January 4, 2001 National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Publishes Beowulf in Braille and Recorded Sound

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Robert E. Fistick, Head, Publications and Media Section (NLS/BPH) (202) 707-9279

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS/BPH) has announced the publication in recorded and braille formats of poet Seamus Heaney's critically acclaimed new version of Beowulf, the anonymous epic poem that is often said to mark the start of the English literary tradition.

The Nobel Prize-winning poet's long-awaited new translation of Beowulf was initially commissioned by publisher W.W. Norton in the mid-1980s. The Old English classic about the exploits of a heroic Scandinavian clan chieftain was a best-seller on summer 2000 booklists. In advance of its renewed popularity, NLS selected the book for production in braille and recorded formats because of its high literary distinction.

The braille edition of Beowulf has been produced by NLS/BPH in cooperation with the National Braille Press. In the Braille edition, Old English is treated as a foreign language and rendered in uncontracted grade 1 braille (braille in which every letter is represented by a braille character and the abbreviations or contractions that streamline the use of modern English braille are eliminated).

Narrated by Patrick Horgan, the audio version of Beowulf was produced in the studios of the American Foundation for the Blind in New York City. The modern English text of the poem and some explanatory material are followed by Heaney's commentary and then the narration of the Old English version.

Emerging from an ancient oral tradition, Beowulf was originally an exciting story meant to be heard aloud. In addition to serving its constituents, NLS has produced a recording that restores the poem to its original intentions. The finished recording will provide patrons with complete access to this literary masterwork, with the original language, translation, and scholarly commentary intact.

Beowulf is available to eligible NLS/BPH users through their cooperating network libraries.


PR 01-001
ISSN 0731-3527