From Earth to Art

The Many Aspects of the Plant-World in Anglo-Saxon England. Proceedings of the First ASPNS Symposium, University of Glasgow, 5-7 April 2000


Edited by C.P. Biggam

From Earth to Art presents papers from the ‘Early Medieval Plant Studies’ symposium, a meeting designed to explore the various disciplines which could help to elucidate the plant-names of Anglo-Saxon England, many of which are not understood. The range of disciplines represented includes landscape history, place-name studies, botany, archaeology, art history, Old English literature, the history of food and of medicine, and linguistic approaches such as semantics and morphology. This collection represents a first experimental step in the work of the Anglo-Saxon Plant-Name Survey (ASPNS), a multidisciplinary research project based in the University of Glasgow. ASPNS is dedicated to collecting and reviewing, for the first time, the total multidisciplinary evidence for each plant-name, and establishing new or improved identifications. The results will have implications for various historical studies such as agriculture, pharmacology, nutrition, climate, dialect, and more. Included in the book is the first ASPNS word-study, concerned with the Old English word æspe (the ancestor of ‘aspen’), and it is shown that this tree-name had a broader meaning than has hitherto been suspected. This book will be of interest to historians, botanists, archaeologists, linguists, geographers, gardeners, herbalists, conservationists and anyone interested in the crucial role of plants in history.

Blue in Old English

An Interdisciplinary Semantic Study


C.P. Biggam

Blue in Old English represents the first thorough investigation of an area of the colour semantics of Old English, and the methodology developed for this study is believed to be appropriate for researching the colour semantics of any language which survives only in recorded texts. By means of a collection of in-depth word-studies, which suggest new interpretations of many well-known passages, an understanding of how blueness was described in Old English is developed. The approach is interdisciplinary, using evidence from subjects such as botany, manuscript illustration, etymology, early technologies, and others. The conclusion contradicts certain previously held views on Old English colour, and presents a hitherto obscured sociolinguistic picture of differing language use among various groups of Old English speakers.