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Filling Up the Corners

January 22, 2012

Christina writes: Wayne and I have been serious collectors of J.R.R. Tolkien for well over thirty years. From the beginning Wayne focused on collecting material by Tolkien in order to write J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography (1993), along with significant material on Tolkien. As for myself, at first I spread my net much more widely, trying to be a completist Tolkien collector in almost every aspect. By the time I joined Wayne in the U.S.A. in 1995, our combined collection already included most of the items listed in his bibliography, and in the following years we have been able to add several more important items. Today our Tolkien purchases are mainly new publications. Only rarely are we able to fill outstanding lacunae, some of which we have never seen offered for sale, while others are priced very dearly indeed. But we can dream of finding a run of the Oxford Magazine, or an original duplicated typescript Songs for the Philologists, being sold for a reasonable price if not quite for a song. Most of the older items we occasionally acquire are of a lesser stature, ‘filling up the corners’ of our collections or adding a postscript.

German Hobbit dust-jacketOne purchase during 2011, however, was a major desideratum. I began to collect Tolkien’s work in translation in the mid-1980s, when being a completist in that area was entirely possible (and demanded much less space than it does now). Although I obtained many early translations, the first German HobbitKleiner Hobbit und der grosse Zauberer, with illustrations by Horus Engels, published in 1957 – always eluded me. Then, in February last year, we were able to acquire a copy. We had seen a few on eBay, but either the seller would post only to Germany or the book was in poor condition. The copy we bought is in very good condition with a slightly chipped dust-jacket, and the seller was in the U.S.A. which simplified shipping.

From 1967, Houghton Mifflin issued the three volumes of their second edition Lord of the Rings in a black slipcase with a red label. A few later printings were issued in a red slipcase. We had noted a few such sets on eBay, but they always went for far more than we were prepared to pay for a comparatively minor change in presentation. Last June we were the winning bidder in an auction which did not reach such a high figure. Our set contains a 14th printing Fellowship of the Ring and 13th printings of The Two Towers and The Return of the King. We have a set of 12th, 11th, and 11th printings in the black slipcase, and one of 17th, 16th, and 16th printings in later dust-jackets and a cream slipcase (bought c. 1980), so at the most there were four printings in the red slipcase.

Lord of the Rings cassettesWe already owned The Lord of the Rings dramatized by Bernard Mayes (copyrighted by AVC Corporation 1979) in a later issue by Mind’s Eye on twelve cassettes (date unknown) and by the Highbridge Company on nine compact discs in 2002, when last September we saw an interesting set offered on eBay we could not resist. This is a ?1979 issue by Jabberwocky Cassette Classics for schools on twelve cassettes with twelve ‘Read-Along Booklets’, each giving the script for one cassette, and a thicker Teacher’s Supplement with summaries, suggested questions, etc.

We acquired rather more items related to Pauline Baynes during 2011, perhaps because we have not been collecting her work quite as long as we have Tolkien, and therefore have more desiderata. Several items were quite minor, involving reproductions of artwork we already owned in another form or printing.

The upper cover of the dust-jacket on the first (and possibly the second) printing of The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, the penultimate book published in the Chronicles of Narnia, had a blue-green background with a vignette by Pauline Baynes printed in black against an ochre ground in the centre. By the third printing, the ochre ground was removed, leaving Pauline’s vignette black against white. One of our purchases last year was a copy of the 5th printing (1966), with the whole of the upper jacket, including the area behind the vignette, printed yellow-green. Although this involved no new work by Pauline, we like to keep note of such changes. The jacket on the next printing in 1968 has a purple ground, but with the vignette once more against a white ground.

Pauline designed new dust-jackets for the Narnia books in the mid-1970s, each with two colour illustrations, a roundel on the upper cover and a tall panel on the spine. I had acquired copies of these years ago, but had The Horse and His Boy only in two defective copies, both with good dust-jackets but one a 5th printing lacking the front endpaper and the other, earlier, lacking its title-leaf. In August 2011 we managed to acquire an intact first printing.

Also in August we bought on eBay a wooden jigsaw puzzle with Pauline’s illustration A Christmas Party, originally reproduced in the Illustrated London News, Christmas Number 1958 (also in our collection), as The Christmas Tree in History and Legend – IV: Queen Caroline’s Household in the 1820s. We enjoyed doing the jigsaw together to check that there were no missing pieces.

Our copy of Holly Leaves for 1953, with Pauline’s illustration Christmas Eve about 1460 and advertisement for Huntley & Palmer’s Biscuits was an American issue (with variant price on the cover), so when we saw a copy of the British issue on eBay in October we decided to add it to our collection.

We knew from having seen a copy in Pauline’s archive, on one of our visits to her, that she had provided four illustrations (three black and white, one in black and one colour) for ‘Sinbad in the Valley of Diamonds’ as retold by Andrew Lang, published in Children’s Digest for November 1979, for which Pauline provided as well a colour picture for the cover. We were happy to find a copy of this little magazine last year on eBay. Also, we had seen among Pauline’s original art two black and white tone drawings on which she had written ‘Elizabethan’, and guessed that this referred to Young Elizabethan: The Magazine for Boys and Girls, but had no idea when the issue might have been published. Then in November a seller on eBay listed a copy of the magazine for August 1955 and included Pauline Baynes among the contributors. We wrote to the seller and asked for further details, just in case something went wrong with our bid, though in the event we did not face much competition. We filled another gap in our collection as well as in the Baynes bibliography on which we’re working.

Image for The Four FacardinsQuite early in collecting Pauline Baynes I acquired a copy of the magazine Lilliput for November 1947 which has four full-page colour illustrations by her accompanying ‘The Fairy Stories to End Fairy Stories’, an article about Count Anthony Hamilton and his Four Facardins (c. 1700), a fairy story parodying The Arabian Nights. These rather awkward early illustrations are particularly interesting, given that not so many years later, one of Pauline’s most admired commissions was art for the retelling of The Arabian Nights by Amabel Williams-Ellis (1957). We knew that Pauline had made a number of small black and white drawings for Lilliput as well, having seen original art, proofs, and tear sheets in her archive, but again had no idea when they were published. Wayne found online an incomplete index of articles and stories in Lilliput which gave the date for a couple of the items for which she had tear sheets with the titles, but it seemed that the only way to identify the rest would be to go the British Library and look at a range of copies in the years it seemed, from the evidence available, that Pauline would have contributed to the magazine (chiefly during the time that Kaye Webb, later in charge of Puffin Books, was on the Lilliput staff). Since this search undoubtedly would take many hours, while also checking to see if Pauline had contributed anything else for which she had not kept examples, we kept putting it off. Then last year Wayne found several sets of Lilliput in the right range of dates offered on at reasonable prices, and we decided to buy them and check their contents for Pauline’s work at leisure. We found all of the art represented in her archive within the four volumes for 1944–48. We felt that this was a good purchase even apart from the Pauline Baynes content, as Lilliput was a sophisticated little magazine with a miscellany of interesting articles, fiction, art photos (many by Bill Brandt), and satirical cartoons (some by Ronald Searle, including a selection of his ‘St Trinian’s’ art).

Images: Dust-jacket for Kleiner Hobbit und der grosse Zauberer (1957); the boxed set of ‘Jabberwocky’ Lord of the Rings cassettes and accompanying booklets; one of Pauline Baynes’s illustrations for The Four Facardins, published in Lilliput for November 1947.

  1. Karl permalink
    January 26, 2012 2:41 pm

    It’s always fascinating to read about your collection and recent acquisitions. I must say that I was proud to add The Art of the Hobbit to mine recently. I have only just begun to build a very modest collection of Tolkien titles and wanted to ask your advice. Recently, I’ve been trying to acquire the 4-book, boxed Tolkien (Deluxe Edition) Collection published by HarperCollins in 2007. I’ve tried several avenues and failed (I can only afford a reasonable price) and have come to the conclusion that I need to buy directly from the publishers (£200.00 on Unfortunately, they only ship this within the UK and I’m in CT. Since I don’t know anyone well from the UK, I’m wondering if you have any suggestions. Is there any kind of a collector’s network or something in which I might find someone to ship me the set from the UK (I would of course pay for the shipping)? I know you have vast experience with this and I thought maybe you could help a newbie!

    • January 30, 2012 9:02 am

      Hi, Karl. There used to be much more by way of exchange agreements between U.S. and U.K. Tolkien collectors. We ourselves obtained and shipped a lot of books to each other before we were married, when living on opposite sides of the Atlantic. But much of that has disappeared as it’s now so easy to do foreign orders by credit card, through Amazon et al. HarperCollins exclusives are a different problem, of course. Josh’s suggestion of sending your question to the Tolkien Collector’s Guide site is a good one. Another possibility might be to engage a bookseller in the U.K. to obtain the set for you and resell it for a small fee; though how much this might add to the cost, and whether the total would then be prohibitive, we couldn’t predict.

  2. Josh Long permalink
    January 26, 2012 10:16 pm


    You might try this website:

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