Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 September 2013
The Handbook to the Roman Wall is an unusual publication. On one level it is a guidebook, albeit a detailed guidebook, to a single monument — Hadrian's Wall — but as that monument is massive in its size and complex in the range of its elements, the Handbook is perforce a considerably larger guidebook than normal. Further, the Handbook is generally regarded as the statement of current knowledge and of those interpretations which command the support of the archaeologists working on the Wall. Hence, it is directed at a wide readership of visitors, archaeologists, cultural resource managers and the mythical general reader. It would not be pitching its claims too high to say that it is the bible for Hadrian's Wall, the place to which all readers seeking knowledge about the frontier would turn first.
The task of preparing a new edition of the oldest archaeological guide in Britain, as I was invited to do in 1998 by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, was therefore a daunting prospect. How was I to deal with the weight of tradition and the authority of one's predecessors? How far was change possible? Was any innovation possible? How was I to ensure that all available evidence was taken into account in preparing the new edition? Was it possible to produce a corporate view?