with artwork by Melissa X. Stevens


This essay introduces a series of small devices, previously unobserved, occurring on three of the five illustrated panels of the Northumbrian Franks Casket. These devices are words embedded in the runic inscriptions that serve as “proximal allusions” to adjacent illustrations.[1] Unlike the marginal glosses in manuscripts that clarify a subject in the main text, this picture–text proximity may complicate the subject as the intermedial engagement redirects the words to new meaning. Other devices used by the casket designer are mentioned in passing, and speculation about what glosses, repeated motifs, and allusions to Latin texts suggest about both designer and audience concludes the article.

1. The useful term “proximal allusion” is borrowed from Stephen H. A. Shepherd and Courtney Harshbarger, “Text–Image Alignment in MS Douce 104 (Piers Plowman): ‘Articulation,’ Pre-drawing, and Proximal Allusion,” Medium Aevum 89, no. 2 (2020): 267–300.