Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age Hardcover – 25 Apr 2000
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Top customer reviews
It is certainly no introductory work. But for the serious student of the subject it is an invaluable reference guide, and as such I would not hesitate to recommend it.
What is surprising though is the awful typography - yes, this is important because firstly the fonts used for this book don't appear to have the very important Old Norse letter eth - ð - resulting in using eths from another font (which looks absolutely awful) and secondly, all the very important Scandinavian letters like ö and ä are used seemingly at random - sometimes words have them and sometimes they don't. This is not a minor detail: it amounts essentially to misspelling important place names and the like. Whether this is the author's or the publisher's fault I don't know.
Furthermore, anglicization of Scandinavian names and words is bad enough, but even worse when it is done inconsistently, as in this book - some names are given in Old Norse, others in their modern English "equivalents". Very sloppy and strange.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I wish I had bought this book when it first came out. As a quick historical reference guide to the people, places and things of the Viking era this work is an invaluable asset. Being a thousand years or so removed from the period, I have, in the past, had no small amount of trouble keeping track of some of the individual players in the 300 year drama that was the Viking Age. This work contains most of the important historical personages and many of the mythological ones. Let's face it, keeping track of the numerous Olaf's, Erik's and Harold's, is a little daunting when you first begin studying the period. Haywood's book is very well organized and easy to use. The Subject Index and the Encyclopedia sections are very useful in finding, or not finding, as the case may be, what you are looking for. The Encyclopedia section is cross indexed quite well for following up a readers initial inquiry.
Now having said this, I agree 100% with the previous reviewer who was most annoyed by the rather sloppy Norse fonts, misuse/misspelling of several Scandinavian letters and the rather random Anglicization of some words and phrases but not others. I found this a tad annoying, but not critically so. I'd suggest that for future printings a re-edit and complete Anglicization of the text for the sake of consistency, if for no other reason.
Very sharp and clear black & white photos on nearly every page help lighten up the somewhat, but necessarily, dry history text's. While I understand the necessity for saving space and keeping costs down, the font size used throughout the book is, and I'm guessing here, around 8pt. Just a bit too small for comfortable reading. On the up side, the book is clearly printed, (except for a few of the Norse fonts), on good quality paper which helps offset the small type size.
The Chronology near the end of the book was fairly inclusive of the major events of the era. The next section, "Viking Kings and Rulers 700-1100", is quite detailed and useful.
The "Further Reading" section is one of the best I've ever run across. Not only is it very extensive, but it is also broken down by Primary and Secondary Sources. These sections are further broken down into several subsections that will make further specific reading and research by the reader much, much easer.
On the mythological side there are several errors. For example, in "The Ransom of Ottar", Odin & Thor were not held hostage by Hreidmar. It was Odin & Honir/Hoenir. Again, a tad annoying, but not critically so. This work is geared much more to the historical facts and figures of the era, not the mythological or religious side. There are many other excellent books out there that cover the myth and religious aspect of the period, (authors: Ellis-Davidson, Crossley-Holland, Andy Orchard, Rudolf Simek and R.I. Page, just to name a few).
All and all a must have guide for anyone who needs a quick, but detailed, reference to most of the historical aspects of the Viking era.
On a side note, I have deleted this review and resubmitted it with a 4 star rating instead of a 5. This was after comparing this work with Simek's, "Dictionary of Northern Mythology", and Orchard's, "Dictionary of Norse Myth & Legend". I highly recommend all three works for anyone interested in digging deeper into the, "The Viking Age", they complement each other well.
Spence The Elder
"Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc"
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