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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035 3. Volume Editor’s Preface and Acknowledgements

3. Volume Editor’s Preface and Acknowledgements

Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Volume Editor’s Preface and Acknowledgements’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].

For all the confident rhetoric with which the skalds declare that their heroes’ fame will be remembered as long as the world is peopled, they would doubtless have been astonished to know that through the revolutions of oral to written culture, manuscript to print, and print to digital, their words are being preserved and avidly studied a thousand years later not only in their homelands but throughout the world, in undreamed-of continents. They would have found it fitting that it was in Trondheim, launching point for many a Viking project, that a group of enthusiasts first met in 1997 to discuss a new edition of skaldic poetry, and perhaps found it intriguing that later venues included a sunny house on the other side of the world, where kangaroos hopped about outside the window as the group debated how best to present the poetry to a modern readership. The skalds would surely have been as grateful as the project members are that scribes and scholars over several centuries have preserved their verbal masterpieces for posterity, and they would have fully understood the value of collaborative endeavour among contemporaries.

The present volume, like the nine-volume series Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages (SkP) overall, is indeed the product of a heroic amount of scholarly endeavour on the part of many people. Norse myth does not have exact counterparts to the tales of Hercules, Sisyphus or Hydra but those have often come to our minds. The pages of SkP I bear witness to the immense dedication and patience with which the Contributing Editors have addressed the legion challenges of the editorial brief. My hope for the volume has been to attain reasonable consistency in the amount and type of annotation and explanation throughout, while responding to the differing needs of individual poems and allowing individual strengths and scholarly traditions to enrich the editions, and this could not have been achieved without close and lengthy dialogue between the Contributing Editors and myself as Volume Editor. They have my sincere thanks for their hard work and their unfailingly cooperative spirit.

Less visible, yet vital, is the contribution of the Research Associates and Research Assistants named below, whose excellent work has facilitated and enriched many aspects of the SkP project and its editions, and gives confident hope for the future of our discipline. I am deeply indebted to them as individuals, as well as to the funding bodies that financed their posts, and to my fellow General Editors who so generously shared their teams’ time and expertise. I count myself very fortunate to have had Kate Heslop working with me in Newcastle in 2005-7 with funding from the Modern Humanities Research Association and then a Major Research Grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. This enabled her to produce her own editions in this volume and to contribute much to it and the wider project. Project meetings also received support from the British Academy Collaborative International Projects fund. Of the team working with Margaret Clunies Ross in Sydney and funded by the Australian Research Council, Hannah Burrows has played a key role in compiling the Bibliography and in sharing bibliographical checking with Margaret and myself, in proof-reading and in coordinating and recording many of the project’s deliberations. Emily Baynham and then Helen Appleton inputted the editions into the database with great skill and patience. For the poems edited by Edith Marold the ‘Kiel team’, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, provided invaluable editorial assistance as well as being responsible for inputting and bibliography, and I warmly thank Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, as well as John Foulks for his excellent translating. The editions by Kari Ellen Gade (relatively few in SkP I though numerous elsewhere) were inputted in Bloomington, Indiana by Lauren Goetting with funding from the College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University. Many invaluable manuscript transcriptions were provided early in the project by Valgerður Erna Þorvaldsdóttir, working with Guðrún Nordal in Reykjavík with funding from NOS-H, Nordiska samarbetsnämden för humanistisk forskning (Joint Committee of the Nordic Research Councils for Humanities). Assistance with manuscript transcribing and checking for parts of SkP I was ably provided by Reynir Þór Eggertsson, funded by a British Academy Small Research Grant, and by Katharina Seidel. Turning to more specific debts, Emily Lethbridge thanks the Master and Fellows of Emmanuel College, Cambridge for a Research Fellowship which made possible a number of projects including her editions in this volume. Russell Poole would like to acknowledge funding for his editorial work received from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada; the University of Western Ontario; Massey University; and the Viking Society Travel Fund.

It is a particular pleasure, on behalf of the entire project, to acknowledge the support of the two manuscript institutes whose resources and scholarship are at the heart of the study of Old Norse-Icelandic texts: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum in Reykjavík (former Directors Stefán Karlsson and Vésteinn Ólason, and current Director Guðrún Nordal), and Den Arnamagnæanske Samling in Copenhagen (former Afdelingsleder Peter Springborg and current Afdelingsleder Matthew Driscoll). We are greatly indebted to both institutes for the generosity with which they have welcomed scholars working on skaldic editions, and have made possible the scanning of the great majority of the manuscripts that serve as the foundation for the editions.

The guiding lights and unflagging engines of the SkP project as a whole are my fellow General Editors: Margaret Clunies Ross, Kari Ellen Gade, Edith Marold, Guðrún Nordal and Tarrin Wills. As part of the routine processes of the project, Kari, Margaret, Edith and Tarrin (most often in that order) took on the onerous task of reading drafts of the editions in SkP I, and they have my enduring gratitude, as does Guðrún for more targeted reading at a later stage. Both within and outside that ‘quality control’ process, I have enormously appreciated the generosity with which Kari Ellen Gade has shared her exceptional knowledge of skaldic metre and style, and the insights drawn from preparing SkP II, companion volume to this one. Edith Marold has provided an unfailing source of wisdom, especially on the subject of kennings. I would particularly like to acknowledge the care and energy with which Margaret Clunies Ross has checked the work of the Sydney team and assisted with proof-reading and much besides, while all of us, and all users of the SkP volumes, are deeply indebted to her for taking on numerous managerial burdens as Administrative Editor of the wider project, and for the drive and wisdom that she brings to the task. Tarrin Wills, originally a Research Associate in Sydney and now a General Editor based at Aberdeen, deserves special mention in any account of SkP and its history. The project has benefited immeasurably from his combination of skaldic and computing expertise, and the skill and foresight with which he devised the database and electronic edition from the outset and has continued to develop their potential as a research tool, never cease to amaze me. In sum, then, as is fitting in a volume largely dedicated to poetic eulogy, I am pleased to record my debt to scholars of such outstanding learning, commitment and stamina. Like the skalds with their patrons, I also thank them for the warm hospitality and friendship that has characterised our annual project meetings, and for all we have shared in our thousands of e-mail exchanges: family and national news, updates on archaeological excavations, complaints about university bureaucracy, and news of volcanic eruptions, tornados, bush fires, droughts, floods and plagues of cicadas, but most of all, of course, the enduringly fascinating problems, great and small, of skaldic editing. Finally, I have very much appreciated the encouragement of my Newcastle colleagues throughout the years of working on this volume, and I have been blessed with loving support from my long-suffering husband, family and friends; they all have my heartfelt thanks.

Diana Whaley

Newcastle upon Tyne, September 2012


  1. Bibliography
  2. SkP = Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages. Turnhout: Brepols.
  3. SkP I = Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Ed. Diana Whaley. 2012.
  4. SkP II = Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Ed. Kari Ellen Gade. 2009.
  5. Internal references
  6. Not published: do not cite (RunVI)

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