The World of the Huns
O. Maenchen-Helfen

Editor's Note

In early January 1969 Professor Otto Maenchen-Helfen brought a beautifully typed manuscript from the Central Stenographic Bureau of the university to the University of California Press. It seemed to represent the final result of his monumental study of the Huns, to which he had devoted many years of research and travel. A few days later, on January 29, he died. In the memorial speeches at the Faculty Club in Berkeley, several friends mentioned that he had truly completed his lifework, and that his manuscript was ready to go to press.

The impression that the delivered manuscript pages constituted the complete manuscript turned out to be erroneous. Mr. Maenchen had brought only the first of presumably two batches of manuscript. The chapters representing that second batch were not in final form at the time of his death, the bibliography was missing, footnotes were indicated but the sources not stated, an introduction and a complete preface were lacking, the illustrations were scattered in boxes and desk drawers and not identified. There was no table of contents, and the chapters were not numbered; although some groupings of chapters are suggested in the extant part of the author's preface, it was not clear in what order he intended to arrange his work.

On Mrs. Maenchen's suggestion I searched the author's study and eventually found a tentative draft of a contents page. It was of unknown age, and contained revisions and emendations that required interpretation. On the basis of this precious page, the "Rosetta Stone of the manuscript," the work was organized.

Several chapters mentioned in this page were not in final form. But three-ring folders in the author's study, neatly filed on shelves, bore the names of most missing chapter headings. The contents of these folders were in various stages of completion. Those that appeared to be more or less finished except for final editing were incorporated into the manuscript; also sections which, although not representing complete chapters but apparently in final form,



were included and placed where they seemed to fit mostly logically. In several instances, different drafts of the same subject were found, and it was necessary to decide which was the most recent one. Occasionally, also, only carbon copies of apparently finished sections were in the folders.

Errors in judgment in these editorial and compiling activities cannot be ruled out, but wherever doubts existed about the preferred version or the placement of a fragment the material was excluded. Many notes, isolated pages, and drafts (frequently written by hand, with various kinds of emendations) remain in the author's study, including undoubtedly valuable research results.

In retyping the parts of the manuscript that existed only in draft form with many emendations and hand-written corrections, every effort was made not to introduce errors, such as misspellings of foreign words, especially in the notes and bibliography. For errors that undoubtedly slipped in nevertheless, the author is not responsible.

Although the work addresses itself to specialists, it is of interest to a broader range of educated readers who cannot, however, be expected to be familiar with some of the events, persons, institutions, and sources the author takes for granted. For these readers Professor Paul Alexander has provided an introduction; in deference to the author it was placed as "background" at the end of the book, but it may usefully be read first, as a preparation for the text.

The editorial preparation of the manuscript required the help of an unusually large number of persons, reflecting the wide range of the author's competence. The Russian references were checked by the author's friend, the late Professor Peter A. Boodberg, who delivered the corrected pages just a few days before his death in the summer of 1972. The Chinese references were checked or supplied by Professor Edward H. Schafer, also a friend of the author. The Latin and Greek passages were translated by Professor J. K. Anderson and Dr. Emmy Sachs; Mr. Anderson also faithfully filled lacunae in the footnotes and unscrambled mixups resulting from duplicated or omitted footnote numbers. Professors Talat Tekin and Hamid Algar checked and interpreted Turkish references. Professor Joachim Werner of Munich counseled on the Altlussheim sword. Questions about Gothic, Iranian, Hungarian, Japanese, and Ukrainian references or about historical (ancient and medieval) and many other aspects of the text that needed interpretation were answered by a long list of scholars contributing their services to the cause.

Miss Guitty Azarpay (to whom the author used to refer fondly as his favorite student) selected and painstakingly identified the illustrations. She also verified references with angelic patience.


The formidable task of compiling a bibliography on the basis of an incomplete set of cards and of the text itself was performed by Mrs. Jane Fontenrose Cajina. The author's working cards, assembled over many years, were not yet typed in uniform style, many entries were missing, and many lacked essential information. For Russian transcriptions in the bibliography and bibliographical footnotes (but not in the text), the Library of Congress system was used.

The map was drawn by Mrs. Virginia Herrick under the supervision of Professor J. K. Anderson. The index was prepared by Mrs. Gladys Castor.

The editor is indebted to all these many competent and sympathetic helpers; clearly, without their devotion the conversion of the Maenchen papers into the present volume would not have been possible.

Max Knight

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