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Runes In Sweden * Sven B.F. Jansson (1963/1987/1997)

I bought this little book (185 p.) at the Gamla Uppsala museum. Honestly, I expected to be able to buy better books on runestones and runic inscriptions in Sweden, especially in the museums. Apparently this is as good as it gets… This book was published in Swedish in 1963, translated to English in 1987 and has had one reprint so far. At first glance I thought it describes many runestone and tells the reader where to find them. The latter is not the case. What is further strange is that the Swedish version (so also the translation) appears to be part of the Runverket project, a project in which all runestones are inventarised and catalogued. When you find a runestone, there is usually a little plate giving the Runverket U-number with a rendering of the text and a translation (some stones have different catalogue numbers). These U-numbers are not used in this book of Jansson! The Runverket has been publishing books about runic inscriptions since 1900, each time dealing with a part of the country. Around the time Jansson wrote his book, the project was almost finished. I have not seen any of these volumes anywhere! Taking that they are catalogued, I suppose that the stones have been photographed and the location is described. That would be helpfull information! In any case, Jansson takes the reader through history describing how the erection of runestones started early in our era, almost entirely stopped during the transition to the Viking period and relived at the end of the Viking period, which was also the transition period to the new faith. Jansson describes many stones. Many are ‘just’ memorial stones saying something in the vein of: “NN erected this stone in memory of his son NN”. Others refer to travels that the deceased had made. A Viking expedition, but also travels to the Baltic and even Greece. Many stones are obviously Christian, some are not. Jansson chose a nice variety of stones, many of which are displayed with a colour photo, all of which the text is given, translated and explained, so you will learn a bit about reading runes. Also the typical runestone has a cross on it and around that a two-headed snake with the text in it, Jansson also chose variations to that theme. Funny too is that since the book is of 1963, the photos are (nicely) outdated sometimes. The cover shows one of the four stones at the “Jarlabanke bridge”, but nowadays two of the stones are moved and the boy would have looked towards the playground instead of the stone and his parents could have parked their car at the parking lot and read the information on the signs behind this stone. I must add though, that this Jarlabanke Bridge is one of the few places where the visitor can actually get information. A nice little book, but not the book that I hoped to get.
1963/1997 royal academy of letters, history and antiquities, isbn 917844067X

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