Folio Archives 41: Beowulf 1973 and 2010
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Beowulf 1973 and 2010
The Folio Society has published Beowulf twice.
Beowulf is a 3182 line Viking epic in which Beowulf, a hero of the Geat people from southern Sweden, come to the aid of a Danish king who has been attacked by Grendel, a dragon-like monster. The saga details Beowulf’s battle with the monster, and its mother, and his life thereafter. It was written about the year 1000.
I found it remarkably easy, and enjoyable, to read in translation.
The 1973 edition is a modest production. It was translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland, has a seven page introduction by Bruce Mitchell and has nine lithographs by Virgil Burnett. There is also a simple outline map of southern Scandinavia at the start of the book, and two pages of geneological tables at the back. It is a standard format FS book for the time, bound in full brown cloth blocked with a dark green runic symbol. The endpapers are quite interesting, most of the page being mid-green, with a maritime scene at the top of the front endpaper and a land profile on the back endpaper. On the spine the title runs from bottom to top. It has 125 pages, measured 25x16cm, and the slipcase is faux-textured (another common feature in the 1970s).
By contrast, the 2010 vrsion is a magnificent fine edition housed in an image blocked slipcase. It was translated by Seamus Heaney (who also wrote a 19 page introduction) and illustrated by Becca Thorne. The illustrations take the form of single colour dark-red running heads and footers, with extra detail on selected pages. The book is arranged with the original Old English version of the poem on the left page, with the English translation on the opposite right page, thus fitting the subtitle of the book as a verse translation. The endpapers are plain maroon colour, but the page tops are gilt. It is quarter bound in maroon leather with a gilt blocked spine title. The covers are dark red cloth blocked with a gilt Viking design. There is a single page geneaological table at the back. The book has 218 pages and measures 28x19cm. It is now out of print.
An index of the other illustrated reviews in the "Folio Archives" series can be viewed at : http://www.librarything.com/topic/266300
I covet either / both editions, but not to the point of an active hunt. I suspect the time will come.
:-( This is the saddest folio archive thread for me *sniff*
I “purchased” this book in the June 2017 sale. I realised something was amiss when it still hadn’t shipped after a month or so... This was my first (but not last) encounter with the notorious low stock count.
This amazing post makes me appreciate just what I missed out on!
I can't believe how good the most recent Beowulf is. Modern translation by a great poet, phenomenal binding which leaves its echoes through the whole text, high quality materials. How was this not a limited edition?
Both are lovely, for sure, and the more recent one hits my switch.
I humbly point out, however, that Beowulf is Anglo-Saxon. The Vikings were Norse.
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