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Thread: Anglo-Saxon sword-terms and Books

  1. #1

    Anglo-Saxon sword-terms and Books

    Does anyone know of where I can find a copy of the Sonia Hawkes Chadwick Weapons & Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England? I tried various book-searches and even commissioned searches - but no luck. Or anyone have a copy I could buy? [please email ]

    Also, does anyone know of any recent work on Anglo-Saxon sword terms/types? I have Davidson's The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England and also the excellent article by Caroline Brady "'Weapons' in 'Beowulf': an analysis of the nominal compounds and an evaluation of the poet's use of them", Anglo-Saxon England 8: 79-141 (1979 )

    I'm working on an online translation of Beowulf (visit it at ) and I'm trying to actually distinguish between the different types of swords the poet(s) refer to; unlike most translations -- the poem certainly makes distinctions, but they're not entirely clear:

    in addition to 'sweord' and 'ecg' as basic words for swords in general, the following specific types are also mentioned:

    bill some sort of long, two-edged sword (possibly specifically one with a sharp point)

    mece another long, two-edged sword (possibly distinct from a bill in having a rounded point, but the distinction between the two is not clear; though the poets keep these two terms separate)

    seax - seems to refer to a short, 1-edged weapon, though I believe some 'seaxes' are double-edged

    brond - another distinct type of short sword, but its exact description is elusive

    secg another type of short sword, but again, how it differs from a brond is unclear

    any suggestions? both on the sword-terms and also the Chadwick volume?

    best, Ben.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Hello bslade,
    Have you seen the recent translation of the verses of Beowulf ,
    "Beowulf" translated by Seamus Heaney, 2000, N.Y.
    ISBN 0 374 11119 7
    Ken Trotman Ltd.
    is the most likely source for this title, but it is not in the current catalog (Blucher: spring 2002). They do carry incredible stocks of titles though and prices are very reasonable.
    In the current catalog they have:
    "Anglo Saxon Weapons and Warfare" by R. Underwood @ 15.99 pounds, also "Viking Weapons and Warfare" by J.Siddorn at the same price.
    In my opinion one of the leading sources of titles on arms and armour worldwide!

    Fascinating topic, I'd like to hear more!!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Just checked out your site, outstanding!!
    This period has always seemed to elude my field of study, but your discussion is fascinating.
    Found some other titles that might be helpful.
    R.Ewart Oakeshott, one of the foremost authorities on medieval edged weapons, in his venerable "The Archaeology of Weapons", (1960) and "European Arms and Armor" by Charles Henry Ashdown, an undated book from late 19th-early 20th c. undated, reprinted by Barnes & Noble 1995.
    Another very early reference, that may be in the Royal Armouries or libraries of that stature, is "Ancient Armor and Weapons in Europe" by John Hewitt (3 vol.) 1855-60, Oxford and London.
    Possibly extracts of that work may have been republished, I found it in the bibliography of the "Glossary" by Stone.

    Also, check the 'Netsword' website where a lot of discussion on ancient weapons takes place, and I believe Mr. Oakeshott has occasionally visited.

  4. #4
    Thanks Jim (your name is familiar..but from where? have you written a book/article? are you a swordsmith? posted over at

    Ken Trotman was actually one of the first places I checked for the Hawkes volume, but no luck. I'm hoping maybe someone will turn up with a copy they're willing to sell me (I've been looking for it for months). I did track down a copy of Behmer's Das zweischneidige Schwert der germanischen Völkerwanderungszeit, which is supposed to be a 'standard' reference on Migration Period (Völkerwanderungszeit) swords. But Brady, in her excellent article on sword-terms in Beowulf, did use Behmer's book, but I'm unlikely to discover anything new about bills & meces, secgs, &c. in that. I looked at the 'recommended reading' on Lee Jones' wonderful site, and picked out an Oakeshott book - Records of the Medieval Sword from 1991, a more recent book.

    Does anyone know of a book/article which tries to match recorded names of swords (e.g. bill, mece, &c.) with the sword-types which have been discovered? I'm not sure of the difference between a bill and a mece, but the Beowulf poet obviously does, for he consistently refers to one sword as a bill, another as a brond, &c. -- he doesn't indiscriminately alternate between the different words for a particular sword, even 2000 lines later. So his contemporaries would certainly have known the difference and I'm trying to tease out what these differences are so that I can convey these to modern audiences. If I ever track down enough info, I'll just have to write an article myself 'Re-examining sword terms in Beowulf'


    Ben Slade.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Hello Ben,
    I wish I did have the distinction of having written a book or article! but I'm actually a chronic researcher that is on these sword forums a lot, so that's where you've seen my name.

    The work you're doing does sound interesting, and its interesting to note changing semantics and colloquial terms for weapons over the years. This is of course the same with most vocabulary, especially English.

    On the title you're looking for, one thing I've found very effective until I can locate a copy for purchase is to use interlibrary loan. It's amazing what a good research librarian can find. Mine is one of the best and she finds the most obscure titles for me. Some of my research is pretty esoteric, and she is undaunted by it.

    I'll keep a lookout though...there is Skafte in Denmark, who is typically pretty expensive and Prospect in Wales, are you familiar with either?

    best, Jim

  6. #6
    Hi Jim,

    I've thought about Interlibrary Loan - but it's a book I eventually want to own (plus I'm away from my Uni at the moment, which makes ILL a bit more difficult).

    I hadn't known about Skafte or Prospect before - thanks

    I sent an email to Skafte; Prospect books seems to have disappeared though.

    cheers again,

  7. #7

    Have you tried a bookhunter ?

    Try these people, they've found obscure stuff for me before



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