In all about 3500 runic inscriptions are known from Swedish territory. Because of this unique wealth of material, they make an important contribution to our knowledge of early culture and society in Sweden. They are our oldest linguistic monuments and they provide much contemporary information of inestimable value. The inscriptions often permit us to draw significant conclusions relating to general cultural history.
This book presents a survey of the Swedish runic material, both in words and pictures. All photos were taken by Bengt A. Lundberg, photographer at The Central Board of National Antiquities and The Historical Museum, Stockholm. The text was translated into English by Professor Peter Foote of University College London.
A concise bibliography of the academic literature is given at the end of the book. It does not pretend to be comprehensive but the titles included will guide the interested reader to earlier works on subjects considered only in the most summary fashion in the following chapters.
It may finally be noted that forms cited as Old Norse (ON), or sometimes more distinctively as Old West Norse (OWN), are given in the spellings conventionally used for “classical” Icelandic.
Photographing runic inscriptions often poses more problems than casual consideration might deem possible. The twofold aim of producing an aesthetically satisfying picture, of a rune stone for example, while showing the inscribed surface itself as clearly as possible, was often achieved in the past by drastic retouching. The resulting illustrations were more than clear but less than truthful.
The photographs in this book are a departure from that tradition. Most of them view the object not simply as a source of information but, equally, as a unique monument in the Nordic landscape.
My hope in consequence is that these pictures reveal and record a number of Swedish runic inscriptions as they can be experienced at first hand, now in the mid-1980s, by visitors to their sites.