Tolkien Notes 14
Tolkien at Auction
Christie’s, King Street, London offer in their sale Valuable Books and Manuscripts on 1 December, as lot 40, Tolkien’s autograph postcard signed to the poet Alan Rook, 21 April 1943. Estimate: £1,000–1,500/$1,300–1,800/€1,000–1,700. Tolkien thanks Rook for a copy of his book These Are My Comrades and promises to send him a story to read, almost certainly Leaf by Niggle; see our Chronology, p. 260. In the same sale, as lot 165, is a first edition, first printing of The Hobbit, in dust-jacket, estimate £7,000–10,000/$8,600–12,000/€7,900–11,000.
Sotheby’s London offer in their sale English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations on 13 December, as lot 337, a set of The Lord of the Rings, HarperCollins, 1996, third/second/second printings of the three volumes in paperback, boxed, each volume with an inscription and original pencil drawing by Alan Lee. Estimate: £2,000–3,000/€2,250–3,350.
Sotheby’s New York offer in their sale Fine Books & Manuscripts including Americana on 6 December, as lot 119, a set of first printings of the first edition of The Lord of the Rings, Allen & Unwin, 1954–55. In the original jackets, but that for the Fellowship is price-clipped, and that for The Two Towers is browned. Estimate: $10,000–15,000. The catalogue entry, referring to a ‘trilogy’, states: ‘While serving in the trenches in WWI, Tolkien conceived of these tales set in a “secondary World,” for consolation and pleasure; they developed over a period of forty years into an epic narrative. The Lord of the Rings has been read as an allegory for multiple good-versus-evil conflicts: post-World War I and the rise of Hitler; Christian myth; even the environment, with the Dead Marshes reflecting Tolkien’s despair over the desolation wreaked by military technology.’ Note to the author of this text: No, it’s not a trilogy. No, it wasn’t written in the trenches – nor, for that matter, was ‘The Silmarillion’, which is probably what you have in mind. And Yes, The Lord of the Rings has been read as an allegory, but No, it isn’t one.
The Advantage of Being a Completist
For months we’ve been wondering about a four-volume set, J.R.R. Tolkien, being prepared by Stuart Lee for the publisher Routledge in their series Critical Assessments of Major Writers. Early information was sparse, but has now been amplified in a blurb which claims that the book ‘meets the need for an authoritative reference work to collect early evaluations and to make sense of the more recent explosion in research output. Users are now able easily and rapidly to locate the best and most influential critical assessments. With material gathered into one easy-to-use set, Tolkien researchers and students can now spend more of their time with the key journal articles, book chapters, and other pieces, rather than on time-consuming (and sometimes fruitless) archival searches.’ Its contents are listed on the publisher’s website.
The first volume is titled ‘Tolkien’s Life: Writer and Medievalist’, and will contain 19 essays or extracts in three categories: ‘Biographical Studies’, ‘The Medievalist’, and ‘Lit. and Lang.’. The second volume will be ‘The Roots of Middle-earth’, and will contain another 19 writings, on Tolkien’s language invention, sources, analogues, and inspirations, and mythology and mythmaking. Volume 3 is to be ‘Key Works and Themes’, comprising 19 writings on ‘The Silmarillion’, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, other works, and poetry. Finally, the fourth volume, ‘Themes, Reactions, and Legacy’, is to have 27 writings on war, spirituality and religion, good and evil, heroism, gender, modernism, critical reaction, fantasy, and film adaptations.
Contributors include Humphrey Carpenter (an extract from his Biography), Douglas A. Anderson, David Bratman, Diana Pavlac Glyer, John Garth, J.S. Ryan, Thomas Honegger, Tom Shippey, Jane Chance, Verlyn Flieger, Marjorie Burns, Stuart Lee himself, among many others. Because all of their writings on Tolkien have appeared before – there are no new contributions – we suspect that most ‘Tolkien researchers and students’, as well as most libraries, will have to think hard whether to spend £900.00 or $1,485.00 for ‘one easy-to-use set’, whatever the quality of its contents, and especially, the selection of contents – for one could name several worthwhile critical works on Tolkien for every one this set will include – and instead endure the ‘archival searches’ that are, after all, part and parcel of work of this sort.
For ourselves, we were very pleased to find that every one of the writings chosen for this set is already on our shelves or in our files – hence, the advantage of being completist Tolkien collectors! For example, a few of the essays were published earlier in Lee’s 2014 Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien, several appeared in Tolkien Studies or in the proceedings of the 1992 Tolkien Centenary Conference, and many are being taken from the 2000 festschrift for Christopher Tolkien, Tolkien’s Legendarium, edited by Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter, or from the proceedings of the 2004 Marquette University Tolkien conference, The Lord of the Rings 1954–2004: Scholarship in Honor of Richard E. Blackwelder (2006), edited by Hammond and Scull. Most teachers and students at a higher level will find most of these already in their institutional libraries or available online.
The Art of The Lord of the Rings
A few days ago, Amazon U.K. reduced the price of our Art of The Lord of the Rings significantly, to just £10.00. Sales are evidently brisk – in time for Christmas – for our book is once again in Amazon’s ‘best-selling’ ranks.