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Bibliography of Sources for Viking Art

Gentle Readers:

The Vikings practiced a wide range of arts, and the styles and motifs they utilized were vivid and sophisticated. As Wilson and Klindt-Jensen comment in their book, Viking Art, "The surviving art of the early Viking Age exhibits a brilliancy, originality and competence, hard to equal in contemporary Europe..."

The sources I list below are only the merest sampling of the books available discussing various aspects of Viking art. I have included not only general works and "picture books" but also a variety of scholarly articles on various aspects of Viking Age crafts as well.

As a note, many of the items listed may not be be available in your local public library. There are a couple of ways to access these if you are not a student at a university or college:

The first is to visit a university or college library. Most allow non-students to use the library, although often you won't be able to check out books. However, it's simple to photocopy a journal article, and every university library I've ever visited had copy machines for public use.

The second method would be to go to your library and ask the reference librarian for information on obtaining materials through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Surprisingly small libraries have been able to get really obscure documents for me via ILL. Sometimes your local branch library can handle an ILL request, sometimes you have to go to the main branch of the library - just ask, the librarians will be happy to tell you how it's done in your library. Usually ILL involves a small fee to cover photocopyinga nd shipping articles to you. You can also get books this way, and in the case of books they usually loan the book to your library, and you will then either check it out from your library or else you may have to use it while at the library, depending on the practices of the library which owns the work.

And, Gentle Readers, if you have suggestions for other books or articles which should be listed here, please contact Gunnvör at


Viking Art Resources

  • Bartholm, Lis. Scandinavian Folk Designs. Dover Design Library. New York: Dover Publications. 1988.
    This small book includes drawings and photos of designs in many media, including weaving, carving, jewellry and more. There are Viking Age and medieval examples included, although this book also includes later periods as well. This book is useful mostly as a source of inspiration to craftsmen rather than as a "pattern book".
    Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

  • Davis, Courtney. A Treasury of Viking Design. London: Constable & Co. 2000.
    This 64-page book contains black and white line-drawings of motifs and designs from Viking art and artifacts. Many are enlarged versions of designs found in Wilson and Klint-Jensen's Viking Art (see below), plus motifs usually shown only in artifact photos elsewhere. The major weakness of this book is the lack of any text identifying or discussing the various images presented - it's purely a collection of designs, ranging in period from the earliest part of the Viking Age through the start of the more medieval Romanesque style art of the Scandinavian Middle Ages. Contains a lot of knotwork and "gripping beast" type motifs.
    Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

  • Meehan, Aidan. Celtic Design: The Dragon and the Griffin -- The Viking Impact. Thames & Hudson. 1995.
    The artwork of the Vikings and of the Celts share many similarities -- both cultures are Indo-European, and there was considerable intercourse between the two peoples via warfare, trade, and settlement. This book takes a close look at the stylistic differences between Celtic and Viking art, providing valuable insights into the fine details that make each culture's art unique. In general, Viking art is less formal and precise than similar Celtic works, and often shows a greater energy and originality. Includes illustrations that would be useful as designs for craftsmen.
    Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

  • Wilson, David M. and Ole Klindt-Jensen. Viking Art. 2nd ed. London: George Allen & Unwin. 1980.
    Not only includes a discussion of the art-history of the Vikings, but also includes 69 line drawings and 80 photographic plates showing details of Viking design. A must for any craftsman, from calligrapher to jeweler to leatherworker, etc.
    Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

Viking "Coffee Table" Books
There are a large number of "art" books, often referred to as "coffee-table books" containing high-quality, large, full-color photographs of Viking art and artifacts. These can provide an excellent resource and source of inspiration for artists and craftsmen of all disciplines.

  • Graham-Campbell, James. The Viking. New Haven: Ticknor & Fields. 1980.
    Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

  • Graham-Campbell, James. The Viking World. New Haven: Ticknor & Fields. 1980.
    Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

  • Haywood, John. The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings. London: Penguin Books. 1995.
    Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

  • Roesdahl, Else, and Wilson, David M., eds. From Viking to Crusader: The Scandinavians and Europe 800-1200. New York: Rizzoli. 1992.
    A very extensive catalog of a huge exhibit of Viking artifacts. Very hard to find, but well worth it!
    Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

Viking Crafts

    • Arwidsson, Greta and Gosta Berg. The Mastermyr Find: A Viking Age Tool Chest from Gotland. Stockholm: KVHAA/Almqvist & Wiksell. 1983. Reprint: Larson. 2000.
      Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

    • Slomann, Wencke and Arne Emil Christiansen. "The Aker Find: Facts, Theories and Speculations." Festkrift til Thorleif Sjovold pa 70-ars-dagen. Oslo: Universitets Oldsaksamling. 1984. pp. 173-190
      [Discusses the use of punch tools.]

    • Larsen, Erling Benner. "Tracing the tools by their traces: Identification and documentation of tool traces - illustrated through punch-decorated objects from the early Germanic Iron Age." Kuml 1982-1983. Arhus: Jysk Arkaeologisk Selskub 1984. pp 169-179.

    Woodworking and Carving
    • Anderson, Aron. "Medieval Woodcarvings in Sweden." Safeguarding of Medieval Altar Pieces and wood carvings in Churches and Museums. KVHAA Konferenser 6. 1981. pp. 27-32.

    • Dahl, Sverri. "Forn barnaleiku i Foroyum." Mondul 3 (1979). pp. 3-13
      [Article about ancient toys from the Faroe Islands.]

    • Fridstrom, Erik. "The Viking Age Wood Carvers. Their Tools and Techniques." Festkrift til Thorleif Sjovold pa 70-ars-dagen. Oslo: Universitets Oldsaksamling. 1984. pp. 87-92.

    • Fuglesang, Signe Horn. "Wood carving from Oslo and Trondheim and some reflections on period styles." Festkrift til Thorleif Sjovold pa 70-ars-dagen. Oslo: Universitets Oldsaksamling. 1984. pp. 93-108.

    • Fuglesang, Signe Horn. "Woodcarvers - Professionals and Amateurs in Eleventh Century Trondheim." Economic Aspects of the Viking Age. eds. David Wilson and M.L. Caygill. British Museum Occasional Papers 30. London: British Museum. 1981.

    • Lang, James T. Viking Age Decorated Wood. Medieval Dublin Excavations 1962-81 Series B1. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy. 1988.
      Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

    • Nilsson, Torvald. "Om medeltida sadeltacken." Kulturen. 1986. pp. 312-339.
      [Discusses a carved and tooled leather sheet used as a saddlepad.]

    • Werner, W.E. "Faltstuhl (A Folding Chair. In German.)" Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde von Johannes Hoops 8/1-6 (Encyclopedia of Germanic archaeology and history 8/1-6). eds. H. Beck. H. Jankuhn, Heiko Steuer, D. Timpe, R. Wenskus. 2nd completely revised ed. Berlin/New/York: de Gruyter: 1994.
      Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

    Bone, Ivory, and Antler
    • Ambrosiani, Kristina. "Viking Age Combs, Combmaking, and Combmakers in the Light of Finds from Birka and Ribe." Stockholm Studies in Archaeology 2. 1981.
      Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

    • Bertelson, Reidar. "Decorated spoons of reindeer antler in Norwegian urban and rural context." Archaeology and the Urban Economy: Festschrift to Asbjorn E. Herteig. Arkeologiske Skrifter 5. eds. Siri Myrvold et al. Bergen: Historisk Museum Universitet i Bergen. 1989. pp. 245-254.

    • Callmer, Johan. "Hantverksproduktion, samhällsförändringar och bebyggelse. Iakttagelser från östra Sydskandinavien ca. 600-1100 e.Kr (Handicraft production, social changes and settlement. Observations from the east of southern Scandinavia AD 600-1100. Swedish with English summary.)" Produksjon og samfunn (1995) pp 39-72.

    • Hiruluoto, Anna-Liisa. "A bone spoon from Pirkkala." Iskos 9 (1990) pp.87-91.

    • Mageroy, Ellen M. "Abraham-hornet fra Island." Viking 49 (1946) pp.235-247.
      [Discusses a carved Icelandic drinking horn.]

    • Roesdahl, Else. Hvalrostand, Elfenben og nordboerne i Grønland (Walrus Tusk, Ivory and the Northmen in Greenland. In Danish.) C C Rafn forelæsning 10. Odense: Odense universitetsforlag: 1995.
      [The explosion in the use of walrus ivory c. 1000-1200 AD in Scandinavia, NW Europe and Great Britain is discussed. It is argued that this ivory came from Greenland, and that it was of central importance for the economy of the Greenland Norse settlements. The decline and end of these settlements in the 14th-15th C is explained as a result of the declining demand for walrus ivory in Europe, as elephant ivory became easily available.]
      Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

    • Smith, Beverley Ballin. "Reindeer antler combs at Howe: Contact Between Late Iron Age Orkney and Norway." UOÅrbok 1993-1994 (1995), pp 207-211.
      [Four reindeer-antler combs at the broch settlement site at Howe indicate that pre-Norse trade existed between Orkney and Norway as early as the late 6th/early 7th C.]

    • Swanström, Eric. "En medeltida kammakarverkstad på Öster Klint i Visby? (A Medieval comb-maker's workshop at Öster Klint in Visby? In Swedish.)" Aktuellt [Gotland]. Gotländskt arkiv 68, 1996. pp. 210-212.
      [An accumulation of bones is interpreted as waste from a comb-maker's workshop. One of several short reports of investigations carried out on Gotland 1995-1996.]

    • Weber, Birthe. "Handel mellom Norge og Orknøyene før norrøn bosetning? Reingevir som råmateriale i orknøyisk kamproduksjon (Trade between Norway and Orkney prior to the Norse settlement? Reindeer antlers as raw material in comb production in Orkney. In Norwegian.)" Nordsjøen (1996) pp 31-40.
      [Based on osteological analyses of combs in Orkney, author claims that reindeer antlers were included in an exchange system between Norway and the Atlantic islands already in the 7th-8th C AD.]

    • Weber, Birthe. "The identification of raw material in combs." UOÅrbok 1993-1994 (1995), pp 197-205.
      [A presentation and discussion of methods. Analyses of 54 combs, which are predominately of reindeer antler.]

    Drinking Vessels
    • Børsheim, Ragnar L. Jernalderens drikkeutstyr: fra romertid til vikingetid i Vest-Norge. (The Iron Age drinking-equipment: from the Roman Iron Age to the Viking Age in western Norway. In Norwegian.)" Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Bergen, Institute of Archaeology. Bergen: Universitetet, Inst. for Arkeologi: 1995.

    • Holand, Ingegerd. Vessel Import to Norway in the First Millennium AD: Composition and Context. Ph.D. Dissertation. London: University of London. 1996.
      [More than 1,100 imported vessels in bronze, glass, wood, horn, clay and silver from the first millennium AD are described and related to the status of the farms involved, based on farm names and written sources. Of 538 farms with imported vessels, c. 30-35% may be associated with pagan religious activity, have early Christian churches, or other Iron Aage or Medieval center functions, while another 50% are close neighbours of such farms. Vessel use is considered in relation to find context, gender association, and possible social and religious practices. It is suggested that vessels were imported mainly because of their symbolic and social and social/religious meaning, and that their role as status markers was secondary and dependent on this meaning.]

    • Axboe, Morten. "Positive and negative versions in the making of chipcarving ornaments." Festkrift til Thorleif Sjovold pa 70-ars-dagen. Oslo: Universitets Oldsaksamling. 1984. pp. 31-42.

    • Lonborg, Bjarne. "The method of production of Viking Age tortoise brooches." Kuml 1991-1992. Arhus: I Kommission Hos Aarhus Universitetsforlag. 1991-1992, pp. 151-164.

    • Madsen, Hans Jorgen. "An Introduction to Danish Medieval Ceramics." Ceramics and Trade. eds. Peter Davey and Richard Hodges. Sheffield: University of Sheffield Department of Prehistory and Archaeology. 1983. pp. 187-190.

    • Madsen, Per Kristian. "A survey of the research of Danish medieval pottery." Medieval Ceramics 10 (1986) pp. 57-84.

    • Magnus, Bente, "The Interlace Motif on the bucket-shaped pottery of the Migration Period." Festkrift til Thorleif Sjovold pa 70-ars-dagen. Oslo: Universitets Oldsaksamling. 1984. pp. 139-157.

    • Hulthen, Birgitta. "Some notes on ceramic production during the early Iron Age." Studien zur Sachsenforschung 6 (1987) pp. 95-99.

    • Klemensen, Marie Foged. "Production of highly decorated pottery in Medieval Denmark". La céramique très décorée dans l'Europe du nord-ouest (Xème-XVème siecles). Actes du Colloque de Douai (7-8 avril 1995). ed by Daniel Piton. Nord-ouest archéologie 7. Berck-sur-mer: Musée de Berck-sur-mer. 1996. Pp 131-138.
      [The article presents the known centres where lead glaze and varying types of decoration have been used in Denmark, ca. 1200 and 1400.]

    Viking Coloring Books
    Adults often ignore or underestimate the value of children's books, especially coloring books, as a source of artistic inspiration. The coloring books listed here are especially useful for artists and craftsmen.

    • Lindow, John. Myths and Legends of the Vikings. Santa Barbara, CA: Bellerophon Books. 1979.
      This excellent little coloring book is chock-full of line drawings of Viking Age art and artifacts, carefully selected to accompany the brief text retellings of the Norse myths by a noted scholar of the Viking Age. The best use of this particular coloring book is not for children, however, but for artists wishing to utilize Viking Age artistic motifs in their own work -- this book provides line drawings which can easily be used as artist's cartoons for projects ranging from embroidery to woodwork to stained glass to carving and so on.
      Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

    • Smith, A.G. Story of the Vikings Coloring Book. New York: Dover. 1988.
      The illustrations are line drawings adapted from Romantic Revival paintings and book illustrations, rather than actual Viking Age art and artifacts, and the scenes illustrated are mostly of warriors, warfare, and similar subjects.
      Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

    • Smith, A.G. Viking Designs. Dover Pictorial Archive Series. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1999.
      Another excellent little coloring book full of line drawings of Viking art and artifacts, perfect for use by craftsmen and artists.
      Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

    Children's Books About the Vikings
    Children's books are frequently overlooked by adults, however since they are usually copiously illustrated, they are a visual feast and often an inexpensive way to gain access to high quality photos of the same Viking art and artifacts featured in the larger, more expensive, "coffee table" type books. Many times these may be found second hand at your local used book store.

    • Clare, John D., ed. The Vikings. Living History Series. New York: Gulliver/Harcourt Brace & Co. 1992.
      The illustrations from this book are photos of European Viking reenactment groups, as well as recreations of actual Viking artifacts.
      Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

    • Margeson, Susan. Viking. Eyewitness Books Series. New York: Alfred Knopf. 1994.
      The illustrations from this book are photos of European Viking reenactment groups, as well as recreations of actual Viking artifacts.
      Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

    • Roberts, Morgan J. Norse Gods and Heroes. Myths of the World Series. New York: Metro Books. 1995.
      The illustrations here are a mix of photos of Viking artifacts and prints/woodcuts from Romantic art depicting the Norse gods and myths.
      Buy this book from today! Buy this book today!

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