thinking outside the tank

Archive for November 2013

Anglo-Saxon Roots

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I have started making regular visits to the refurbished Central Library in Liverpool. Outside it still has its Victorian façade, but inside is a vast atrium which has echoes of the Guggenheim in New York. I haven’t explored all of it yet, so my favourite room is currently the original Picton Reading Room – a vast circular space lined on three levels with books from floor to ceiling – it’s a cylinder of words.

Through random browsing, I came across the text: Complete Old English (Anglo-Saxon) by Mark Atherton. It’s in the Teach Yourself series, an earlier form of For Dummies, but less jejune. On impulse, I borrowed the book and scanned through it on the bus home. What a surprise when I reached Chapter 10 and saw the heading: These are the bounds of the pasture at Hazelhurst. It turns out that, in 1018, King Cnut granted some land called hæselersc to archbishop Lyfing. That land is in a place that is now called Lower Hazelhurst in Sussex. I know that my name is spelled differently (Hazlehurst), but its origin is surely the same.

This is a transcription of part of the charter, penned in my neatest Chancery almost-but-not-quite-cursive:


Being a reactive sort of a person, I have thrown my time into studying Anglo-Saxon and letting it spill over into another current pastime: bookbinding. After a lifetime of computer programming, I find that traditional craft gives me a level of satisfaction that I used to get from coding. Even so, my first act was to search for and download an Anglo-Saxon font; I chose the Junius font, as recommended by the University of Virginia.

Using this font, my first bookbinding project was a copy of Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon:


I thought this would give me something to translate as my Anglo-Saxon wordhoard grows. I also found, courtesy of the Gutenberg Project, the text of Henry Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Primer. I bound this as a hardback book:


but immediately found errors in it (mine not Henry’s), so I have on my to-do list to knock this book into shape.

All in all, like Jethro Tull, I’m happy, smiling, and living in the past.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2013

or, to put it another way:


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