The Heroic Age

Issue 4

Winter 2001

Electronic Medievalia

Electronic Bibliography

by L. J. Swain


One of the earliest and best uses to which we have put the Web is the listing of useful bibliography-whether a formal or informal list of books and articles, or the new type of bibliography, a list of links to other web sites. These link lists came into being quite early, even before the introduction of graphical browsers. Although bibliography was an early application of the web to research it hasn't come a long way since. In this way, the web is not being utilized to its potential.

There are several weaknesses in the bibliographic practices of web denizens. First, the list of links that inhabit most every site on the Net leaves a great deal to be desired. Some sites just list links that the site administrator is interested in. Others list links by subject or related matter to their own site. These are all fine and good on a small scale. Increasingly, however, mere lists of links are inadequate. Such lists confirm a sad and unfortunate perspective in the scholarly community in regards to the web. Lists of links simply send the message that traditional print material is sufficiently different from electronic material that they warrant a separate list. While this separation is as old as the web, it denigrates web content by separating it from print material.

The fact that most lists of links merely list the names of the sites and offer no way of assessing the usefulness of the site is as much a problem as that stated above. Even university library links to other sites, while they may appear more professionally done than other lists of links, are also often simply links to other places.

There are a few sites that do more for links than this. Some of them are listed in the link list of Heroic Age, such as the LacusCurtius Site,, with its sub-site RomanSites. Bill Thayer, the administrator of RomanSites, has developed an excellent system utilizing a subject hierarchy. Within that hierarchy he lists each site by the date it was added, the last time it was checked, what language it was in, a summary of the contents of the site he is referring to, and a rating system. All in all, this is one of the best sites on the Net. It makes use of traditional methods of organizing a great deal of material and at the same time gives the browser some direction and assessment of a list of link's usefulness. Another site that is completely outside the parameters set by HA is Mark Goodacre's New Testament Gateway, . Dr. Goodacre provides not only a list of links organized by subject hierarchy, but he also provides links to actual content such as online journals and articles as well as useful web sites elsewhere.

On the other side of the spectrum from these, however, are those sites that include bibliography of articles and books in the traditional format. One such site is mentioned in an invaluable web page maintained on behalf of James Marchand. What Every Medievalist Should Know (WEMSK),, is the product of a lifetime's work in the field of Medieval Studies. In addition to articles and books, some of the bibliography entries listed there include multimedia and software references. Regrettably it does not list web sites or online articles, furthering the divide between print and electronic formats. Thus, it fails to take advantage of the media in which it is encased. WEMSK is an exception to the rule. Most traditional style bibliographies on the web are neither as organized, nor as detailed as Marchand's WEMSK. Another difficulty with these bibliographies is that there is no system of assessment of the contents, as far as what is 'better' or a 'must-read.'

We must consider also the bibliographic databases. Companies that have long supplied libraries with guides to literature in book form quickly made the jump to disk and CD-ROM when those technologies became available. Just as many of them were perfecting their search capabilities for CD-ROM products, the web explosion occurred and many made the jump as quickly as possible to the web. Now with FirstSearch, InfoTrac and other such services on the web, a researcher can easily access a number of databases, as long as one has access to a library that subscribes.

Long before these companies jumped on the web wagon there were other projects that made use of the nascent "internet" back in the days when Gopher and Archie were the primary interfaces. Such a project was TOCS-IN, Table of Contents-In,, a project that lists the contents of the vast majority of international journals dealing with the Classical and Hellenistic periods. This project, along with a later project in France that deals with patristic literature, began using the web for specific bibliographic searches. On the electronic side of such efforts various sites such as the,,Internet Medieval Sourcebook,, Online Reference Book, and, Online Medieval and Classical Library have interconnected with each other providing support to their individual projects. Also, the search engine, Argos deals specifically with web sites in Classical and Medieval fields.

Obviously, then, there are several projects that deal with either traditional print materials by listing them in an electronic format, or web projects which deal with web and electronic materials. To my knowledge, there is no project or web site that attempts to deal with both formats simultaneously. This is the next logical step in web development as well as in bibliography. Several recent Ph.D. projects have become web sites with editions of medieval literature such as the recent Caedmon's Hymn site or the Sermo Lupi site. These sites certainly deserve more mention than a listing in web resources. They are scholarly efforts in their own right and should be brought to the attention of those looking for bibliography on these subjects. By the same token, in other fields such as biblical studies, there have been efforts to place older articles-considered to be classics-online and make them available to a wider audience. Such efforts could be duplicated in medieval studies as well, placing older, out of print scholarly material on the web for the use of a much wider audience. (Observing appropriate copyrighting laws, of course.) What this field of the web needs is a fuller partnership between web-based resources and electronic resources. Bibliographies in the fields of medieval studies need to be developed which include web sites with excellent content as well as important articles and perhaps even older books for the download and use of all. The future of the web has often been touted in forms such as e-books and other electronic gimmicks, but in order to see that happen researchers and readers need to become comfortable in both formats, and in both formats intermingled with one another.

To that end, future changes in store for the HA links page will also be a page of bibliographic entries listing the most important works and sites for various subject areas. Further plans for the links page will be to change the layout to reflect the more bibliographic nature of the work. Also some level of evaluation of the contents will be needed. Further, I would like to invite readers to forward comments or suggestions regarding other media available such as sound files, CDs, medieval or renaissance music, and other such devices that would be appropriate on this site as well. Electronic bibliography is capable of providing more information faster and in more formats than ever before to assist the researcher and reader, and the future of the web lies in utilizing the web's capabilities to their fullest extent.

Web Site Reviews

The Links Page for this issue of The Heroic Age contains a number of new sites, some of which are reviewed below. Some sites that have been listed on our Links Page for some time have changed their look or their URL .In particular note the change in the Perseus site . Another site which has also changed significantlyis the page of the Babylonian Talmud. This site has been completely revamped and improved, well worth a visit. I might also mention a link to the International Congress on Medieval Studies where the Heroic Age is sponsoring a session. Please stop by, or come and attend. -Ed.

Reviews by L. J. Swain

Dr. Charlie Wright of the English Department at the University of Illinois, has listed for his students basic bibliography in the field of Old English literature and language. The page is fairly short, and is a complete listing of basic materials for the student of Old English. The site is somewhat unique in that it provides links to web based resources in addition to the traditional print materials. The organization is by subject including an interesting section on Computers and Old English Studies. Unfortunately, he hasn't updated the page since 1999.

Maxtrix is site devoted to the study and collecting of material related to professional women monastics between 500 and 1500. It boasts collaborators from many countries and multiple disciplines including librarians and computer folks. The layout of the site is well organized, utilizing a basic image map for initial organization. Subject matter is organized around the "Monasticon", a list of places by geographical region although also searchable by name, time period, and dedication. In addition to this valueable resource, Matrix boasts short biographies of women as well as images of various types, also searchable by name, art type, time period, and community. This site is an ambitious project, so far very well executed, full of easily discoverable information.

The Vine Network is a non-professional site that nonetheless has a good deal to offer. The site allows members to post articles on any given topic, those that are the most popular stay on top of the navigation tree, those that are less popular are more difficult to find. It is hoped, and often works out, that the most popular are usually also the most informative articles on a given topic, written by enthusiastic non-professionals who have done their homework. The currrent "hot topic" discusses the new "Attila" series and addresses the program's historicity. While it has much to offer, the contents should be used with caution.

This site provides either online biographies of the saints, including some of the angels, or links to other sites with similar information. One of the suprises in this collection is a link to the biography of Aidan of Lindisfarne. The site appeals to the generalist including links to Marian windchimes or links to religious bookstores. Those sites aside however, many of the links lead to sites with good information about the various saints, calendars, angels, and patrons. The layout of the site is navigable, but it is not always easy to ferret out a page on Gregory of Nyssa which is sandwiched between a link to the "L.P.H. Book of Saints" for children and a link to images of saints using modern technology. "Lives of the Saints" is worth a visit.


Reviews by Shawn Herlihy (Second Review) is an impressive site both in size and quality. Mainly a collection of all things Medieval and German on the web, this site is dedicated to German and English readers who are interested in the Middle Ages. provides numerous links to resources including German libraries and archives, addresses for scholars and departments of Medieval Studies in German speaking areas, German lexicons and encyclopedias, German paleographical tools, collections of digitized Medieval German manuscripts. It functions as a utilitarian tool by which scholars and students interested in German studies save countless hours avoiding non-scholarly sites and time consuming paper based searches. Very few pages refuse to load or have bad links. The only regrettable omission to this site is the lack of any
critical annotations or internal criticism.


This site represents the preliminary work accomplished by the team of scholars whose project is entitled "Computerizing the Runic Inscriptions at the Historical Museum in Bergen." The preface warns that this site is only a preliminary survey of the runic inscriptions held in the Museum at Bergen and not a scholarly discourse on those runes. What follows is a rough catalogue of the runic inscriptions found on wood and other artifacts unearthed in archaeological digs at Vagsbunnen (near Bergen) and subsequently interred in the museum. The catalogue attempts to connect the inscriptions to their respective digs while sorting them into typological categories, the result is bland and somewhat confusing, as a fair number of links do not, or were never intended to, connect to another page. While this site poses little or no use to the average Viking enthusiast it is a good starting place for a linguist or "Runeologist" to begin prior to conducting their work at the Bergen museum.

Viking Heritage maintains this site as a springboard for Viking enthusiasts. Its primary function is to announce current and upcoming events relating to presentations, readings, and gatherings of Viking related people and materials. Additionally, this site's calendar maintains an extensive archive, which enables any interested party to review important announcements especially relating to new discoveries and publications. Information is also available at this location for Viking Heritage magazine. Overall, this site is designed to attract the general public for the purposes of cultural tourism and education. Unfortunately, little education occurs on this site itself but it does provide links to many other more informative sites.


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Copyright © L.J. Swain and Shawn Herlihy, 2001. All rights reserved.

This edition copyright © The Heroic Age, 2001. All rights reserved