Anglo-Saxon Plant-Name Survey

Anglo-Saxon Plant-Name Survey

ASPNS logo (small)ASPNS was a research project based in English Language and Linguistics, University of Glasgow, UK which was active from 1999 to 2016. The Director of ASPNS was Dr Carole Biggam. The members of the Survey consisted of contributing authors from several countries, who researched and wrote the word-studies which formed the basis of the investigations, and also a number of expert advisers, who worked in many disciplines in the Humanities and the Sciences and were willing to answer queries from the authors.

The aim of the Survey was to study the plant-names of Anglo-Saxon England and the contexts in which they are found in the surviving records. The Survey was concerned with plant-names in whatever medium they survive (e.g. manuscripts, inscriptions etc.), and from whatever language they originate. As far as the evidence allowed, plants were identified by species, genus or family, and their significance in Anglo-Saxon society, as indicated by the sources, was discussed. The findings of the Survey, as they accumulated, provided data for further research into numerous types of topic: linguistic (e.g. dialect studies), geographic (e.g. land use studies), economic (e.g. food studies), scientific (e.g. medicine), and social (e.g. clothing). The work of the Survey was, and remains, of interest to historians, botanists, archaeologists, art historians, linguists, geographers, gardeners, herbalists, and many others.

The research for ASPNS was multidisciplinary, drawing on the findings of any discipline considered appropriate for the study of a particular plant. The principal methodologies involved in the research were, of course, those of semantics, etymology, and documentary studies, but contributors to the Survey often had to delve into the latest research on early textiles, the botanical sections of archaeological reports, the compilation of herbal texts in Ancient Rome and Greece, experiments in growing early crops, and much more besides. These apparent diversions from the main highway often provided illuminating routes to a deeper understanding of the role of a humble plant in early England.

The Survey held two conferences. The first was in the University of Glasgow from the 5th to 7th April, 2000, and the second was held in the University of Graz, Austria from 6th to 10th June, 2007. ASPNS has published three collections of plant-studies:

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. (Amsterdam & New York: Rodopi, 2003).

Old Names - New Growth: Proceedings of the 2nd ASPNS Conference, University of Graz, Austria, 6-10 June 2007 and Related Essays, edited by Peter Bierbaumer and Helmut W. Klug. (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2009).

Magic and Medicine: Early Medieval Plant-Name Studies, edited by Carole Biggam. Leeds Studies in English, new series 44. (Leeds: School of English, University of Leeds, 2013).

In addition to the above, the members of ASPNS published over forty other articles and books, details of which can be found in the Survey's Annual Reports.

ASPNS members contributed many conference and other lectures across the years, including presentations at the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists, the International Medieval Congress, and The Philological Society. Invited lectures on the work of the Survey were presented in Glasgow, Durham, Cambridge, Oxford and Poznan, Poland. Information was also provided to various institutions and individuals, including the Dictionary of Old English, the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources, and the BBC.

Individual ex-members of ASPNS will, almost certainly, continue their researches into related topics and will publish their work in various places. Finally, ASPNS was always most grateful to the University of Glasgow, and particularly to the late Prof. Christian Kay for supporting the endeavours of its director and members.

C.P. Biggam, English Language and Linguistics, University of Glasgow