It has already become clear to us, just halfway through the first month of the new year, that 2014 is going to be very busy for our work with Tolkien, so much so that we’ve had to call this post ‘Part One’. Here we’ll include as much news as we can give at this time, pending the signing of contracts and the settling of details.
In our last Tolkien Notes on November 3rd, we announced the return to print of our 50th anniversary edition of Farmer Giles of Ham. Since then, we’ve read two proofs and have written a brief note to introduce a gallery of Pauline Baynes’s later full-page illustrations for Farmer Giles, drawn for the Tolkien collection Poems and Stories (1980). The text of the new edition of Farmer Giles follows the previous one (1999), with adjustments to our introduction and notes to reflect the fact that Tolkien’s story has been newly typeset rather than, as before, reproduced in facsimile. The result will be another handsome volume in HarperCollins’ series of pocket-size editions of Tolkien’s works, following on The Hobbit and Roverandom.
Also scheduled to appear in this series, on October 9th, is The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book. We had proposed a new edition of this book for its 50th anniversary in 2012, but the timing seems not to have been right for it. Instead, we were given approval to begin work on it last year, and are now making a final revision. This new edition will contain the sixteen poems as published in 1962, together with the original drawings by Pauline Baynes. But it will also include earlier versions of the poems, where earlier versions exist – some of these were published in magazines and journals which are now hard to find – and it will reprint a later ‘Bombadil’ poem, Once upon a Time. In addition, we are very pleased to be allowed to publish for the first time, from Tolkien’s manuscript, the predecessor of Perry-the-Winkle, called The Bumpus, and the complete, tantalizingly brief fragment of a prose story featuring Tom Bombadil, in the days of ‘King Bonhedig’. To these, we have added an introduction, comments on the poems and on Tolkien’s preface, and glosses for unusual words, as we did previously for Roverandom and Farmer Giles of Ham.
On June 19th, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion will return to hardback in the U.K. Our Reader’s Companion, first published in 2005 simultaneously in hardback and A format (mass-market) paperback, provides annotations for The Lord of the Rings, including some drawn from unpublished writings by Tolkien, and documents our work on the corrected 50th anniversary text of The Lord of the Rings as it stood at the time. (This year of course, and 2015, mark the 60th anniversary of the first publication of The Lord of the Rings.) In the U.S.A., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have kept the original hardback Reader’s Companion in print, while HarperCollins allowed it to go out of print, retaining instead a B format (trade) paperback with a revised and slightly expanded text. We will be looking carefully at the 2008 edition and considering corrections and additions besides those noted on our website, as space permits within the present number of pages.
Images (cover art), top to bottom: the new edition of Farmer Giles of Ham; The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book (1962); the 2008 trade paperback of The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion.
Having read some erroneous comments online about Tolkien’s use and ownership of tape recorders, Christina reviewed the ‘Recordings’ essay in our J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, as well as related information in other parts of the Reader’s Guide and Chronology volumes. But the comments quickly disappeared (at least, we now can’t find them*), and since Christina had done so much work, we decided to turn what could have been the basis of a reply into a blog post. Most of this material is in the Companion and Guide, but consolidated and with some further information added.
In late August 1952†, while Tolkien was staying with his friends George and Moira Sayer in Malvern, his hosts produced a tape recorder‡ to amuse him. According to Sayer, Tolkien ‘had never seen one before’ – these were very early days for portable, consumer-level magnetic tape recorders in Britain – ‘and said whimsically that he ought to cast out any devil that might be in it by recording a prayer, the Lord’s Prayer in Gothic. He was delighted when I played it back to him and asked if he might record some of the poems in The Lord of the Rings to find out how they sounded to other people. The more he recorded, the more he enjoyed recording and the more his literary self-confidence grew. When he had finished the poems, one of us said: “Record for us the riddle scene from The Hobbit,” and we sat spellbound for almost half an hour while he did. I then asked him to record what he thought one of the best pieces of prose in The Lord of the Rings and he recorded part of The Ride of the Rohirrim [Book V, Chapter 5]’ (sleeve notes for the LP album J.R.R. Tolkien Reads and Sings His The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring).
Sayer repeated this story, with additions and variations, on two occasions. In ‘Tales of the Ferrograph’, Minas Tirith Evening-Star 9, no. 2 (January 1980), pp. 2–4, he says that Tolkien recorded the Lord’s Prayer first in English and then in Gothic. Sayer comments also that Tolkien ‘had a very poor speaking voice, although we produced very good recordings of him with that old Ferrograph by putting the microphone very close to him really’ (p. 2), and that he was astonished to hear what his voice sounded like. In ‘Recollections of J.R.R. Tolkien’, Proceedings of the J.R.R Tolkien Centenary Conference 1992 (1995), Sayer refers again to the occasion, but mentions the Lord’s Prayer in Gothic only. He says that when Tolkien recorded some of the poems, ‘some he sang to the tunes that were in his head when writing them. He was delighted with the result. It was striking how much better his voice sounded recorded and amplified. The more he recorded, and the more often he played back the recordings, the more his confidence grew. He [rather than one of the Sayers] asked to record the great riddle scene from The Hobbit. He read it magnificently and was especially pleased with his impersonation of Gollum’ (p. 23).
A letter Tolkien wrote to his publisher, Rayner Unwin, on 29 August 1952 shows that Sayer was not exaggerating Tolkien’s interest. Tolkien was surprised at how well the tapes sounded, and with his success as a reader, and wondered if the BBC might be interested in using the recordings. Unwin suggested that he might discuss this with Tolkien at their next meeting, but nothing seems to have come of the suggestion. Nor did anything come of Tolkien’s suggestion in a letter to George Sayer on 28 August 1953, that he visit Sayer again and make a two-voice recording with him.
Selections from the private recordings Tolkien made in 1952 were issued in 1975 by Caedmon on two long-playing vinyl albums and on audio cassettes. It would be very interesting to know what happened to the original tapes, which included material in addition to that found on the recordings as issued. In ‘Tales of the Ferrograph’ Sayer comments that ‘Caedmon very foolishly, infuriatingly’ cut out Tolkien’s readings of the Lord’s Prayer, as well as conversation which occurred in between his readings from his works. Nor, Sayer complains, did Caedmon ‘make any attempt to reduce the background noise. They thought the American public would be disappointed if the recording didn’t sound old’ (p. 3).
After this experience, Tolkien also thought about how a tape recorder might be of assistance professionally to himself and to other members of the Oxford English faculty. On 6 July1953, he wrote to the Secretary of Faculties, asking for a grant towards the purchase of a tape recording machine, which he said had impressed him when he had the opportunity of using such recorders outside of Oxford: ‘For seminars or small classes they are extraordinarily effective in the exhibition of phonetics and of linguistic change; and for “practical philology”, the reconstruction of past forms of speech and literary modes (a department in which I have long been especially interested and active) they have become an indispensable assistant.’ He said that he was fairly familiar with such machines, and had made a number of recordings, ‘some of which are in use for instructional purposes elsewhere’ (Oxford University Archives, Chronology pp. 401–402). He had in mind a portable recorder, which would be housed in his room at college but could be transported easily to lecture rooms or lent to other members of the School. At the English Faculty Board meeting on 16 October, his application for a grant was forwarded to the General Board with the English Faculty Board’s strong support; this was successful, and Tolkien was authorized to purchase a tape recorder with a grant of £100 to the Committee on Advanced Studies. It was agreed that this would be lent to Tolkien on the understanding that it would be kept in the English Faculty Library when the machine was not in use. It seems, however, that this arrangement was not generally followed: Tolkien retired at the end of Trinity Term 1959, and it was not until sometime in May or June 1960 that the recorder – a Ferranti – was collected from him by C.L. Wrenn and only then placed in the English Faculty Library.
During the summer of 1953, Tolkien was corresponding with P.H. Newby of the BBC about a projected radio broadcast of his Modern English translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Tolkien hoped that he might be allowed to read the poem for broadcast himself, but the BBC were not keen to have him do so, as Tolkien told George Sayer in a letter of 31 August 1953. In the same letter, Tolkien said that to work on Sir Gawain he had hired (rented) a tape recorder, an old Sound Mirror, the best he could get locally, which was ‘very helpful in matters of timing and speed. With the help of Christopher and Faith [Tolkien], I made some three voice experiments, and recordings of the temptation scenes. An enormous improvement – and assistance to the listener. Chris was making an extremely good (if slightly Oxonian . . .) Gawain, before we had to break off’ (George Sayer, ‘Recollections of J.R.R. Tolkien’, p. 24, emended with reference to the original letter, Chronology, p. 408).
On that same day, Tolkien also wrote to P.H. Newby that he had spent a couple of days conducting experiments with Sir Gawain on a tape recorder, ‘which have suggested various points to me. Among them, that the translation, as reading copy, needs smoothing and easing a bit at some points, even if it neglects the accuracy required in a printed form for use (largely) together with the original text. . . .’ (BBC Written Archives Centre, Chronology, p. 408). In consequence of the successful broadcast of Sir Gawain, Tolkien asked Newby in a letter dated 3 May 1954 if the BBC might be interested in broadcasting The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son, a play concerning the battle of Maldon, which he had written in alliterative verse, commenting that he himself had made a recording of it and thought it sounded very good. For this, he played all the parts and even made his own sound effects, including moving furniture to suggest the sound of wagon wheels. The play was ultimately broadcast by the BBC, but again not using Tolkien as an actor. He commented to the BBC producer on 22 September 1954 that ‘visual directions’ in Beorhtnoth could be disregarded, ‘though I am considering some additional lines. I have tested this by recording the whole thing on tape’ (BBC Written Archives Centre, Chronology, p. 440). Tolkien’s private recording was released, with other material recorded by Christopher Tolkien, as an audio cassette tape by HarperCollins, London, in a complimentary limited edition for the Tolkien Centenary Conference at Oxford in 1992.
Early in 1966, Tolkien’s publisher George Allen & Unwin agreed terms with the composer Donald Swann for the recording of his song cycle of Tolkien poems, The Road Goes Ever On. Originally the album was intended also to include readings of Tolkien poems by Swann’s At the Drop of a Hat colleague Michael Flanders, and for this, Tolkien used tape recordings to provide advice and assistance. On 28 March 1966, Tolkien wrote to Swann from the Hotel Miramar in Bournemouth that he had failed to find a tape recorder locally on which to record Galadriel’s lament (The Lord of the Rings, Book II, Chapter 8). If the matter were urgent, however, he was willing to make more enquiries, but if it could wait until he returned to Oxford, he would then make a tape; in any case, he sent some notes. This might suggest that Tolkien owned a tape recorder at this date, but later correspondence suggests that this was not the case, rather that he knew of one he could use.
During a visit by Donald Swann and his wife to the Tolkiens on 20 December 1966, it was agreed there should be a long-playing record with the song cycle performed by Swann and baritone William Elvin on one side, and Tolkien reading his own poems (rather than a reading by Michael Flanders) on the other. In early May 1967, Caedmon, the company producing the LP, sent Tolkien a Philips cassette tape recorder on which he could practice before making the actual recordings in Oxford on 15 June. While reading The Sea-Bell, he discovered an error in the text printed in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from The Red Book (1962). Later, with two men from Caedmon on hand, he made a finished recording of at least eight of the poems in the Bombadil volume, as well as the Elvish verses A Elbereth Gilthoniel and Namárië from The Lord of the Rings.§
Caedmon replaced the loaned machine on which Tolkien had practised with a gift of one for himself, sending him brochures from which to make his choice. Guided by Joy Hill, he chose the Philips Automatic Family De Luxe model. He received this on 8 August 1967, but since he was about to go away and needed some assistance in its use, it was not until 27 August that, with help, he spent ‘some time making recordings and investigating the capabilities of the Philips machine’. He found it easy to use, but the recordings not very good. He suspected that ‘the microphone provided is not equal in quality to the machine. Recordings that I made nine or ten years ago when reproduced by it were very superior to those made direct’ (letter to Joy Hill, 30 August 1967, Tolkien–George Allen & Unwin archive, HarperCollins, Chronology, p. 706). Nonetheless, he felt that it would be useful for practising. (We have not been able to find a reference online to this particular Philips model, but if Tolkien was able to play back tapes from the 1950s, which pre-dated audio cassettes, his new machine had to be of the reel-to-reel variety.)
In a letter of 6 March 1968, Tolkien offered to lend his grandson Michael George the tape recorder given him by Caedmon. He commented on the superior quality of the tapes made on his previous machine, the Ferranti provided by the University of Oxford, relative to his new recorder, which again he described as good except for its microphone. He also noted that he had had to have some of his older tapes renewed because of deterioration.
Images: Sleeve for the Caedmon LP of Tolkien reading from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; liner for the private audiocassette release of The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beohrthelm’s Son.
* We think the comments were made on a Facebook page, which is to say, on a page that changes and shuffles almost constantly and has an internal search mechanism that’s no help at all.
† Tolkien had much earlier (July 1929) worked briefly as an ‘actor’ for the Linguaphone Conversational Course in English, issued by the Linguaphone Institute of London as a set of 78 rpm records. He read the introduction to, and played one of two roles in, Lesson 20, ‘At the Tobacconist’s’, and again was one of two readers for Lesson 30, ‘Wireless’. In these he was joined by the author of the lessons, A. Lloyd James of the University of London. But this would have been a very different kind of recording than was done with the Sayers’ machine, in a studio rather than the home.
‡ In ‘Tales of the Ferrograph’, Sayer names the model as the ‘Mark I Ferrograph – it was their very first tape model’.
§ Five of these, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, The Mewlips, The Hoard, Perry-the-Winkle, and The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon, were first issued later in 1967 as part of the LP Poems and Songs of Middle Earth (sic). The J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection, first released in 2001, includes of all the material from the Caedmon LPs (except the song cycle) plus four poems recorded in 1967 but not previously issued: Errantry, Princess Mee, The Sea-Bell, and Namárië. A recent e-book edition of The Hobbit (not in our collection) evidently includes more recorded material from that work and is possibly part of The Hobbit material promised to accompany a facsimile of the first edition to be published in 2014.
At last! you say, and so do we. Tolkien Collector no. 33 went in the post this morning, and should reach current subscribers before long, allowing for the vagaries of postal service. Obviously we have not, as we hoped last time, managed to make The Tolkien Collector more than an annual publication, and with other contracted work in progress or on the horizon (which we’re not yet allowed to describe), and with Wayne’s day job having become even more demanding, the Collector isn’t likely to return soon to its original three- or four-issue per year schedule.
Those who receive no. 33 will notice that it is dated ‘July 2013’, which is when the text was completed; there was then a delay in printing and binding, and while we discussed whether or not to continue to accept subscriptions. In the end, we decided that since The Tolkien Collector appears so infrequently, it seems more fair to offer it per issue, as published, rather than accept payment without being able to deliver merchandise in a timely manner. Long gaps between issues also runs the risk of a subscriber having moved (or worse) in the interim, without sending us a change of address (our thanks to those who have): we have our fingers crossed that all of the copies posted today make it safely to their intended readers, without being returned to sender.
Those who have current subscriptions will have them honoured as long as they last, and each subscriber will find enclosed with no. 33 a coloured sheet indicating which number is the last. We will enclose similar sheets also with future issues, as appropriate. Otherwise, we will announce the publication of new numbers in this blog, on our website, and in relevant forums.
If anyone would like to write an article or note for The Tolkien Collector, we would be happy to hear from you.
Christina writes: In some ways, this past summer was the most pleasant for gardening since our greatly expanded landscaping in 2010. There were periods of very hot weather, but less extensive than before and with breaks in between. Also, since there was enough rain that we had no local water restrictions, I could set drip hoses or sprinklers as I did other garden tasks during the day, rather than Wayne and I both losing free time before breakfast every other day, in order to use only watering cans or hand-held hoses, and only before 8:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m.
In my last garden notes, almost four months ago, I commented that many plants and bushes seem to flower earlier each year, even supposedly late-flowering varieties which now are almost over by mid-August. This was true again this year, though our Rose of Sharon which began to flower early did continue to do so well into September. However, most of our annuals did very well and enjoyed an extended season, since we did not have a hard frost until the night of 28/29 October, several weeks later than usual. The red salvia at the corner of our driveway put on an exceptionally brave show, and a couple reflowering varieties of daylilies continued to produce the occasional bloom through October. As autumn progressed, the holly berries turned red, forming splashes of colour at the front of the house.
I was able to enjoy eating apples from our own trees: one (the Fuji) was especially productive, while another (Honeycrisp) produced only a few, and the third (Gala) none. The apples were rather small, even though Wayne thinned the new fruit early on to promote growth of the rest – not enough, it seems. Next year we must be even more drastic, be sure to apply cedar rust preventative at the right time, and maybe give the apple trees extra water. (On the subject of apples, I was delighted last year and again this year that our local whole foods shop for a brief time had my favourite Cox’s Orange Pippin available from an orchard in Vermont. This variety is very popular in England, but practically unknown in the U.S.A.)
During the autumn, I have started to plan for next year. For example, there were several clumps of phlox, all the same colour, already in the perennial bed when I came to Williamstown in 1995, sections of which I have periodically uprooted as they expanded, but this year, two small clumps looked particularly unhappy: very leggy, with yellowing leaves, and (despite spraying) attacked by mildew. I decided they should go, and had our landscaper remove them. I’ll decide next spring whether to replace them with more phlox of a different colour, or with something entirely different. I had the largest clump cut back and the space filled by subdividing some of the adjoining peonies, which were no longer producing so many flowers. Elsewhere, I had some of our larger hostas subdivided and the spare sections planted at the back to replace a Hydrangea quercifolia which had not survived the 2012–13 winter. I also had some of the iris clumps subdivided, but not all replanted. I love these in the spring when in flower and the leaves are still upright, not so much during the summer: as they grow tall and bend over, they encroach on the space of adjoining plants and look very untidy.
While Wayne was roaming Home Depot one weekend looking for materials for refitting the garage and potting shed, I spent my time in their garden section and was tempted by packs of bulbs. Since some of my earlier bulb plantings are no longer producing flowers (or have been dug up by squirrels), I bought 60 mixed daffodil bulbs to add to those planted sparsely around the apple trees; 75 crocus, partly to be planted in clumps in the beds and partly in the lawn; 75 grape hyacinth (Muscari) to add to an existing border; and 24 dwarf iris and 30 snowdrops to go in the beds along the front of the house. As plants begin to die back in autumn, I keep my spirits up by looking forward to the spring.
As our perennials faded in October and November, I began to cut them back. Some, such as the Shasta daises, reveal fresh growth when cut back. A few perennials, such as the heuchera with their variously coloured leaves, continue to look good, and I prefer to remove damaged leaves in the spring. By the time the first hard frost came at the end of October, killing most of the annuals overnight, most of the leaves were already off the trees. One day the Guinea impatiens stood with bright flowers above a thick layer of leaves, the next they were shrivelled, and when I went out to pull them up I had to push the leaves away to find the plants. We get a lot of leaves, mainly maple and birch, most of them are from trees in surrounding gardens.
It was not until the 20th November that our landscaper’s men came to do the autumn cleanup. They finished cutting back the perennials, cleared leaves from the beds which they then spread with compost that had been forming in large bins constructed from concrete blocks (Wayne calls these the ‘gun emplacements’) at the back extension of our property. The men needed to clear as much compost as possible to make space for the leaves they cleared from the beds and lawns. There were so many leaves, in fact, that they had to compact them somewhat by trampling on them, and even so the bins are almost overflowing. The men finished work that first day by giving our lawns their final mowing of the year. They then returned to spend the morning erecting fences to protect those plants most appetizing to deer, who might come out of the nearby forests at any time of the year but are most likely to visit in winter when food is scarce. We have some sympathy for them, but they can have quite a devastating effect, nibbling bushes down to the ground. Another reason for not encouraging them is that they carry Lyme disease, which can be quite serious if not quickly diagnosed. Unfortunately, the workers (no longer employed!) who took the fences down in the spring did not label them properly, and it took our landscaper, his two men, and me some time to unroll each bundle of wire netting and work out which piece went where.
A few days later, we had the first snowfall of the winter, not much in the wintry scheme of things in western Massachusetts, but enough for Wayne to brush (rather than shovel) it from the drive. Most of it soon melted. We have had several flurries since then, which have kept a sprinkling of white on the ground but, thankfully, not the heavy snowfalls that were at one time forecast for Thanksgiving.
Wayne writes: One of the home improvement projects I wanted to tackle when we had our renovations done in 2007 was a re-fit of our potting shed (attached to the north end of our garage), but as we ran out of time and money I put it on my long-term list of things to do myself. This year, I was determined to get at least most of the work done before (as has always happened before) cold weather set in and I had to postpone the job until spring. My conception of the shed has changed several times since my parents and I bought our house in 1978. For a long time, we kept it as originally described by the realtor, for garden work and as a convenient place to store the lawnmower and other tools. A previous owner had put up a cantilevered counter out of scrap wood, and had covered the stud walls with the remains of pallets from a local manufacturer; and in the latter, numerous nails had been driven willy-nilly, on which one could hang the odd rake or shovel. It was all as amateurish as could be, but a low priority for change as the years passed, both of my parents passed away, Christina and I married, we had book contracts, and so forth. At one point, I considered making the shed over into a printing shop, but as it’s unheated this was hardly practical; and since we rarely do actual repotting of plants, there was no point in restoring that function to the space. Instead, we decided to make it a small workshop, with a proper workbench and storage for hand and power tools, which I have used on a regular basis for repairs and odd jobs and wanted finally to organize, ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’.
In 2007, the most we could afford for the shed was to have an unsteady floor of bricks and carpet (talk about amateurish!) replaced with one of poured concrete, and overhead lights and ground-fault electrical outlets installed. Six years later, this past summer, I got busy at last, removed most of the scrap lumber from the shed walls, and mapped out what I could do economically, using new pegboard panels bought from Home Depot together with panelling and plywood left over from our renovations and spare shelving and brackets brought over from Christina’s London flat when she moved to Williamstown in 1995. I was pleased to make use of these materials, with a lot of galvanized screws, with a minimum of cutting except for short lengths of shelving installed between some of the studs. I already had a tool cabinet on wheels; instead of trying to build a workbench, I found one on Amazon of the right size, on which I mounted a small vise at one end. I have another, larger wood vise still to mount elsewhere on the bench, but that will be a little trickier.
As shown in the photos, many of our hand tools are now neatly hanging on pegboard, and there is ample shelving, or large plastic bins, for power tools and supplies. I re-mounted on metal brackets an old shelf that had been at one end of the shed, and we use this now to store clay pots. Below this is a new long shelf, on which are a variety of watering cans. On adjoining walls are more pegboard panels, for hanging metal plant rings and stakes, and hooks of various sizes for other purposes. In the garage proper, I mounted two lengths of a metal pegboard, called (really) the Holey Rail, on which now neatly hang our shovels, rakes, push brooms, and the like, as well as small ladders. Finally, next to the door from our house into the garage, I mounted another pegboard panel, and on this we store our small gardening tools: secateurs, loppers, trowels, etc. Home Depot have done very well out of this project, especially in supplying pegboard hooks, but it’s very satisfying to be able to find the tool you’re looking for &endash; provided that one remembers to put it back when finished with it.
Images, top to bottom: red salvia, then still hanging on beneath our locust trees; the ‘birch bed’ in front of the house, put to bed for the winter, with anti-deer fencing around holly and euonymus; our ‘gun emplacement’ bins, filled with leaves and other garden waste that will make lots of compost; the potting shed, now also a workshop; the east wall of the shed, with pots, watering cans, and such.
The Pocket Farmer Giles of Ham
The fiftieth anniversary edition of Farmer Giles of Ham, which we edited in 1999 with an introduction and notes, the text of the first, manuscript version of the work, Tolkien’s notes for a sequel, and a map of the ‘Little Kingdom’ by Pauline Baynes, will return to print in a ‘pocket’ edition from HarperCollins. This is due to be published on 27 February 2014. Pauline Baynes’s upper cover art for the 1978 edition has been adapted once again, now with a blackletter capital ‘H’ in ‘Ham’ to suggest the mock-medieval nature of Tolkien’s tale. HarperCollins asked if we had any corrections to make to our text; we pointed them to our addenda and corrigenda here, and will be interested to see what can be done, space permitting.
Once upon a time in The Tolkien Collector, we used to collect entries for Tolkien items offered in booksellers’ and auction catalogues. We gave that up eventually, when the majority of offerings were made online, in electronic catalogues or through services such as abebooks and eBay. But some dealers still issue catalogues, and we take note of Tolkien offerings when they appear, mainly to see how much a particular book is bringing now in the marketplace (and usually to be glad that we already have it and didn’t pay quite so much). In Blackwell’s Rare Books (Oxford) latest Antiquarian & Modern catalogue, a copy of the first one-volume paperback Lord of the Rings (Allen & Unwin, 1968) is listed at £200 (item 252), spine ‘lightly faded’ and with ‘minor rubbing along edges’ and ‘a small crease’ in the bottom corner of both panels illustrated by Pauline Baynes. Also in the catalogue, as item 253 and priced at £300, is a copy of the Society of Antiquaries Report on the Excavation of the Prehistoric, Roman, and Post-Roman Site in Lydney Park (1932), containing Tolkien’s appendix ‘The Name “Nodens”’. This is said to have ‘occasional light foxing’ and the binding ‘sunned overall with two small damp-spots to [the] back cover’, spine slightly worn, and ‘edges browned’.
Maud and Miska Petersham, husband and wife illustrators beloved in Wayne’s childhood, are the subject of a recent book by Lawrence Webster, Under the North Light: the Life and Work of Maud and Miska Petersham (Woodstockarts, 2012). Late in life, after Miska’s death, Maud planned to publish a Who’s Who in Fairylore, and for this sketched ‘The Family Tree of Fairy Folk’, in one corner of which is a hobbit relaxing with his pipe.
On October 3rd, we had just received the new regular and de luxe British editions of The Hobbit, illustrated by Jemima Catlin, and as described in our previous post, Christina had just reorganized our Hobbit bookcase to allow for growth. When it came time to put away the new copies, however, we found that the new editions were too tall for the space! and Christina needed to revise our Hobbit shelves once again. Library management is never-ending.
The post this week has brought two new editions of The Lord of the Rings. First to arrive was the ‘collector’s edition’ by HarperCollins, with each of the three hardcover volumes bound in decorated cloth and issued without dust-jackets. The text is that of the fiftieth anniversary edition, with the expanded index, the general map of Middle-earth printed in black and red on each front endsheet, and the map of Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor in black and red on each back endsheet. Although these volumes are available separately, we bought them in a slipcased set with the recent ‘collector’s edition’ Hobbit: each volume of The Lord of the Rings in our copy is the first printing, and The Hobbit is the third.
We have also had the new deluxe edition published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, bound in a dark grey suede-like cloth (leatherette) with deep black and gold lettering and decoration. The outer corners of both the boards and the pages are rounded. The bottom margin is cut unusually close for a hardcover, and the binding is tight though flexible. Again, the text is that of the fiftieth anniversary edition, with the expanded index; the larger maps are printed, in black only, at the end of the volume. The 2013 HMH catalogue describes this as a ‘pocket edition’, which at 8¼ × 6 × 2¼ in. presupposes a large pocket. The catalogue also calls for ‘gilt edges’ but the only gilt is applied to the rings stamped on the upper cover and spine.
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, a book of commissioned essays edited by noted children’s literature specialist Peter Hunt, has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan in the Children’s Literature subset of their series New Casebooks. As usual when we receive a new Tolkien-related book, we turned first to its bibliography, to see which sources have been used, and if any essential or more up-to-date references have been omitted – often a good method for judging the quality of a book in advance of reading. In this case, instead of documenting the works cited by the essay authors (for which one must look at individual sets of endnotes), Hunt makes suggestions for ‘Further Reading’. About half of these are works on Tolkien in particular, with the rest on fantasy and children’s literature in general.
Under the heading ‘On Tolkien’s life’, Hunt lists only four works: Carpenter’s Biography, Tolkien’s Letters, John Garth’s Tolkien and the Great War, and Carpenter’s The Inklings. All well and good: but (though it’s hardly modest for us to ask) where is our J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, with its long Chronology, numerous biographical Guide entries, and substantial information not published elsewhere? Seven years on since its publication, one can no longer claim that the Companion and Guide is new and unfamiliar; and indeed, Hunt does include it, but in the section ‘On Tolkien’s work’. There he writes:
Tolkien may well be unrivalled for the ‘comprehensive’ reference works devoted to him. Every possible (it might seem) cultural and literary reference in his books is tracked in J.E.A. Taylor’s [sic] The Complete Tolkien Companion, 3rd edn (London: Pan, 2002). But that book’s 736 pages pale beside the nearly 1000 pages of Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull’s The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion (London: HarperCollins, 2008 [i.e. the revised trade paperback]), which is in its turn dwarfed by the 2304 pages of Hammond and Scull’s The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion [sic], 2 vols (London: HarperCollins, 2006).
Did Professor Hunt perhaps group these books together because they run to a large number of pages (is size their only virtue?), or because they happen to share the word companion in their titles? Tyler’s work, an encyclopedia of characters, places, etc. in the ‘matter of Middle-earth’ (and less useful than Robert Foster’s Complete Guide to Middle-earth), in fact does not include ‘every possible . . . cultural and literary reference’ in Tolkien’s works – far from it. Nor is our book of annotations to The Lord of the Rings comparable to Tyler’s work, but is of a very different sort. And as for our Companion and Guide, although it’s concerned with Tolkien’s works, it’s also, and primarily, biographical (or historical) rather than critical, and so would have been more naturally categorized in the Hunt volume under ‘On Tolkien’s life’.
We quibble about this because the Companion and Guide is often forgotten as a biographical source, or at least not used in that regard to the extent it might be. As John Garth wrote in Tolkien Studies 4 (2007), ‘with the arrival of the Companion and Guide there ought now to be no excuse, beyond sheer laziness, for other biographers to use Humphrey Carpenter’s 1977 J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography as virtually the sole source of information about Tolkien’s life, as too many have done’ (p. 258). Later, in Tolkien Studies 6 (2009, p. 315), David Bratman judged (though we ourselves would not go so far) that the Companion and Guide had ‘instantly superseded Humphrey Carpenter’s long-standard Tolkien: A Biography as the source of first reference for biographical data on the man’. And in Amon Hen 203 (January 2007), David Doughan more succinctly called the Companion and Guide ‘probably the most useful biographical reference on Tolkien ever’ (p. 28). Very welcome comments, all, and only a few of many. We would hope that the length of the Companion and Guide would not put off readers – as a reference book, it hardly demands that one read it straight through (though some have done so) – nor can its cost be considered high for a work of that length. We don’t find it cited (neither is the Reader’s Companion) by any of the authors in Hunt’s book.
Hunt’s ‘Further Reading’ is a curiously mixed set of suggestions. It appears primarily to reflect his own reading behind his editorial introduction to the volume, and to have been guided in no small part by Brian Rosebury’s choice of sources in his 2003 Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon. For Hunt, the ‘two essential books on Tolkien’ are Rosebury’s Cultural Phenomenon and The Road to Middle-earth by Tom Shippey, with a nod also to Shippey’s J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, books we ourselves marked as ‘particularly useful’ in the bibliography of our Companion and Guide. But – granting that, as Hunt says, ‘the list of specialist studies [on Tolkien] could be extended almost indefinitely’ – he unaccountably omits any mention, though one would reasonably expect it in a book in which The Hobbit features so prominently, of Douglas A. Anderson’s Annotated Hobbit and John D. Rateliff’s History of The Hobbit; and he recommends the very limited 1983 J.R.R. Tolkien: This Far Land, edited by Robert Giddings, as ‘an assured collection’ while failing to include The Lord of the Rings 1954–2004: Scholarship in Honor of Richard E. Blackwelder, cited by several of Hunt’s essayists, and even by Hunt himself, or Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on the History of Middle-earth, or A Tolkien Compass, or the journal Tolkien Studies – to say no more.
Christina writes: One of the most important parts of our home renovation in 2007 was work undertaken to make our basement dry and to add (as we mentioned on introducing this blog) several hundred linear feet of new bookshelves. These were a welcome safety valve in particular for our ‘Tolkien library’ – once, and still at a pinch, a dining room – where our collection of Tolkien’s works was stuffed, too tight for safekeeping and in places double-shelved, into seven large bookcases, seven feet high by three feet wide. Once our ‘stacks’ became available, we moved to the basement a section of Tolkien in translation, thereby gaining space in the library for English-language editions. Works from A Middle English Vocabulary to The Lord of the Rings then occupied the four bookcases on the west wall, and subsequent titles, periodicals, etc. were kept in the three bookcases on the east wall.
This was not as straightforward as it might seem. As far as possible, we try to shelve Tolkien’s books in the order used in Wayne’s J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography: that is, divided into books by Tolkien, books to which Tolkien contributed or which he edited or translated, periodical contributions, published letters, published art, and miscellaneous, arranged in each section chronologically by title, edition, and printing. (Translations of Tolkien’s works into foreign languages are a section unto themselves, arranged by language.) But unless one has the endless shelves of Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Library, eventually any organizing system for an active, growing collection has to give way to division also by size. Our Tolkien library bookcases have six adjustable shelves, i.e. seven shelves including the bottom one, and enough height that, in general, only the tallest books have to be removed from strict order; but at the same time, for The Lord of the Rings and boxed sets of that work with The Hobbit, following the Bibliography order creates runs of several feet of mass-market paperbacks (e.g. Ballantine editions) or of Allen & Unwin (and successors) one-volume paperbacks, and because these volumes are relatively short, in two bookcases we have been able to insert an extra shelf.
After our rearrangement of the collection at the end of 2007, there was a comfortable amount of empty space in the Tolkien library, and one empty shelf between The Hobbit and Farmer Giles of Ham seemed a reasonable allowance for growth for The Hobbit, since all separate editions of that work published since 1937 occupied just under five shelves. But as new editions have been issued during the last six years, that spare shelf has been almost filled, and there are more books to come in conjunction with the second and third Hobbit films; and although we still had two empty shelves at the end of our Lord of the Rings section (down from three and a half in 2007), more boxed sets will be published soon, so using this space for Hobbit expansion didn’t seem a particularly good solution. In any case, I knew that it would be a major task indeed to move the Lord of the Rings section a shelf forward without breaking up the multiple sequences described in the Bibliography. I also disliked the idea of moving just one shelf of The Hobbit to the end, and moving the section of Farmer Giles of Ham would not provide much space.
Then a few days ago, we were wondering what to do with two small bamboo shelving units we had had in the kitchen but no longer wanted there. These were made to be hung on a bedroom or bathroom wall (I had them in my flat in London), and for only lightweight storage on shelves with low clearance. It occurred to me, though, that they might fit well in one particular spot on the north wall of the Tolkien library, and that they would be suitable for mass market paperbacks on the lower shelves and taller (but relatively lightweight) books on the open top shelf. Ballantine editions of The Lord of the Rings were an obvious candidate; but as there was enough space for only part of the Ballantine run, I chose the later issues, from the introduction of cover illustrator Darrell K. Sweet in 1981, leaving the earlier printings with the main run in our big bookcases, preceding the Allen & Unwin second edition. The removal of the Sweet editions from the second bookcase on the west wall left enough space to move some editions of The Lord of the Rings from the bottom shelf of the first bookcase to the top shelf of the second (Ace Books) and to the taller third shelf (some Allen & Unwin first editions and Houghton Mifflin first editions). Farmer Giles of Ham and other Allen & Unwin first editions moved to the bottom shelf. At the other end of The Lord of the Rings, there are now three empty shelves.
To make room for future issues of Tolkien Studies, I removed the run of Seven: An Anglo-American Literary Review from one of the low bookcases under the library’s bow window and placed it on the top shelf of one of the bamboo bookcases. No doubt there will be more Ballantine editions to go in this case as new cover issues appear. In the meantime, we’ve gained some space for more copies of The Hobbit – for a while. Already there are two U.K. editions illustrated by Jemima Catlin waiting to be listed, and the U.S. edition of the Catlin Hobbit is in the post.
Images, top to bottom: Two of our large ‘Tolkien library’ bookcases, with a little room for more copies of The Hobbit (the drapes are a William Morris fabric, ‘Pomegranate’ (or ‘Fruit’); the framed drawing is by Pauline Baynes for Smith of Wootton Major); the relocated bamboo bookcases with relocated books (the decorated tobacco jar, a gift from René van Rossenberg, contains Tolkien-related buttons).
Our post of 4 February, concerning the five titles with illustrations by Pauline Baynes in the series Blackie’s Library of Famous Books, drew replies from fellow collectors, who sent us valuable information. Since then, we have had a helpful response to questions sent to the British Library about their copy of Andersen’s Fairy Tales, and we have been able to determine that Blackie & Son moved their London offices from 66 Chandos Place to 16/18 William IV Street in 1951.
Most interesting of all, we have found that Pauline Baynes art was first included in the Blackie Andersen’s Fairy Tales alongside black and white illustrations by Helen Stratton, whose pictures had accompanied the Blackie Andersen for many years. Two of the copies of this revised Andersen called to our attention, as well as the British Library copy, are illustrated primarily by Stratton, but with a colour frontispiece by Baynes and a title-page drawing after Baynes (adapted from her dust-jacket art for the Blackie Grimm’s Fairy Tales). Since the copies give the first London address for the publisher on the verso of the half-title leaf as 66 Chandos Place (Blackie’s London office from 1941 to 1951), and a ‘Book Production War Economy Standard’ notice also is printed on that page (referring to a conservation scheme which ended in 1949), and in two of the copies there is a 1949 ownership date, we have dated the first appearance of the Baynes art, and of her paintings for an accompanying dust-jacket, to [1949?].
Sometime later, the Stratton art was removed from the Blackie Andersen and replaced with further ink drawings by Baynes, added to her existing frontispiece and title-page art. The text type was reset as well. So far, the earliest copies of this new edition known to us give the publisher’s London address as 16/18 William IV Street, and thus can have appeared no earlier than 1951; and as noted in our earlier post, our copy with this address has an ownership inscription dated 1954, providing a range for the printing date from 1951 to 1954. Since the artist’s copy, preserved in the Pauline Baynes Archive at Williams College, likewise contains the William IV Street address, it seems reasonable to suppose that the copy represents the first appearance of the new Baynes illustrations, and therefore we have dated the new edition to [1951?]. Of course, this conclusion may be refined as more information about further copies comes to hand.
Wayne writes: Late last summer, I was asked to write about some aspect of the work of Maurice Sendak for the Newsletter* of the Children’s Books History Society, as part of an extended obituary and appreciation – Sendak had passed away in May 2012. I chose to focus on two of my favorite Sendak books, The Sign on Rosie’s Door (1960) and The Nutshell Library (1962). For the sake of context, however, I looked again at the complete range of Sendak’s work, and in the process recalled that he was once engaged to illustrate a deluxe edition of The Hobbit for J.R.R. Tolkien’s primary American publisher, Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Thereby hangs a tale which has been confused in the telling.
News of this might-have-been Hobbit briefly dominated geek websites in March 2011. The key article was written for the Los Angeles Times ‘Hero Complex’ page by Spiderwick Chronicles creator Tony DiTerlizzi. ‘Reinterpretation’, he argued, is ‘integral to the lifespan of a classic, whether book or film’, and each generation of readers should have an edition of a timeless story that speaks directly to them, in a style and design they find familiar. For DiTerlizzi, Maurice Sendak, the beloved Caldecott Medal-winning author-illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are, was ‘the perfect visionary to reinterpret’ Tolkien’s Hobbit.
According to DiTerlizzi – using information he received from Wicked author Gregory Maguire, who in turn had interviewed Sendak – Tolkien requested samples to judge Sendak’s suitability for the job. ‘Begrudgingly, Sendak obliged, creating two finished images – one of wood-elves dancing in the moonlight, and another of Bilbo relaxing outside his hobbit hole smoking his pipe beside Gandalf.’ But (as the story goes) an editor mislabelled these, identifying the wood-elves as hobbits. ‘This blunder nettled Tolkien. His reply was that Sendak had not read the book closely and did not know what a hobbit was. Consequently, Tolkien did not approve the drawings. Sendak was furious.’ A meeting between illustrator and author was arranged while Sendak was in England for the U.K. release of Where the Wild Things Are; but before this could occur, Sendak had a heart attack, putting him in hospital for weeks. At last, the project was abandoned. ‘Had Sendak’s edition been released,’ DiTerlizzi stated, ‘I have no doubt it would have been a smashing success. I even speculate that he would have been asked to continue onward with “The Lord of the Rings.”’
Replies to this article on the ‘Hero Complex’ page were mixed, some agreeing with DiTerlizzi’s opinions, others finding fault with Sendak’s sample drawing of Bilbo and Gandalf at Bag-End (reproduced with the article). Christina and I added our own comments, referring to correspondence about the Sendak Hobbit between Houghton Mifflin and Tolkien’s British publisher, George Allen & Unwin, which we had read in the course of our research. ‘Mr. DiTerlizzi’, we wrote,
says that Sendak was invited to illustrate The Hobbit ‘in the late 1960s’; in fact, Sendak signed a contract in 1964, and asked for a couple of years to do the work. The article implies that the only hurdle to Sendak’s involvement was Tolkien, who in 1967 ‘was still overseeing his Middle-earth empire’; in fact, Tolkien had already, in 1963, allowed Houghton Mifflin to get on with a deluxe ‘Hobbit’ to be illustrated by Virgil Finlay (who seems to have dropped out; Tolkien made some positive comments on his sample picture), and when Sendak was proposed he continued in the same manner. Far from ‘overseeing an empire’, by which we suppose Mr. DiTerlizzi means micromanaging, Tolkien tended to defer to his publishers on business matters. Sendak may have made sample drawings ‘begrudgingly’, but they seem to have been expected of him by all concerned, as from any artist, even one so distinguished.
In regard to the misidentification of the ‘wood-elves’ drawing, the correspondence between Houghton Mifflin and Allen & Unwin in January–February 1967 clearly refers to only one image sent by Austin Olney at Houghton Mifflin, received by Joy Hill at Allen & Unwin, and shown to Tolkien by Rayner Unwin: the picture of Gandalf and Bilbo. Tolkien saw it on 16 February 1967, and on 20 February Rayner wrote to Houghton Mifflin that Tolkien was not ‘wildly happy about the proportions of the figures’, Bilbo being too large relative to Gandalf. There is no indication that Tolkien saw a picture of dancing wood-elves, so any mislabelling ‘blunder’ was of no consequence.
We might have added that DiTerlizzi’s fulsome praise for the ‘spec pieces’, comparing them to ‘etchings by the likes of Rembrandt and Samuel Palmer’, could hardly have applied to more than the one sample drawing (of Bilbo and Gandalf), since – as DiTerlizzi himself noted – only this drawing is known to survive, along with Sendak’s marked copy of The Hobbit, in the Beinecke Library of Yale University; he could not have seen the ‘wood-elves’ drawing, which is nowhere to be found.
In 2004, Christina and I were invited to attend a session of the Children’s Literature New England conference held in Williamstown, at which Sendak was the guest of honor and was interviewed on stage by Gregory Maguire. The story of the aborted Hobbit came up. Sendak spoke with indignation about what had happened, but Christina and I knew that what he recalled didn’t match the archival evidence. Of course, it may be that Sendak misremembered, or that he recalled only what he had been told by Houghton Mifflin; it may be that their account was garbled, or altered to make it less displeasing to an important illustrator; or it may be that Sendak’s ‘wood-elves’ drawing was thought so poor by publishers’ intermediaries that it was deliberately withheld from the author – who, after all, had already illustrated The Hobbit himself. Sendak’s drawing of Bilbo and Gandalf appears to have been done quickly, perhaps under pressure to produce an overdue sample. I wonder if Sendak was ever fully invested in the project – it would be interesting to see what he wrote or drew in his working copy of The Hobbit, as a gauge of his dedication.
When Sendak was approached by Houghton Mifflin about The Hobbit at the beginning of 1964, Where the Wild Things Are had just been published, though it had not yet won the Caldecott Medal. Sendak had received four Caldecott Honor awards, so was already an illustrator of some repute. The cachet of a Caldecott Medal (announced in March 1964 and accepted by Sendak in June) changed the game dramatically. Although Sendak thought that work on The Hobbit would take only two years, three went by before he produced trial art. In the meantime, he illustrated several other books. He never lacked for projects, and after Where the Wild Things Are became enormously popular, he had enough financial security that, having illustrated so many books by others, he was eager to assert, in a way greater than he already had, his own preferences and taste.
At any rate, in 1964 the editors at Houghton Mifflin probably had Where the Wild Things Are particularly in mind, at least as proof that Sendak could handle a tale of ‘there and back again’, if a very short tale compared to Tolkien’s book. It was Sendak’s most ambitious and most impressive work to that date, though in some respects a development of his most common style, influenced by comic strips and cartoons. But he had also made some increasingly sophisticated and very successful ink drawings, based on nineteenth-century illustrations, an influence already at the beginning of his career. Many of these appeared in the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik, which began in 1957. By the time he made his Hobbit specimen, Sendak had done elaborate pen work for (among others) a 1966 collection of stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, George Macdonald’s The Golden Key in 1967 (another near-connection with Tolkien, who had been asked to write the introduction but bowed out, transforming his work into Smith of Wootton Major), and, also in 1967, Sendak’s own Higglety Pigglety Pop!
His Hobbit specimen suggests that he would have illustrated Tolkien’s book in this vein. Would his more developed drawings – especially his very accomplished pictures for The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm (1973) – been to Tolkien’s liking? Maybe so, if Sendak had paid attention to Tolkien’s descriptions and visual clues, and if his art was not too outlandish. Tolkien wrote, concerning Virgil Finlay’s sample art for The Hobbit: ‘as long (as seems likely) he will leave humour to the text and pay reasonable attention to what the text says, I shall I expect be quite happy’. And also: ‘With regard to the “redressed” American Hobbit, I am inclined to let Houghton Mifflin get on with it according to their own taste.’ I have no doubt that Sendak too would have been allowed to ‘get on with it’, in some mutually agreeable form. But he never returned to The Hobbit after recovering from his heart attack. Christina and I have found nothing in publishers’ archives to explain why. It may be, as Sendak’s fame continued to grow, that Houghton Mifflin ultimately couldn’t afford him, or that he became more interested (he certainly became more involved, and was very skilled) in designing for theatre and opera. In any event, as Sendak said in his speech accepting the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in April 1970, his ‘passion for making books’ had given him ‘a distinct vision’ of what he wanted his books to be, ‘a vision difficult to verbalize. I am now in search of a form more purely and essentially my own.’ If Sendak had illustrated The Hobbit, I’m sure the result would have been worth seeing, if probably not the masterpiece above all masterpieces that Tony DiTerlizzi predicted.
* My article was published in the March 2013 issue.
Wedgwood Millennium Plate
At the turn of the new millennium, Wedgwood issued a series of decorative calendar plates. We have just acquired one of these, for 1999, on eBay, because it is devoted to English literature and celebrates Tolkien along with Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Arnold Bennett, and Dame Agatha Christie. Each author is represented by a roundel illustration for one of his or her works, or which evokes a body of work. For Tolkien, this is a picture for chapter 12 of The Hobbit, of Bilbo and the dragon Smaug sleeping on his hoard. Bilbo, however, is wearing a helmet (which he acquires only later in the story) and is putting treasure into a sack as large as the hobbit himself (whereas in The Hobbit Bilbo is just able to carry out a single cup). Unlike the figure in Tolkien’s painting Conversation with Smaug, Bilbo is not wearing boots.
Tolkien is among five authors inducted this year into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was founded in 1996 and is now based at the EMP Museum in Seattle, where Tolkien’s three-dimensional portrait has been laser-etched onto a Lucite block. Inductees are nominated by members of the Museum and ‘chosen by a panel of award-winning science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, editors, publishers, and film professionals’. Most of the inductees to date are known more for science fiction rather than fantasy (as far as any distinction can now be made). By coincidence, also inducted in this round was Joanna Russ, who wrote an unpublished play based on The Hobbit.
As mentioned in Tolkien Notes 7, our Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien was nominated for a Locus Magazine award in the category of Art Book. In the event, we came in third of five; the winner was Spectrum 19: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art.
When Hobbitus Ille, the translation of The Hobbit into Latin by Mark Walker, was published last September, we ordered it at once, and (as collectors) were annoyed to receive a copy of the second printing, not the first. Who would have thought that a Latin edition of The Hobbit would be in so much demand as to need at least two printings by the time of publication? Since Hobbitus Ille isn’t a primary edition of a Tolkien work, only a translation of one, we didn’t bother to pursue a first printing, though we never forget that we didn’t have one. Then, just a week ago, while visiting a Barnes & Noble bookshop in Albany, New York, what should we find but a first printing of Hobbitus Ille! Christina almost didn’t look at the two copies on the shelf, and after checking one of them and finding it was a second printing, she almost didn’t check the other. So now we’re happy, as well as interested to know that copies of the HarperCollins U.K. edition were imported for sale in the U.S.A.
We would have enjoyed seeing the Bodleian Libraries’ current exhibition, ‘Magical Books: From the Middle Ages to Middle-earth’, on display through 27 October, but as we won’t be visiting Oxford before then, we have to make do with the accompanying book, Magical Tales: Myth Legend & Enchantment in Children’s Books, edited by Carolyne Larrington and Diane Purkiss (Bodleian Library, 2013). This includes frequent references to Tolkien, and to some of Christina’s favourite childhood books, as well as others she has discovered and enjoyed as an adult.
Magical Tales reproduces in colour three of Tolkien’s pictures for The Hobbit: his dust-jacket art (with annotations), the watercolour Conversation with Smaug, and a drawing in black and red, Firelight in Beorn’s House. There is also one of his ‘facsimile’ pages from the ‘Book of Mazarbul’ for The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s nicely calligraphed manuscript of the first lines of the Old English Exodus with the beginning of a lecture on that poem, and a 1947 manuscript postcard written by ‘Kay’ (Katharine) Farrer to Tolkien, using Anglo-Saxon runes.
The editorial caption for Tolkien’s Exodus manuscript page reads: ‘The word middeangard, found at the beginning of the poem, means “Middle-earth”, and Old English is the language of the Rohirrim, or Riders of Rohan’ (p. 96). On the surface, yes, but as Tolkien points out in the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, although he used Old English for the Rohirrim, it was not their actual language. There are pitfalls for the unwary who walk in Tolkien territory! Then there is Ms. Larrington’s unfortunate comment on p. 63, on the evolution of the story of Túrin. Tolkien, she wrote, made use of Norse legend ‘in the early unfinished story The Children of Húrin, begun in the form of an epic poem during the First World War. The tale was finally completed by Christopher Tolkien and published in 2007.’ There are at least three errors in this statement, which conflates several stages of composition. On the same page, her comment that the dwarves in The Hobbit are ‘on a quest to win back the Lonely Mountain from the dragon’ seems to derive from the Jackson film rather than from Tolkien.
Christina writes: As I noted at the end of my last gardening post, May is a busy month in the garden which leaves me little time for weeding. This year the weeds as well as the ‘official residents’ of our garden prospered with plentiful rainfall at the end of May and early June. So, having dealt with most other tasks in May, I was able to devote the first two weeks of June to weeding each bed in turn, occasionally doing a quick sweep of those dealt with earliest to remove new invaders. Luckily, more rainfall meant that I did not need to spend much time watering.
When we began our landscaping in 2010 we planted thirteen mountain laurels (Kalmia latifolia) along a bed on the far side of a narrow lawn at the back of our house, backing on to part of a neighbouring garden filled with trees. To provide diversity in leaves and flower colour in this long stretch, we chose several different varieties: ‘Nipmunk’, ‘Nathan Hale’, ‘Kaleidoscope’, ‘Yankee Doodle’, and ‘Pristine’. One unintentional result was some difference in shrub size – all looked larger in the nurseries. The three white mountain laurels (‘Pristine’) were always smaller than the rest. One barely survived the 2010–11 winter, and left such a hole that we had it replaced with a ‘Carousel’ (as we could not find another white-flowered variety).
Then in 2012 one of the two ‘Pristine’ survivors was badly damaged by a small branch falling on it from a neighbour’s tree and lost half its branches. This was very noticeable, as it was in a rather wide gap between two larger shrubs. (When planting the shrubs in 2010 the spacing had to be adjusted to avoid large roots from the trees in the adjoining garden.) This year, I had our landscaper remove the damaged ‘Pristine’ and replant it just behind the other surviving one, to suggest more bulk, while planting a new white mountain laurel in the space vacated. I copied this trick from him: in 2010 he suggested replanting in a group the three ‘White Lights’ azaleas we had bought about ten years earlier, which, after blooming for two years, had just hung onto life with a few leaves and maybe a flower every few years. Planted together in 2010, they had some presence and have done well growing into a single shrub, though it is interesting that the colour of their blossom now varies a little, perhaps the result of one of them having spent some years in a different part of the garden.
I mentioned in my May Notes that the buddleia (butterfly bush) we added last year did not survive the winter. We decided to try again, and also to add a second buddleia at the edge of our rhododendron and azalea bed. It took our landscaper some time to find two of the dwarf variety. In fact, he obtained them just before we were about to leave on our Midwestern trip, so we had to ask him to keep them and water them until our return. So far, both of the ‘Lo & Behold “Blue Chip”’ buddleias seem to be doing well, though, having been planted so late, will probably not grow as much as last year’s. I just hope that they survive the winter.
At end of July or in early August, we usually find some gaps in the perennial bed, partly because certain perennials (such as poppies) need to be cut back after flowering, and partly to replace annuals which have not done well. We did not need so much this year, so restricted our visit on the last Saturday in July to the nearest nursery, Whitney’s. At this time of year, most plants are reduced in price, but there is not so much choice. Even so, we found quite a few plants to load into the car. Perennials included a Stokes’ aster (Stokesia laevis) ‘Peachie’s Pick’, which should provide colour for some time; one sweet William to fill a gap which had developed in the middle of the area devoted to this plant; and an ‘Astra Pink’ balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflora) to put next to blue and white specimens planted last year which are just coming into flower – I had not previously seen a pink variety. Annuals included more superbells, another double impatiens to put beside the three we bought earlier, and four pots of lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum), a plant previously unknown to me, two ‘Mermaid Pink’ and two ‘Florida Sky Blue’.
A second round of weeding occupied the first week of July, less time than that in June, partly because there were fewer weeds – many crowded out by the ‘official’ plants, but also I was perhaps a little less fussy wanting to get round before we left for the Midwest on 10 July. For the first two days, rain allowed me to skip watering, but this was not to be so on the other days, especially as the temperature rose into the high 80s, accompanied by high humidity. I spent most of 9 July making sure that everything got thoroughly watered. There was practically no rain while we were away, and temperatures reached the low 90s. One of the first things we did when we got back home on 17 July was to set some drip hoses going, and on the 18th spent several hours providing water to all the beds. The lawns, which we generally do not water and which had been cut low in our absence, had developed bare patches. The hot temperatures lasted a few days, then gradually dropped through the 80s during the next week. The latter part of my latest round of weeding, begun on 24 July and completed on 6 August, has been in the much more pleasant conditions of temperatures in the 70s, with lower humidity. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the excessive heat does not return this year, though it’s not unusual to have high temperatures through August.
Generally we have had more rain this spring and summer than in the last few years, no late frosts, and only a comparatively short spell of really hot humid weather. Many of the plants in our garden and elsewhere have flourished in these conditions. Daylilies have produced many flowers. We have a large number of daylilies: ‘Stella D’Oro’ and ‘Purple Waters’ around the lamp-post at the north end of the perennial bed and towards the driveway under the locust trees; a lovely double orange variety given us by a neighbour to one side of the lilacs, and a variety of different colours along the beds at the front of the house: ‘Always Afternoon’, ‘Bali Hai’, ‘Chicago Apache’, ‘Custard Candy’, ‘Daring Deception’, ‘Doubleicious’, ‘Fairy Tale Pink’, ‘Fooled Me’, ‘Going Bananas’, ‘Hall’s Pink’, ‘Mini-Pearl’, ‘Prairie Blue Eyes’, and ‘Rosy Returns’. At the peak, I was deadheading about three hundred flowers a day, almost double if I missed a day, and about two bucketsful after our return from the Midwest. Most of the lilies have already finished flowering or are nearing the end, but I still have about fifty flowers a day to deadhead, and now the shasta daisies are beginning to reach the deadheading stage. Other plants which have done especially well are the oriental poppies, astilbe, and bee balm.
Our rose of Sharon ‘Lavender Chiffon’ produced its first two flowers the day after we returned from the Midwest, and has had more flowers than in any previous year, a glorious sight. But that flowering is very early: our landscaper says that it shouldn’t flower until the beginning of September. Each year, so-called late plants such as black-eyed Susans have been flowering earlier, so that there is very little to flower by early September. The perennial bed suffers the most, though the annuals, mainly along one edge, provide some colour. Elsewhere, shrubs and shade plants provide a variety of leaf colour and shape. At the moment on the spireas, which were pruned after flowering, new growth is providing pink-tinged leaves. And the heuchera in the shade beds produce leaves in a multitude of colours: purple, orange, rose red, light and dark green, and green veined with red.
According to the newspapers, local beekeepers lost most of their hives last winter, and indeed we have had far more bumblebees than honeybees visiting our plants. Their favourites, on which we often see up to a dozen at a time moving from flower to flower, are ‘Copper’, a low-bush honeysuckle, St John’s wort ‘Chocolate Lion’, and, of course, bee balm. Usually we also see bees on the lavender, but that has not done so well this year: it had become very unshapely, and our landscaper cut it right back in the spring. It has not grown back as fast as we expected, nor have its flowers been as plentiful. It may need more time to recover, or perhaps the weather may have been wrong for it, as a neighbour has reported that hers has not done well either. We’ll hope it will do better next year.
Images (top to bottom, taken on a slightly overcast day): part of the bed immediately in front of our house, showing sedum, daylilies, spirea, and Japanese willow; bee balm, catmint, and daylilies around the lamppost; more daylilies in front of the house; rose of Sharon, with a honeybee.