By R I Page
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Extra resources for An introduction to English runes
Page 12 appropriate to cut on a stone, a piece of bone, a weapon or tool, brooch or ring, simply because they have left no other writings to tell us. We have no recorded context of thought to help us understand an inscription, and modern parallels may be misleading. There may be cases where we are in little doubt as to meaning, where an inscription is unambiguous in accidence, syntax and morphology, and contains only roots which are easily recognisable. Or where it is one of a group of texts which cast light upon each other.
One result of this semantic imprecision was that when Englishmen did recognise the script of their runic monuments, they appealed to learned Scandinavians to tell them what the texts meant. And the Scandinavians, though they may have been erudite in their own character and language, made a mess of interpreting the English ones. Page, 'Ralph Thoresby's Runic Coins', British Numismatic Jnl 34 (1965), 28-31. Page 6 century. Magnusen was an industrious student of Danish runes, but his efforts on the English ones were ludicrous.
Until the publication in 1961 of Hertha Marquardt's English volume of the Bibliographie der Runeninschriften nach Fundorten (a bibliography of runic inscriptions arranged alphabetically according to find-spots), runologists looking for information turned naturally to Stephens in the first instance. He is the only man to have achieved anything like a full corpus of English runes, the first to publish a number of these important monuments, and is our primary authority for some provenances. Indeed, his extensive correspondence, much of it preserved in the Royal Library, Stockholm, and in Lund University Library, is rich in runic information not known from anywhere else.