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Publication Day (plus One)

November 3, 2017

Wayne writes: Yesterday, November 2nd, was the announced publication date for the new, three-volume edition of our J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide. We received an advance copy in September, so it has been printed; but we learned today that HarperCollins have had quality control issues regarding the boxed set, and must replace copies that weren’t acceptable. We don’t know yet how long the boxed set will be delayed, or if the copies to be sold as individual volumes – which were to be published on 30 November – will be delayed as well.

This is disappointing to us too. But shall we say that patience is a virtue? And in the meantime, Amazon U.K. (sorry, there’s no U.S. edition) are still taking orders for the boxed set at only £78, a savings of £42 off the list price. (The three individual volumes will sell for £40 each.) Though we say so as shouldn’t, we think that this is good value for money. Here are the figures.

The first edition (2006) of the Chronology volume ran to 996 pages, including genealogical and bibliographical appendices, a list of works consulted, and an index, while the first edition of the Reader’s Guide (omitting back matter also included in the Chronology) came to 1135 pages, thus effectively 2131 pages, plus a preface of 9 pages. For the new edition, 61 pages have been added to the Chronology proper, 320 to the Reader’s Guide proper, 20 to the appendices, 28 to the bibliography of works consulted, and 6 to the index. The preface is now 11 pages, and in the Reader’s Guide we added an 8-page list of the articles. That totals 445 additional pages, compared with our first edition.

Counting that in words, and referring only to the main portions of text, the Chronology has 434,474, the first volume of the new Reader’s Guide 426,240, and the second volume of the Guide 326,354. Altogether that’s 1,187,068 words – or 1,304,120 if one were to add the appendices and other matter. Because the Chronology and Reader’s Guide once again are to be available separately as well as together in a set, we included our preface in both the Chronology and volume 1 of the Reader’s Guide, and a comprehensive index to the set in both the Chronology and volume 2 of the Guide. In order to balance the three volumes as much as possible, however, we moved the family trees and bibliographical matter from the Chronology (where we had them in 2006) to the second volume of the Guide, and included our list of works consulted in the Guide (the second volume) only.

Often we have pointed out that the Companion and Guide contains a great deal of previously unpublished material by Tolkien himself, especially in the form of extracts from letters. This is true again for the new edition, part and parcel of the material newly added for 2017 as Christina indicated in our previous post. There Christina mentioned some of the new articles in the Reader’s Guide; a complete list may be found on our website.

The Chronology has also been much expanded. This was the volume I worked on at the start of our revision, while Christina dealt first with the Guide. I began by making, in our design software, a copy of the Chronology as we sent it to HarperCollins in 2006, which I then corrected according to the corrigenda we had posted on our website or compiled towards the new edition. (Later I did the same for the Reader’s Guide.) After this I began to insert existing Chronology addenda, but immediately saw that the history should more properly start not in 1889 with the birth of Edith Bratt, Tolkien’s future wife, but in 1857 with the birth of Tolkien’s father, Arthur, and that the timeline of events regarding Arthur and Mabel Suffield, Tolkien’s mother, which we had related in our entry for 1891, would be best presented as separate entries.

There were many tempting research tracks to follow in these early years, aided by an increased number of resources since 2006, both in print and online. A special mention should be made of the Ancestry website (, to which I returned often. One of the most interesting avenues to explore traced the birth, baptism, parentage, and upbringing of Edith Bratt, made possible by access to documents (wills and divorce proceedings) regarding the relationship between her mother, Frances ‘Fannie’ Bratt, and her father, Alfred Frederick Warrillow. Other topics of research included the ship Roslin Castle, which Mabel Suffield took to join Arthur Tolkien in South Africa, and the cause of Arthur’s death, about which there are questions. Such research is part of the fun of writing books like this.

When I got to Tolkien’s time at King Edward’s School in Birmingham, and especially to his undergraduate days at Oxford, I felt that we should have more documentation than we did in our original edition; and numerous mentions of his school and university friends suggested that they should have at least brief biographical entries in the Reader’s Guide. John Garth had already dealt with some of this matter in his booklet on Tolkien at Exeter College, but I researched each of the friends independently, through Ancestry and other sources.

And so it went throughout the Chronology, as I inserted material from existing addenda, wrote new entries for information that came to light while we prepared the new edition, and augmented the section of notes at the end of the Chronology proper. Once again, as in 2006, as soon as we submitted our final text to HarperCollins still more letters by Tolkien surfaced, and more continue to come to light. As before, we’ll document the most important of these, and other information that comes our way, in a reconstituted online Addenda and Corrigenda.

I should say something also about our new list of “Works Consulted”. Readers of our first edition will recall that we printed a dagger before each title that we considered ‘particularly useful for an appreciation of Tolkien’s life and works’. Now, having drawn from so many more sources for our new edition – the number grew by more than fifty per cent compared with our previous list – we found it too difficult to define what we meant by ‘useful’, and decided to omit daggers altogether. Instead, it should be taken as a measure of ‘usefulness’, at least according to our opinion, if we cited, and sometimes commented on, a source in the text of the Companion and Guide.

  1. Douglas Bailey permalink
    November 3, 2017 10:47 pm

    Amazon UK already shipped my copy of the three-volume boxed set; I suppose I’ll find out soon whether it’s an acceptable one or not. Either way, I’m glad to hear that it’s out, even if there are a few hiccoughs in the printing process.

  2. tom permalink
    November 3, 2017 11:39 pm

    Mine is scheduled to ship this coming Monday. So perhaps mine was one of the defective sets they caught. HarperCollinsUK has had more than its share of quality control issues with Tolkien alone, not to mention their abysmal customer service. I will look forward to the set’s arrival and hope for the best.

  3. Dmitriy T permalink
    November 4, 2017 3:18 am

    My copy dispatching is also planned on Monday. Hope it’s good. I’ve recently received Deluxe HOME and it had glue over the book covers, the books were upside down in the box. I mean the box has this Tolkien symbol and the books was upside down in relation to it.

  4. November 4, 2017 4:28 am

    I notice that Amazon are also listing all three volumes for the Kindle at £23.99 each or £71.97 in total, I expect to get the box-set and the Kindle version as I like to use the search capability in the PC App.

    • November 4, 2017 8:44 pm

      Thanks, Trotter. We tend to forget about the ebook versions. We’re glad that HarperCollins are able to provide them, a first for our books.

  5. November 4, 2017 5:19 am

    No movement yet from Amazon DE with no lead time. I had originally intended to just get the Chronology in physical and save space but since have ordered the box. The Kindle versions ill be a very useful addition to my eye sight.

  6. Bart Mazzetti permalink
    November 4, 2017 9:45 am

    Ordered my set this morning. Arriving between Nov. 24 and Dec. 14.

  7. November 5, 2017 9:33 am

    Mine has shipped. (Sure wish I could get an eBook version, too; but I’m a Yank, so no eBook for me!)

  8. Bruce permalink
    November 5, 2017 11:53 am

    They are on the way. Yes, eBook over here please.

  9. David H. permalink
    December 11, 2017 8:44 am

    Hello, just this week I came across a used JRRT Companion. I love the ancedotes. I can imagine, “Well put, Tollers!” and “Jack and Warnie have something to say many matters but first they have disagreed.” Whilst Hugo Dyson has had it with elves…”not another [salty expression] elf!” I love this vignettes. I hope some day to move to the expanded edition.

    One minor quibble with this great feat of scholarship: Will the new editon have continuation headers at the top of a page, something not unlike the first and last words on a dictionary page? In the originial companion I had to delve to find a particular entry. I undershot and overshot many times. Please let me know if these aids have been added.

    Sincerely I think my motto ought to be yours: Too many books and not enough. We bought our present house because of the finished basement. I wanted to avoid any cracked floor joists, etc.

    Keep up your excellent work!


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