This recent addition to the impressive Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture focuses on the relatively tight geographic region of the historic county of Nottinghamshire. The structure reflects the CASSS standard of introductory chapters covering earlier research; geology; historical background; a discussion of key styles and motifs of ornament; general overviews of monument types and groupings; and a discussion bringing various strands together, before the presentation of the detailed catalogue and photographic illustrations. Catalogue entries follow the standard CASSS format, including detailed monument descriptions and specific discussion on art historical context. Paul Everson and David Stocker’s Nottinghamshire volume includes detailed catalogue entries for thirty-two monuments from twenty-two sites (with a further sixty-seven more briefly listed in an appendix, as they post-date the Anglo-Saxon period). When first opening the volume, it is perhaps advisable for those not already well versed in the sculpture of Nottinghamshire to begin ‘at the back’ and peruse through the catalogue entries and photographs first. This would help reinforce the range and challenging conditions of the monuments discussed before the detail of the authors’ text is attempted. The volume includes high-profile monuments such as Stapleford no. 1, a tall heavily carved round-shaft type, for which the authors develop new and important strands of argument on its date (early? ninth century) and iconographic content with a consideration of its materiality (a hard to carve gritstone), monumentality (pp. 189–95) and landscape situation near a ford in the river (p. 76). The volume also champions the smaller, less well-studied and new fragments from South Leverton, including a cross-shaft fragment and fragment of stone rood (pp. 74–5; 170–8), which help to flesh out the Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical and lordly landscape. The same authors produced the CASSS volume for Lincolnshire (1999) and there is a steady thread of analysis that offers comparative insights. This is particularly true for the discussion (ch. 4) on style and ornament and in the overview on monument types and groups (ch. 5), where useful comparative drawings of ‘Mid-Kesteven Grave Covers’ are provided across Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. Chapter Five in general is an admirable effort to showcase a more holistic over a regional approach that sometimes results from the CASSS use of modern boundaries. There are some production issues with graphics that are a shame, given the generally high standard of illustration. Figure 1 contains large black boxes obscuring text, and rivers are not labelled. Figure 13 (p. 84) depicts a map with shading, but no key for clarity. The methodological statement (p. 10) highlights the impressive fieldwork conducted by the authors, but also notes that not all fragments of pre-Conquest sculpture in Nottinghamshire were included. This somewhat undermines the objective of a comprehensive sculpture catalogue; some additional information and justification for how sites were excluded (and a list at least of those excluded) would have been useful for future researchers. I would have preferred the final introductory chapter (ch. 8) on ‘overlap and continuing tradition’ to precede the conclusions or be summarised elsewhere. This would leave Chapter Seven on conclusions, which offers dense discussion and analysis, to bring the authors’ narrative text to a close and a chance to end with a punchier finale. As with most cataloguing ventures, not every lead can be followed, and the task is now for scholars to pick up the threads and continue to challenge and unpick the stories of the stones in this region. Everson and Stocker have shown how research which is alive to the sense of deep investment by the Anglo-Saxons in stones and their iconography, materiality and landscape contexts can offer insight into land organisation, social context and change. They have been able to weave sculpture fragments into multi-stranded arguments for new ecclesiastical sites. They have helped to break down presumptions about the Nottinghamshire region based on previous cherry-picking of sculpture and its narratives and highlighted the power of interdisciplinary investigation for lesser-known or less artistically impressive monuments. The volume stands as a key acquisition for scholarly libraries. © Oxford University Press 2018. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
The English Historical Review – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 2, 2018
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