unique aspects of history. You learn about the wealthiest people of an era. You want to see the beautiful gold objects that archaeologists have found (silver is only a poor runner-up). You learn about the people who ruled the era. You want to hear the stories of the Offa penny, of Æthelmær’s glider and of the Helgö Buddha.

This is kind of understandable. It is romantic and self-aggrandizing to trace your ancestry back to Edmund the Confessor. The Funen gold cross is so shineh. And can’t you imagine finding a pair of medieval glider wings in your backyard?

However, if you are attempting to do an honest living-history portrayal, that information is secondary. Perhaps even tertiary. To give an accurate portrayal of the culture and not be a fantasy LARP is important to some people. And if you publicly say that accurate living history is your goal, you have an obligation to present the truth and not just pump up your ego by proudly claiming it and ignoring that obligation.

The basic of ordinary living history can be summed up in the answer to this question: What did the Danish or Norman conquest of England mean to the ordinary Englishman in the field? The answer is this: Absolutely nothing. The rear end of the ox he is following during ploughing looks exactly the way it did before the conquest! A true reenactor should be able to create an impression that could be seen in a period setting by period folks and not be seen as a science-fiction portrayal (or whatever they would call the portrayal since sf since the term was not even created until a century after the genre even was created!).

This will never happen, of course, because there are some Viking Age reenactors who cannot agree with any interpretation they did not create. The average everyday reenactor is not the member of a fantasy LARP where everyone is a noble or exceptional in any manner. The reenactor is an average and ordinary person, not exceptional and who would have been lost in the culture of the time. Good general rules are that a correct impression should contain:

No Spectacles, Wrist Watches, Marvel Universe Jewelry or Other Obviously Farby Items
If you are uncertain of the farbiness of these items, take them back to the fantasy LARP.
No Visible Tattoos
Despite ibn Fadlan’s assertions, there have been no tattoos found on people of the era.
No Demonstrations of Ostentatious Wealth
An ordinary person would display wealth, of course, but the wealth displayed is not often exorbitant in cost or in quantity.
No Clothing of a Status You Cannot Justify
Remember that interpretations of details can vary.
No Rich Colors
Color Matters since all colors were work- and cost intensive.
No Cotton or Synthetic or Farby Fabric
If you have to ask why, head back to the fantasy LARP! Leather was very infrequently used.
No Machine Seams
At least if they show.
No Modern or Out-of-Period Footwear
This perhaps the most easily researched item that is so obvious but ignored by reenactors.
No Non-Period Instrument or Tool
Unless there is an extant physical item from an earlier era.
Avoid items from earlier eras and avoid items from later eras. If from an earlier era, only one should be used. Statuses should not be mixed in any great number.

What does not matter:

Skin Color
Despite what some people swear, there were many many ethnicities in medieval England.
If necessary, they can be concealed behind hoods, wimples, caps and other headgear.
Though Old English, Old Norse, Latin and any other language of the time would be great, knowledge and legibility really handicaps this!


Actually, not really a project for the Pandemic until I ordered a new moneying stamp.

Most stamps I had were just straight rods. Then Alpha Officium started offering demonstration stamps, which are more according to what was employed at the time. Before I ordered, I made certain it was acceptable for the accuracy standards of Regia Anglorum. Having cleared that hurdle, I then spoke with James Coffman of Alpha Officium for how large it should be, the design and anything else that was important or that escaped my notice.

The stamp was a custom job. Waiting for it to be produced, I found myself thinking over the manner in which I made the penny.

In their generally laudable book, The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium, authors Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger give a probably incorrect method for producing coinage which involves striking each side of the coin separately. From research and practical experience, here is the way I have learned to do it.

You will need two stamps, carved with the design of the coin, a moneying anvil that will hold the bottom stamp and a hammer of about eight pounds (though the weight of the hammer needs only to be heavy enough to make an impression and should be comfortable for the user).

The moneying anvil is the stand that holds the lower stamp. It is generally, perhaps exclusively a durable, hard wood, with a metal bolster that helps provide resistence to the minting process. The two most common types of anvil are the stump and the stand. I prefer the stand, since the moneying is often done in different places, and the stand and be more easily carried from place to place. The exact method of construction often differs.

A hole and bolster are placed into the anvil to hold the bottom stamp known as the anvil die. This is known as the reverse and will have a design carved into it, often a cross motif which is a good guide for cutting the coin into change (the later Spanish pieces of eight is a good example). This is also known as the tail of the coin.

A disk of pewter or aluminum (or actual silver) is placed on the stamp. It is generally smaller in diameter than the stamp itself, so there is so variation in coins.

The top die. Known as the hammer die, is placed upon the coin. The obverse stamp is also engraved, often with the head of the authorizing king or other authority. This is also known, of course, as the tail.

To be most accurate, either you or a volunteer must hold the two dies together. Since this can be dangerous, I use a sleeve that holds them together.

The hammer must be smartly swung onto the hammer anvil. Make certain the face of the hammer strikes the die flat on. It should not be slanted or uneven when it lands. The hammer may be swung with a single or both hands but must be swung with enough power to make a firm and solid incision. Improperly struck coins occasionally happen, and period coins often show that this is not merely a modern occurrence

We shall not deal here with making either coins or the dies, but there are many who can do this for you or teach you how to do it. That is a topic for another day!


Leornere: As a novice to reenactment, I beg you, Master, to teach what I need to do and how to act to make a good start in the reconstruction of the culture of the Viking Age..
Mægester: What do you wish to talk about?
Leornere: I am newly come to reenacting and have need of instruction in many things.
Mægester: What do you need to be told?
Leornere: First of all, do I call what I wear a garb, a costume or clothing.
Mægester: The word “costume” is preferred by many, but just as many find it degrading and smacking of All Hallows, so it is recommended that you refer to it as clothing or, if needed, historical clothing.
Leornere: What is needed?
Mægester: Until you are more experienced, do not become bogged down in details. You should buy clothes that are generic and then refine them as you choose a more specific impression and culture and class. You will want to appear as an everyday person of the time, so take pains that the clothes are of the most ordinary. The most ordinary were made of wool, for that was the most common and least expensive. If you are allergic to wool—and often, you are allergic not to the wool but to the method preparation, so always check—then underclothing of linen is allowed. The linen, made of flax, hemp or nettle, is more expensive and higher class than wool. Any seam that is seen should be done by hand. Mechanical sewing of unseen seams are allowed but not required.
Leornere: What sorts of clothes should I buy or make?
Mægester: Going to head to feet, you need a hood, an undergarment, a tunic or gown, trousers for men, socks or stocking and shoes. A simple leather or cloth belt is useful, especially if you are active.
Leornere: What about caps and cloaks and winnings and the such?
Mægester: They should not be bought until you know they are useful and appropriate for your impression. Even in the clothes you obtain, you should research them and make certain they are appropriate.
Leornere: What sorts of shoes or boots are recommended?
Mægester: They should be turn shoes, not rising above the ankles.
Leornere: Should any modern clothing be worn?
Mægester: Modern underwear is allowed if they are not seen and do not affect your outer appearance.
Leornere: What about weapons and armor?
Mægester: Until you know more, feel free to borrow weapon. Armor is not needed for most societies. You should probably have a small, simple seax that you will find that useful. Even slaves had such small seaxes.
Leornere: What about jewelry?
Mægester: Until you have chosen and refined your impression, stay away from all jewelry and beads.
Leornere: What kind of eyeglasses, watches and the like is recommended?
Mægester: As long as you are doing an accurate impression and not a LARP persona, nothing is recommended. Some societies find it offensive to be entirely accurate, and even proudly announce the creativity of their society, but these are not historical societies.
Leornere: What kind of possessions other than clothing is recommended?
Mægester: We have already spoke of the small seax. Having a bow, a spoon (wooden or horn) and a cup might be advantageous if you are planning to do any eating. Do not have any horn cups—no provenance—or full horn vegetables—fancy and for feasts—that you use as vessels.
Leornere: Should I speak as a person of the time?
Mægester: Only if you speak fluent Latin, Old English o Old Norse. Otherwise, it becomes acting and not reenacting. Remember there are three forms of impression. First person is when you speak as if you were a person of the time, and it is mainly acting as well. Third person is when you speak and modern person. The second, or ghost impression is when you are mostly speaking as a person of the time but if necessary can break character. Remember that if you choose a first-person impression, you know nothing of history after the time of your impression.
Leornere: Should I accept advice and recommendations from more experienced reenactors.
Mægester: Only if they can provide provenance o proof. Any deviation should be for matters of safety, such as blunted—rebated—weapons. If you have any questions about the appropriateness or acceptance of anything, contact an Authenticity Office of your society.
Leornere: How should I act in general?
Mægester: Politely. Always politely! Your Mægester exhorts you to be obedient to the rules of your society, and to behave yourselves decorously wherever you may be. Speak plainly, taking care not to demean the thoughts and word of the spectator but try not to let him leave with incorrect thoughts. Be as polite with the spectator as you are a cousin reenactor. Answer his questions as best you can, but admit your ignorance and find a fellow traveler who can. Engage and entertain the spectator, but take care that you are not unseemly to please the spectator or to play the fool for the same reason. Humor often engages the spectator but should be unseemly and foolhardy just to entertain the spectator.


Or coin purse.

When found, the original wallet was crumpled up and confusing, so it involved interpretation from the beginning. It is filled with interpretation and extrapolation; if you want to change any of the details, feel free.

The wallet dates from between the ninth and the eleventh centuries, and the wallet was discovered in 1879 in grave bj750 from Birka. “This type of bag is a folded wallet of goat leather with multiple compartments on the inside. They were decorated with strips of gold plated leather, which was woven through the leather to form a checker board pattern. Along the edges were gold plated loops, 0.7cm long and 0.5cm wide.” // // I did not even attempt to duplicate any of these ornamentations, but that was merely my choice.

A Birka wallet consists of five pieces of leather, cut into rectangles of various sizes. They should be aligned at the bottom and then stitched together so that the bottom is five layers deep, while the top is only two. In the second layer, the leather is cut so that there is a rectangular slit, and the leather itself forms a pocket. Sone people duplicate it with interior stitching and the leather turned inside out when sewn, but I sewed the layers with a locking stitch. Some prefer to use two needles at the same time, though I find sewing each side in succession. I punch holes for the sewing using an awl.

Cut the thread into a length that is twice as long as you need. Loop it at the end, and then bring the needles into the holes pierced, first on one side and then at the other, and knot it at the other end (in the diagram, the same strand has two colors merely to distinguish the difference).

The first time I tried to make a wallet, I used slightly thicker leather. The end result was more or less unuseable. I tried to use lighter leather the next couple years and was finally satisfied with leather about 2–3 ounces thick.

The wallets seem to have been concealed under robes or tunics. They were neither worn nor displayed on the outside. After acknowledging this, it occurred to me that I needed to stuff the wallet with what was commonly found in them. So…

Clockwise from top left: A) Small utility seax; B) the Birka wallet; C) A couple beads and a Mjollnir from Repton; D) a Cross; E) a Fenris cross/Mjollnir (what I call the Hedge Your Bets Cross); F) a souvenir stone; G) a strike-a-light; H) a whetstone (jasper); and I) a coin purse with a few coins. Everything a Viking needed when he was on a raid!


Mankind has been fascinated by the flight of birds for Millennia. The possibility and attraction of human flight dates from at least the legend of Icarus in 60 bce. However, it was seen only as a legend, perhaps myth, until the tenth or eleventh century.

Eilmer of Malmesbury (who was also known as Elmer, Æthelmær and, because of a scribal error, Oliver) was a Benedictine monk from England. It has been suggested that he was born about 980 ce and that his attempt at flight took place sometime between 995 and 1010 ce. In his youth, he had read and believed the Greek myth of Dædalus, and he attempted to make and wear his own glider wings.

William of Malmesbury in the Gesta Regnum Anglorum of the early twelfth century noted that “He was a man learned for those times, of ripe old age, and in his early youth had hazarded a deed of remarkable boldness. He had by some means, I scarcely know what, fastened wings to his hands and feet so that, mistaking fable for truth, he might fly like Dædalus, and, collecting the breeze upon the summit of a tower [of Malmesbury Abbey], flew for more than a furlong. But agitated by the violence of the wind and the swirling of air, as well as by the awareness of his rash attempt, he fell, broke both his legs and was lame ever after. He used to relate as the cause of his failure, his forgetting to provide himself a tail.” It has been conjectured that his flight that the flight was only about 15 seconds. (In 1903, the Wright’s first non-glider flight was about 59 seconds.)

Modern calculations by Paul Chapman confirm the feasibility of the flight. “Launching into the southwest wind his initial descent would enable him to gain sufficient speed so that he could ride the air currents off the hillside. Lack of a tail would make continuing to head into the wind difficult and he would have been blown sideways to land where legend suggests—Oliver’s Lane.” Despite his injuries, “Eilmer set about rectifying this shortcoming, and was making plans for a second flight when his abbot placed an embargo on any further attempts, and that was that. For more than half a century after these events, the limping Eilmer was a familiar sight around the community of Malmesbury, where he became a distinguished scholar.”

Were there other and later (or even earlier) attempts at human flight before Leonard da Vinci’s drawing of a glider in the fifteenth century, though his physical attempts, if any, are unknown.

The unsuccessful attempt by Eilmer is fascinating but little known, and one can relate the story to MoPs at an event, accentuating the mechanics of the attempt, the attempt itself or how a near-sighted abbot’s attempts to keep his flock safe retarded the discover of aeronautics for a few hundred years. I would love to see the reconstruction of the wings at an event, although at the risk of sounding like that abbot, I might not want to see a physical attempt at the event!


A recent thread on a Regia newsgroup concerned questions about baskets—specifically types—of the Viking age. In it, there were plenty of extrapolations, suggestions and suppositions. Almost no hard evidence, that is, extant baskets of the time.

On one hand, we know they had baskets. There are fragments of basketry, and “The history of weaving containers with plant fibers likely goes back to the start of mankind. Unfortunately, plant fibers often have a hard time surviving in the soil that long or even as far back to the late 8th Century at the start of the Viking Age.” A ten-thousand year old basket miraculously survived—and it is not significantly different from those of later ages—was found is Israel, and we are told ““Organic materials usually do not have the ability to survive for such long periods,” Dr. Naama Sukenik from the IAA’s Organic Material Department told The Jerusalem Post. “However, the special climatic condition of the Judean Desert, its dry weather, have allowed for dozens of artifacts to last for centuries and millennia.”

There are a few extant samples of baskets from our periods, We know from extant baskets thAt they were both round and square, sometimes with solid bases and tops, made out of willow and other natural substances. We are not certain if they were painted, and we can only make conjectures about whaT they contained, since none have been found with a a content. A few logical extrapolations can be made by examining later baskets and noting that they did not significantly change, but that is closer to experimental archaeology than to anything else. Ironically, the basket weaving techniques founds in extant ancient Roman basketry, in later basketry and even in North American basketry—such as the several basket fragments ound in Binderbost in Washington State do not differ thAt much despite the time and geographic differences.

Here are a few of the baskets that we know existed.

Fragments are known to exist from Oseberg, though there is a tendency to mistake these are being from Gokstad, and these fragments are even often included with pieces of the Gokstad back pack..

The so-called Gokstad back-pack is generally acknowledges to be a basket, though no samples of the basket weaving is available. We are left with the solid wooden top and bottom, and holes for the strakes to be inserted. Weaving a basket around these strakes is logical and easily done, but there are no existing, real samples. In fact, some writers insist that no basket weaving was used at all, and the pack was enclosed by leather. In fact, plenty has been extrapolated, but very little has been proven.

A rectangular wicker basket top has been found in Coppergate. It has been suggested that it ws a pigeon coop basket.

Many of the woven baskets we have come from fishing baskets. They were submerged in mud that helped to present them!

Finding extant samples are difficult, even though many authors love to lecture us that they have been found, though without any documentation or provenance. It is like the subject of tattoos in ma ways; though statements and claims are frequent, solid evidence is sadly lacking. If you have any other sources of photos or descriptions other than those listed here, please let me know.


Today, we are warned not to mark in our books (there are, of course, many who will do it anyway). However, in the middle ages, owners of books were encouraged to mark in their books. This was called a gloss or glossa and is specifically an annotation written on margins or within the text of manuscripts specifically of the Bible. Jerome (though he was probably not the translator) used glosses in the process of his translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible.

The subjects of explanatory glosses may be reduced to the following glosses.
• Foreign words
• Dialectical terms
• Obsolete words
• Technical terms
• Words employed in an unusual sense
• Words employed in some peculiar grammatical form

These glosses were written between the lines of the text or in the margin of manuscripts. The glosses originally consisted of only a few words, but they grew in length as authors enlarged them with their own comments. Eventually, manuscripts had so many glosses that there were no longer room to write them in the book. These glosses were compiled in separate books, known as lexicons. But this was not common in England until the fifteen century. “So great was the influence of the Glossa ordinaria on biblical and philosophical studies in the Middle Ages that it was called ‘the tongue of Scripture’ and ‘the bible of scholasticism’.”

A splendid book on glosses has been recently published, though it deals only with the glosses of the Lindisfarne Gospels. Eleanor Jackson’s The Lindisfarne Gospels: Art, History and Inspiration is published by British Library. The Lindisfarne, and other earlier copies of the Bible, were written in the Latin that was known as the Vulgate. However, Jackson notes that “In the tenth century an Old English translation was added between the lines, which I the earliest surviving translation of the Gospels into the [Old] English language.”

Secular interlinear glosses developed from the Biblical glosses but dealt with secular writings. While translations date back to ancient times, glosses do not appear to have been used. The translations were separate sections—for example the Rosetta Stone—and as noted above were later separate books. Secular glosses seem to date only from the eleventh century.


Here are a few other matters you should consider and look for (or hope to avoid, though you should ignore it.)

• Learn code words used in articles that give you facts that you should not trust. An examples are “a new discovery that changes history” and “what has been ignored until this discovery.”

• Do not even believe an artefact that has a single meaning, since archaeologists will often be guessing themselves.

• If something is just too pat—such as the “baby with the bath water myth”—it is undoubtedly false.

• Never assume that only one piece of information is needed to be trusted. Two is better, but at least three may well be trusted as long as one piece of information is not based on another that you are using as one fact.

• How does your source of information source that information. How are they determining the validity of their statements or interpretations. But remember that they—and you—must state the sources used!

• Is the attribution as clear and detailed as possible? Does attribution provide clear enough information, or is more needed?

• Even accounts from the time cannot always be trusted, since sometimes they are written by political or religious adversaries. Always be on an outlook for biases!

This only deals with the beginning of what you need for a valid source, but it should not ignored, and altered. What sources do you use? What do you suggest as additional concerns?


And now Happy Old Year on your trek into the Past!