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A Working Library, Part One

November 19, 2011

Christina writes: A large part of our personal library helps us to write about J.R.R. Tolkien, Pauline Baynes, and Arthur Ransome, among other subjects in which we’re interested. We consider our ‘working library’ to include works by or about these authors and artists, as well as books which help to place the subjects within their contemporary setting, illuminate special aspects of their lives and work, and deal with their creative and publishing history. Added to these are works which may have influenced them or show their influence. In this and a second post, I want to give our readers an idea of that part of our collections on which Wayne and I have been able to base much of our Tolkien-related work (that is, exclusive of our research trips to libraries to study original material).

Although I first read Tolkien in 1955 and bought my own copy of The Lord of the Rings in 1956, by the beginning of 1981 my Tolkien collection filled probably no more than two feet of shelf space. Then, the BBC dramatization of The Lord of the Rings having reinvigorated my interest, I set out to acquire original printings or photocopies of Tolkien’s writings listed by Humphrey Carpenter in Appendix C of his biography. In conjunction with the BBC broadcasts, many bookshops had Tolkien displays: I can still visualize such a table in London’s Foyles Bookshop. I already had two sets of The Lord of the Rings (including the second edition of 1966), but now I wanted the single volume on India paper, and the three-volume paperback set with cover art adapted from Pauline Baynes’ triptych painting of Middle-earth. I had set my foot on the slippery slope and become a collector! More than that, I became interested in all aspects of Tolkien: his academic works, biography, bibliography and textual changes, translations, influences on him, his contribution to general culture. I used my collection in writing articles for Tolkien journals, but it really came into its own when Wayne and I began to receive book commissions from HarperCollins and the Tolkien Estate.

Wayne, on his part, from 1970 had been buying Tolkien purely as an interested reader, not yet a scholar, but began to collect more ambitiously once he decided to write a descriptive bibliography of Tolkien’s works and found that a personal collection of them, in both British and American editions, was necessary for the task, public and university library copies being often rebound, lacking a jacket, stolen, or otherwise unavailable in original condition. Since a bibliographer should examine as many copies of an item as possible to look for variations, Wayne also sought out other private collectors – and that’s how we met, in spring 1983, agreeing both to exchange information and to help each other fill gaps in our respective Tolkien libraries. (Such arrangements were common among Tolkien collectors at that time, in the days before Internet shopping, to overcome the difficulties of ordering from abroad and paying for publications in a foreign currency.) Of course, when we started this friendly exchange, we had no idea that our collections would someday merge; when they did, we sold most of our duplicates (after checking carefully to see that they really were duplicates) except for those of frequently used items which we kept as working copies to save wear and tear on our main collection. Wayne has about 5 linear feet (1.5 metres) of working copies in the studio where he works, and I have about the same on a cart in the room we call the Tolkien Library but which by no means contains the whole of our Tolkien collection.

By now, most of the editions and many printings of Tolkien’s works documented in Wayne’s Descriptive Bibliography are present in our collection. We have also continued to acquire new books by Tolkien, which have been documented in The Tolkien Collector and eventually will be described more fully in a second edition of the Bibliography.

We made extensive use of our multiple editions of The Lord of the Rings when working on the 50th anniversary edition of that work and when giving an account of its textual changes over the years in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion. I spent much time tracing typos and variants back to their source, with several key editions spread out on a table. Having pinpointed a change, I would then follow it through intervening printings to date it more precisely. While doing this, I soon found that the quickest way to find the reference in a different typesetting was to look for the first few words of the paragraph in which it occurred, and this was the way we eventually identified annotations in the Reader’s Companion.

We also have a large collection of books and theses in English, entirely or significantly about Tolkien and his work. These, together with volumes containing at least one substantial chapter or essay on Tolkien, occupy nearly 21 linear feet (6.4 metres) in a bookcase in our sitting room which adjoins the Tolkien Library, and another three feet of folio volumes in the Library proper. Our original intention was to have every book entirely on Tolkien, but partly because of the increasing rate of publication of these, and because of their widely varying quality (especially among self-published books), we no longer automatically order everything in this line that we see listed on Amazon.

Our collection of fanzines and scholarly journals devoted wholly or partly to Tolkien, mainly in English but some in other languages, is similarly extensive. While writing our J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide we both looked through these publications, making notes of important articles and significant information. Most of those that can stand upright, thicker volumes such as Tolkien Studies, VII, and the Inklings Jahrbuch, are shelved in the Tolkien Library, while others are stored in archival pamphlet or print boxes in a ground-floor closet or in the basement. During the 1980s and most of the 90s, I tried to make as complete a collection of Tolkien-related periodicals as possible, beginning with the earliest fanzines. I bought back issues, took out subscriptions, and with the help of Charles Noad and Gary Hunnewell filled in earlier issues partly with photocopies or printouts from microfilm. Wayne and I still subscribe to many English-language periodicals as well as a few in other languages, but although the number of publications is now greater than ever, they no longer give a complete picture of Tolkien groups since so much activity takes place on the Internet. We now restrict ourselves to the more significant print journals as time, money, and space are all increasingly limited.

Works on Tolkien in other languages and some near-duplicates of volumes in English (e.g. earlier texts now replaced by a revised edition) are shelved in the basement together with translations of Tolkien’s works, books on the films, interpretations by various artists, graphic novel versions, calendars, posters, etc. Boxes of cassettes, compact discs, videocassettes, and DVDs sit on top of the bookshelves in the Tolkien Library.

The BBC dramatization also inspired me to collect any mention of Tolkien and his works in newspapers and magazines: reviews, interviews, biographical details, comments on his popularity and the Tolkien cult, and so forth. In 1981 this still seemed a reasonable aim, at least in the form of photocopies. I made lists of items mentioned in Richard West’s Tolkien Criticism: An Annotated Checklist (1981) and anything I saw mentioned in old or current magazines, and made multiple visits to the British Library in Bloomsbury and its newspaper branch at Colindale, and to the University of London’s library in Senate House. Charles Noad also supplied many items, and in about 1985 Rayner Unwin gave Charles and me permission to photocopy Allen & Unwin’s files of Tolkien-related press cuttings which had been provided to them by a professional agency. For this, we had to go to Allen & Unwin’s office at Hemel Hempstead, about twenty miles north of central London. We made several visits, taking an early train from Euston station, and would arrive at the office soon after nine o’clock and work through without a break until closing just before five. Most of the cuttings were scrunched up and pushed into envelopes, so we had to flatten them carefully, and since many were quite small we fitted as many as possible onto each sheet to save time and money (we paid for the copies).

I then had to decide what to do with these copies so that they could be easily used. A friend with whom I shared a flat at the time had a collection of cuttings and articles about Maria Callas which she had stuck in scrapbooks using Uhu brand glue, and I followed her example. A professional conservator might not find the result ideal, but it’s user-friendly since the scrapbooks are divided by subject, e.g. all of the interviews, or biographical items, or reviews of The Hobbit, or suggested sources for Tolkien’s writings are together in one or more volumes, and so far, neither the photocopies nor the scrapbook paper to which they’re pasted shows any sign of deterioration. In the documentary made in 1992 to celebrate the Tolkien centenary, Tom Shippey is seen reading a review of The Lord of the Rings from one of my scrapbooks, since by that time Allen & Unwin’s press cuttings had disappeared, apparently discarded after the firm’s merged with Bell Hyman.

Since I came to the USA, Wayne and I have continued to collect cuttings – or, more recently, printouts from the Internet – but apart from those acquired on visits to Dick Blackwelder, Marquette, and the Wade Center, we have relied mainly on what is easily obtainable: original items, copies provided by other collectors, and articles or images on the Web. We were too busy to do much with these until late last year, when I began to sort them into categories. An on-going project is to file most of the additions in archival folders – rather than continue to paste into scrapbooks – and to make an electronic catalogue of them as well as of the items in my 200 scrapbooks. The latter have been accessible only through a typed list of the contents of the scrapbooks and an alphabetical manuscript list by title of newspaper or magazine.

Click here for Part Two.

Images: part of the west wall of our Tolkien Library; some of our Tolkien scrapbooks, which are covered in a variety of decorative papers.

  1. November 21, 2011 4:34 pm

    To paraphrase Bilbo (but earnestly, and without undertone): “Dazzlingly marvellous! Perfect! Flawless! Staggering!”

    Perhaps you have already planned to answer these in part two, but I have two questions for you. (1) Can you tell us about any books or essays you would like to have copies of, but have never been able to acquire? (2) Do you have plans for your library after you are gone? I am certainly not angling for it (but did I mention, Christina, that you look very pretty today? 😉 — I just wonder whether part of your estate planning includes the donation of your very fine library, or parts thereof, to scholarly institutions where others might eventually make use of the material you have so painstakingly collected.

    • November 22, 2011 9:26 am

      Hi, Jason. To answer your first question, as far as works by Tolkien are concerned, there are still a few rare first printings and offprints we’d like to have, and a few missing dust-jackets to pick up. In regard to works about Tolkien, once Christina completes an updated list of what we have, we’ll compare it against other lists (such as those by Michael Drout and company, and by David Bratman in Tolkien Studies) to see what else we might want to search out that seems worth having.

      We do have some provision in our wills for the disposition of our (at present) 18,000 books, plus magazines, recordings, etc. Nothing is as simple as it used to be, though, as libraries have become less able to welcome large collections, because of the space needed to house them and the cost of processing and cataloging, so we’ve made some contingencies and hope that it all works out in the end. Our main desire is to keep certain collections together, if possible, to put them where they can have an educational benefit, and to avoid books, etc. being tossed by our executors out of convenience and ignorance of value, as we’ve seen happen to others.

  2. Jere Markkanen permalink
    November 21, 2011 6:40 pm

    Dear Christina and Wayne,

    I really didn’t find any better channel or way (read: contact information etc.) to contact You, so I decided to jot down a little note about J. R. R. Tolkien’s wife Edith and more specifically about her possible father A. F. Warrilow here in your blog.

    I have researched Tolkien’s family history for a couple of years (just for fun because I’m really interested in Tolkien’s life & personal history and couldn’t help noticing some years back that understandably there is really pretty little information available about Tolkien’s or his wife’s family) and the research process took me beside a really interesting question: who is Edith Bratt’s father and what kind of life did he had? Your stunning “The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide” really has provided me most of the information about JRRT’s life and here it again helped me out (although I would like to know do You have some specific evidence pointing out that Alfred F. Warrilow really is Edith’s father – even though I have to admit that he is the most suitable candidate).

    And now we get to the main point of my message: Last year I was reading (once again) our “Companion and Guide” and checking the addenda and corrigenda for the book, and somewhere I found a reference of Alfred Warrilows life after the departure of Frances Bratt. I tried to find that reference again tonight but my search didn’t really make any progress – but I remember clearly (and hopefully also correctly) that it was somewhere in Your website. When I think back the reference told something about Alfred Warrilow having more children after inlegimate Frances and the legal daughter born in 1876 (Nellie Elizabeth) but even though that particular man really was Alfred Warrilow, he wasn’t the same Alfred that we think of as Edith’s father.

    Our Alfred Fredrick Warrilow was born circa 1842 in London, Middlesex as the second child of Alfred John (1818-1869) and Elizabeth Warrilow neé Scott (1818-?). In 1866 he married Charlotte Harrison O’Brien (1843-1898) and their daughter, Nellie Elizabeth was born in 1875. My research shows no sign of other children (correct me if I’m completely wrong) and the couple divorced before the year 1890.

    During the 1880’s young Frances “Fannie” Bratt (1859-1902), daughter of shoemaker William (1824-1891) and Jane Bratt neé Grove (1830-1904), worked as a governess for the Warrilow family and as you, I and many others seem to believe, Frances’ only daughter Edith, who was born in 1889 was fathered by Alfred F. Warrilow. The interesting question is what did Edith know about his father and did he tell anything to JRRT or their children; and did Alfred know about Edith (if you have some information about this subject, I would be pleased if you informed me about this – I really don’t have any contacts with the Tolkien family and the really interesting letters of JRRT and Edith aren’t really at my fingertips).

    But the thing is that our Alfred Fredrick, the paper dealer, died two years from the birth of Edith in 1891 aged 48. And what comes to his other daughter, Nellie Elizabeth, the 1891 UK census shows her living with Alfred’s former wife Charlotte H. Warrilow and in 1901 Nellie seems to be working as an assistant of some sort and living in Bootle Cum Linacre, Lancashire, England. Of the later life I can only say, that Nellie died 1955 in Birmingham – married or not, I can’t surly tell.

    I have photocopies of some of these documents which I base my research and if you are interested in them, I can send them to you through email etc.

    Hopefully this wasn’t completely useless message and I could offer You new or correcting information. At least I have to admit I would be in heaven if I had a chance to research the full history of Tolkien’s and Edith’s parents and grandparents – including of course their own lifes (so maybe I’m a little bit jealous of Your chance to read so many of the unpublished letters of JRRT).

    Sincerely Yours,
    Jere Markkanen

  3. las artes permalink
    January 1, 2012 5:13 am

    Tolkien has also been the subject of a number of academic works. Vinyar Tengwar and Parma Eldalamberon are journals focusing on linguistic study of Tolkien’s works.

    • January 1, 2012 12:26 pm

      Thanks for mentioning these, which we count among the important print journals we described more generally.

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