Richard Hall, Exploring the World of The Vikings. (London: Thames & Hudson, 2007). ISBN: 9780500051443. Hardback.
Recently, I was nudged to clean our book shelves. We need space for big boxes of board games, nowadays. But a wall lined with books from top to bottom is pure art in my humble opinion. It is a glorious painting of all kinds of spines and each one tells me more than the story inside. It’s a flashback to when I read it, or reread it, or where, or even how I felt at the time. But basically, I was told that a book shelf with two rows of books just looks a mess. A critical mess. Ouch.
So, here I stood, judge and jury, deciding which books should go and which could stay. Among the lot, I found a book I hadn’t seen for a long time. Inside was a short piece of handwriting: British Museum, 2009.
The book is Exploring the World of The Vikings by Richard Hall. The name didn’t ring any bells for me at the time, but now I know that this is the man who led the famous Coppergate excavation in York and helped establish the Jorvik Viking Centre. He sadly passed away in 2011, but his expertise in the Viking Age in Britain and beyond was recognized by many.
This is the right book for a museum shop. It looks like a coffee table book and reads like an encyclopedia. What more can the interested layman want? And Hall gives more details than one would expect in such a volume. He takes the time to explain what makes the generally accepted theories, well, generally accepted. Here are explanations about runes, ships, textiles, art, politics, and more. At the end, is a gazetteer of museums and visitor centres around the world.