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Klaeber's Beowulf - Robert D. Fulk, Unknown, Robert E. Bjork, John D. Niles

 


This new fourth edition of Klaeber's Beowulf is one of the most important contributions to Old English scholarship in years. Robert Dennis Fulk, Robert E. Bjork and John D. Niles bring Frederick Klaeber's legendary edition of Beowulf thoroughly up to date for the 21st century. Every section of the original edition is revised and expanded to incorporate research on Beowulf since Klaeber's last revision in 1950.

The book now begins with a three page biography of Frederick Klaeber by Helen Damico. The original introduction remains with all Klaeber's original chapter divisions but is vastly expanded to include scholarship over the last sixty years and now incorporates the findings of important works on the poem such as Fred C Robinson's Beowulf and The Appositive Style and Andy Orchard's Pride and Prodigies. The original text is revised to allow for new findings in textual research, grammar, syntax and punctuation. The new editors retain Klaeber's moderate editorial principle and emend 414 verses as against Klaeber’s 406, 321 emendations remain the same as Klaeber's original. One of the main alterations is in the text of the Finnesburg Fragment, the new editors don't emend Næfre to Hnæf and also leave out Hickes version of the text.

One of the key attractions to the original were the huge commentary and supplementary materials that accompanied the text. The commentary and notes are still intact, but again are expanded. One of the best features of the new edition are the appendixes. In the original these contained a good selection of parallel material, mostly left untranslated in Old Norse and Latin. This material is now translated into English and also expanded. In the original edition Klaeber gave the texts of Waldere, Deor, Widsith and the Old High German Hildebrandslied. Sadly, the new edition omits Deor and Widsith but now adds an accompanying English translation to the texts of Waldere and the Hildebrandslied.

One issue that a few modern scholars had with Klaeber's Beowulf was in the glossary. Arguments that the glossary reflected Klaeber's training in 19th century German philological tradition and that some of his word definitions reflected this is taken account of in the new glossary, so we now have a revised glossary that reflects 21st century American philological views.

This new edition ensures that this text will continue to be the standard edition of Beowulf, used by both students and scholars as a basis for study, teaching and translation work. My only real gripe about this new edition is the shabby hardcover binding, which doesn't stand up to extensive use, scuffing and wearing really easy.