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  • Aedificia Nova: Studies in Honor of Rosemary Cramp
  • Lilla Kopár
Aedificia Nova: Studies in Honor of Rosemary Cramp. Edited by Catherine E. Karkov and Helen Damico. Publications of the Richard Rawlinson Center. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2008. Pp. xv + 427. $80.

This impressive collection of sixteen essays by established scholars of the early medieval culture and archaeology of the British Isles is a fine and fitting scholarly tribute to Professor Rosemary J. Cramp, one of the leading figures of Anglo-Saxon Studies and medieval British archeology. The title phrase aedificia nova (new treasures), borrowed from Asser’s Life of King Alfred, well reflects the many “treasures” Professor Cramp unearthed, as well as her influential scholarship (p. ix) and her dynamic and inspiring personality, which is evident from the many kind words of tribute that embellish the essays. Her wide-ranging contribution to our understanding of the complexity of early medieval culture and history through material remains is reflected in two ways in this collection: on the one hand, in the wide variety of subjects explored (from stone crosses, beads, and burials to texts and textiles), and on the other, in the careful attention to detail and cultural context as a methodological approach shared by all contributors.

The volume, although wide-ranging in its scope, makes an admirably coherent impression by focusing on the interpretation and evidentiary value of various aspects of material culture and by demonstrating “approaches [that are] interdisciplinary, contextual, comparative, and fluid in their integration of texts and images” (p. x). After a brief introduction by the editors, the collection opens with a deeply learned essay by Rosemary Cramp on changes in figural representation in the six-hundred-year period of Anglo-Saxon art. She focuses on the three main aspects of figural representation (mask, icon, and dramatic actor), and examines a variety of models for images of power and the divine and their adaptations and modifications in Anglo-Saxon art. Cramp argues that the development of figural representation well illustrates the distinctive nature of Anglo-Saxon art in its adaptiveness, love of ambiguity, and the transformation and reinterpretation of its models. Furthermore, the changes in the depictions of human and divine figures from the static and passive icons of the earlier periods to the animated and [End Page 237] individualized figures of the later period indicate a change toward a more intimate relationship between the human and the divine, and the growing importance of the individual in late Anglo-Saxon piety.

The rest of the essays of the collection follow, with some overlap, a disciplinary arrangement into three groups, focusing on (a) texts, (b) art historical sources, and (c) archaeological matters. Picking up the thread of Rosemary Cramp’s exploration of change in artistic representation, George Brown examines Bede’s innovations and role as a “recorder of change” in human history (p. 35). While Bede is often seen as traditionalist and conservative, a mediator of patristic learning, Brown argues that he made significant original contributions in numerous monastic disciplines by augmenting and modifying his sources. In many of his works, Bede is engaged with time, change, and chronology, and he not only recorded but promoted (and carefully channeled) change in his own time, church, and society. Brown focuses on Bede’s treatises on time and his historical works to demonstrate how he adapted and extended his patristic models and edited his sources in order to revise chronology and document a new temporal development and historical change.

Éamonn Ó Carragáin’s delightful essay opens with a passionate overview of the ongoing scholarly battle over the originality of the runic tituli around the vine scrolls of the lower stone of the Ruthwell Cross. Based on contemporary parallels of similarly inscribed objects from Rome and a reconstruction of the early medieval practice of reading (through different stages of praelectio to finally memorizing and “editing” the text in one’s mind), he argues against the seeming consensus that the layouts of the runic tituli are unusual and impractical and therefore the inscriptions were secondary additions and thus have nothing to do with the iconographic program of the monument. According to Ó Carragáin, the Ruthwell Cross inscriptions, as a...


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