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Finished at Last

July 12, 2017

At last, in the middle of June, we sent to HarperCollins the revised and expanded edition of our J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide. Our original March deadline proved impossible to meet. Even after we finished writing and revising, we still needed to add running heads (page titles) and to make a new index. This last step, which took about six weeks, delayed sending our completed files, and that is probably the main reason why the original publication date for the new Companion and Guide boxed set, 5 September 2017, has been moved back, first to 21 October and now to 2 November.

We knew from the start that it would take longer to index 864 pages in the new Chronology and 1,455 in the new, two-volume Reader’s Guide than it did 803 pages in the original Chronology and 1,135 in the first (single-volume) edition of the Guide. But we always forget that writing a thorough, useful index takes more time than we expect, in fact we have only a dim memory of how long it took in 2006. Although we were able to make use of our earlier draft index, so didn’t have to recreate our terms or style of presentation, all page references had to be corrected and we had a great deal of added text.

As for our previous edition, we considered whether to use the indexing function in our InDesign publishing software, but ruled it out as more complicated and less flexible than creating an index in Word from a printout of the finished pages, as we’ve done now for several books. The disadvantage of Word is that its sort function does not by itself ignore initial articles or quotation marks; but it allows the indexer to work critically rather than mechanically, taking into account alternate words or names and grouping related concepts.

When we began to write our new index we planned to break up some of the longer blocks of page numbers in individual entries, subdividing by topic or concept, as this had been a point of criticism from some readers of our first edition. We were able to do this to some extent, if not as much as we wanted. We were already past our deadline, and in the Chronology we had a limited number of pages we could devote to the index, HarperCollins having restricted the length of each volume to 960 pages for economic reasons. We had already moved the family trees and bibliographies of Tolkien’s works (126 pages) from the Chronology to the Guide, where we had more space (across two volumes), and we decided to omit from the Chronology our now much longer list of works consulted, which in any case had more bearing on the Guide. We were also able to slightly condense, from six to four pages, the long copyright statement at the end of each part. Even so, the Chronology text grew so much that we were left with only six pages beyond the original length of the index, while needing to cover more than 300 additional pages of text in the Companion and Guide. Fortunately, Wayne was able to extend the available space by reducing the font size and through other typographic tricks, and in the end our new index was just able to fit without having to be cut back, as we feared we would have to do.

Of course, even though we had both proofread our text thoroughly, the indexing process pointed out some further errors, omissions, and inconsistencies, all of which had to be corrected or emended, ideally within the same page breaks so as not to affect any indexing already done to that point. This was possible only because Wayne was setting the type and making up the pages, and we could rewrite as needed. We’re grateful to HarperCollins for understanding this process and not rushing to press the texts we had sent for their comment. Nevertheless, even before publication, we’ve begun to collect addenda and (very minor) corrigenda, and as before will post these on our website.

The full price of the new edition is £120, but Amazon UK are offering the boxed set at only £78. Later this November, each of the three volumes will be available individually as well, currently priced at £40. (These individual volumes are almost hidden by Amazon, and the two Reader’s Guide volumes are categorized under Science!) As far as we know, there are no plans for a new edition of our book to be published in the United States.

We’ll have more to say about added and revised content, and about our experience writing the Reader’s Guide, in later blog posts.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Douglas Bailey permalink
    July 12, 2017 8:23 pm

    Glad to hear you’re done!

    (And thanks for the comment about the lack of a US release; I had been wondering why the new edition wasn’t listed on Amazon US…)

  2. inusrrbution permalink
    July 14, 2017 9:25 am

    Thank for doing this revised set, as well as your explanations for the publication date change. I have this revised set on pre-order and am looking forward to it.

    I have a question in regards to the actual books themselves, if you know: will the design be ‘modelled’ after Harper Collins’ Tolkien deluxe editions? Quarter bound, foil stamped, etc. The new boxed of The History of Middle-earth is a deluxe edition, in design aspects, for example. Apologies if that was confusing :/

  3. Colin Harper permalink
    July 17, 2017 3:38 pm

    Congratulations both – it sounds like a truly monumental task, but it will be hugely appreciated by many!

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