- The ‘Beowulf’ Manuscript: Complete Texts and ‘The Fight at Finnsburg’
There are many translations of Beowulf currently available, but translations of the other texts within this manuscript are uncommon. Professor Fulk’s [End Page 262] book stands out because it contains the Nowell Codex in its entirety, with the original Old English text alongside a modern English translation. The extant works of the manuscript are all included, with readers now easily able to access the texts of The Passion of Saint Christopher, The Wonders of the East, The Letter of Alexander the Great to Aristotle, Judith, and the remnants of The Fight at Finnsburg. Naturally, as the largest and most famous section of the manuscript, Beowulf remains a focus of the book, but Fulk has also covered the religious poem Judith particularly well.
Fulk’s Introduction provides an excellent summary of the texts and describes the life of the manuscript. The reasoning behind the use of such a diverse collection of texts to form a single volume is a current topic of debate. While Fulk acknowledges the recent suggestion that the connection between the different texts may be their references to monsters, he does not delve into much detail. However, considering the main purpose of the book is to provide the texts rather than a discussion, this is not an issue. For those readers wanting to investigate the texts further, Fulk has provided a sound bibliography with relevant and recent research articles.
In addition, it was also useful to see that Fulk has included an index, something that has been lacking in some other recent translations of Beowulf. He has also included a listing of textual variants, which is useful for readers using the Old English texts who want to compare differences between this and other translations. The textual variants also alert the reader to those parts of the text that are too fragmented or faded to translate with any certainty, and where the reader has to rely on Fulk to determine the missing words and letters.
In the past, translations of Beowulf have generally catered solely for either a general or a scholarly readership. In this volume, Fulk caters for both. Anyone with an interest in Anglo-Saxon language, religion, history, or literature will find this volume both interesting and useful.
University of New England