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Tolkien Notes 10

November 3, 2013

The Pocket Farmer Giles of Ham

Farmer Giles 2014The 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.

Blackwell’s Rare Books

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’.

The Family Tree of Fairy Folk

Family Tree of Fairy FolkMaud 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.

Another Inch

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 Lord of the Rings New Editions

Hobbit and Lord of the Rings 2013The 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.

Tolkien Studies in New Casebooks

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.

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8 Comments
  1. November 3, 2013 11:59 am

    As one who has read it straight through, I can state without reservation that Companion and Guide is an excellent biographical source! While I have not read most other works on Tolkien, preferring to spend my time with his primary writings, I venture to guess that it is also the most comprehensive work available on the subject and should be the first go-to source for those interested in the facts about Tolkien’s life and work.

  2. November 3, 2013 12:45 pm

    I had to laugh there – surely anyone who owns both the Companion & Guide and Tyler’s Companion would feel more than a little reluctant to mention them in the same breath…

    Don’t get me wrong – at the time, Tyler’s Companion was awesome. Mind you, at the time (1976), I was eleven, and EVERYTHING was awesome!

    Looking forward very much to the Farmer Giles pocket edition.
    Regards
    Mike

  3. November 3, 2013 4:27 pm

    Thanks for the notes in this post. I’m looking forward to adding another slipcase set to my collection. I wonder which impressions I’ll get though 😉 By the way when you mention TH in the ‘collector’s edition’ which ISBN is being used for it? As I have 978-0-00748730-1 (cloth hb) and 978-0-00-792704-3 (cloth hb w dustjacket).

    • November 4, 2013 10:17 pm

      The Hobbit in our new boxed set has the ISBN 978-0-00-748730-1, both on the copyright page and on a white bar code label attached to the lower cover.

  4. Cheerful Hamster permalink
    November 3, 2013 9:48 pm

    I’ve noticed that more and more works by Tolkien and about Tolkien are being issued in ebook format, specifically Kindle. After resisting the march of electrons for years, I finally broke down and bought the newest Paperwhite. While ebook formatting is still rather poor (particularly verse), pop-up footnotes are very cool and take some of the drudgery out of annotated editions. I wouldn’t mind seeing a combined edition of your LOTR Reader’s Companion with the LOTR, with links to the former put in the latter. But I’ve never read a mention of ebooks on your blog. Have you considered ebook editions, or have you been waiting for them to improve, or do you oppose them on principle as bibliophiles, or this or that, etc etc?

    • November 9, 2013 8:16 am

      We don’t oppose e-books on principle, though by and large we don’t like their design, the lack of a good citation method, restrictions on ownership, etc. – nothing that couldn’t be resolved in some way – and we do find a physical book much more satisfying. But what we think of e-books is irrelevant: any electronic editions of our works would have to be wanted by their publishers, and so far HarperCollins haven’t suggested any. A combination of our Reader’s Companion with The Lord of the Rings would be very complicated to produce.

  5. Colin Harper permalink
    November 4, 2013 5:27 pm

    Let’s not beat about the bush here: anyone writing a survey of Tolkien’s life and work, certainly in book form, would have to be an idiot not to consult, cite and recommend the Companion & Guide.

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