A Grammar of the Anglo-Saxon Tongue, from the Danish of Erasmus Rask
Rask (Erasmus), Thorpe (Benjamin)
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  1. This is a very old grammar which I must have picked up for 5p from a street vendor in the early 1980s.
  2. Looks like it was purchased from a second-hand bookshop in Dublin in December 1910 for 3 shillings!
  3. There’s a more modern bookmark inscribed with the discouraging comment ‘This is the worst grammar I have ever encountered’. From a quick look, it seems like many of these ancient grammars – they assume infinite motivation on the part of the student. There’s no attempt to lead the student gently, but it proceeds to great detail, complete with loads of exceptions, rather than giving an overview. It also most likely assumes familiarity with German and other related languages.

Translator / Editor’s Preface
  1. In the year 1830, conjointly with its author, I published at Copenhagen the first English edition of A Grammar of the Anglo-Saxon Tongue, by Professor Erasmus Rask, with Additions and Improvements by the Author. To this undertaking I was impelled by a sense of the humiliating condition into which the study of the noble old language and literature of our forefathers had fallen in its native land at the time of my departure for Denmark. My hope, by means of this work, of contributing to raise it from this state of depression and neglect was, I am willing to believe, not wholly vain; for among the now greatly increased number of Anglo-Saxon students in England, many have, I doubt not, derived aid from the Grammar of Professor Rask.
  2. The Grammar, as originally published, was obnoxious to at least one objection, which, in the present edition, will not be found — it was, perhaps, too Scandinavian, owing, no doubt, to the very natural bias of its author. But, while divesting it of much that was of little or no interest to the Anglo-Saxon student, I have interspersed, throughout the volume, some useful matter in places where its predecessor seemed defective; so that, although reduced in size, it is, as an Anglo-Saxon Grammar, more copious and, it is to be hoped, more satisfactory than the original. The Extracts, too, forming the Praxis, appear now in a text more correct than previously; as Professor Rask, never having seen an Anglo-Saxon manuscript, could print only from printed books. In the Verbal Index, with which the volume closes, I have made a change, by referring to the Sections, into which the Grammar is divided, instead of to the pages; whereby its use will, I trust, be greatly facilitated. Lastly, I have omitted the long Preface prefixed to the preceding edition, which, although evincing throughout the erudition of its gifted author, was mainly interesting to the Scandinavian student, having little or no connection with Anglo-Saxon Grammar or literature.
  3. From the year 1830, when Rask’s Anglo-Saxon Grammar first appeared in English, no work of a kindred nature, to my knowledge, appeared in England until 1845, when a young gentleman of great promise, Mr. Edward Johnston Vernon, B.A., of Magdalene Hall, Oxford, applied to me for my sanction to the publication of an abridgment by him of the work of Rask. This, of course, I readily gave, and also such little aid as he wished for the furtherance of his object. The result was an able and valuable epitome of the original, evincing the ability of its author throughout, and inspiring the hope that in him the knowledge of our old tongue and literature would find an efficient and zealous promoter. But that hope was not to be realized. Mr. Vernon, to the great grief of his friends, not very long after the appearance of his work, had ceased to exist.
  4. Though printed in a foreign land, my volume will, I trust, not be found wanting in typographical accuracy, an advantage for which it is mainly indebted to Dr. Moritz Heyne of Halle, the learned author of many valuable works connected with early German philology and literature, and the able editor of Beowulf, for whose care in reading the proof sheets, my best thanks are due.
  5. In the hope that this small contribution to the study of our genuine pure old English tongue may meet with a favourable reception, and tend to its more general culture among us, particularly among our youth, I commit it to the public, praying that, in giving their verdict, its shortcomings may find justice tempered with mercy.
    → B.T., Chiswick, October, 1864.

Book Comment

Third Edition. Trubner & Co., London, 1879. Hardback.

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2022
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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