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From Tolkien’s Library

May 5, 2018

In Tolkien Notes 15 we wrote about a collection of books by Tolkien that Wayne was able to buy inexpensively at auction more than thirty years ago. Not much later, he also acquired, again for a relative song and (if memory serves, the invoice having been misplaced) likewise through Bertram Rota of London, a group of sixteen items, mostly offprints or reprints of scholarly articles, which had been in Tolkien’s possession. This was before prices of even minor pieces once owned by Tolkien rose to sometimes extraordinary levels.

Here is an inventory of the items Wayne acquired and which remain in our Tolkien collection:


Birney, Earle. ‘English Irony before Chaucer’. Reprint from the University of Toronto Quarterly, July 1937. Annotated by Tolkien on four pages. Tolkien library label.


Blakeley, L. ‘The Lindisfarne s/ð Problem’. Reprint from Studia Neophilologica 22, no. 1. Inscribed by Tolkien: ‘Lindisfarne s/ð Problem, Blakeley (B’ham [Birmingham])’. Tolkien library label.


Bradley, Henry. ‘Psalm LXXXV 9’. Offprint from The Journal of Theological Studies, April 1920. Tolkien has written on the lower wrapper disconnected jottings in Modern and Old English, with doodles. Tolkien library label.


Brady, Caroline. ‘The Old English Nominal Compounds in -rád’. Reprint from PMLA (Publications of the Modern Language Association of America), June 1952. Inscribed by the author: ‘To Professor Tolkien, with highest esteem’. Two corrections by the author. Tolkien library label.


Chapman, Coolidge Otis. ‘Numerical Symbolism in Dante and the Pearl’. Offprint from Modern Language Notes, April 1939. Inscribed by the author: ‘To Professor Tolkien with the writer’s compliments’. Annotated by Tolkien on one page.


Dal, Ingerid. ‘Zur Entstehung des englischen Participium Praesentis auf -ing’. Offprint from Norsk Tidsskrift for Sprogvidenskap 16 (1952). Inscribed by Tolkien: ‘English Participial ending –ing’. Tolkien library label.


Draak, Maartje. ‘Virgil of Salzburg versus “Aethicus Ister”’. Offprint from Dancwerc: Opstellen Aangeboden aan Prof. Dr. D. Th. Enklaar ter Gelegenheid van Zijn 65. Verjaardag, Groningen, 1959. Inscribed by the author: ‘Elen síla lúmenn’ omentielmo! M.D. See p. 42’. Identification of source of publication separately inscribed, probably by the author (certainly not by Tolkien). The page reference is to a mention of Tolkien in relation to Virgil (Vergilius) of Salzburg, whom some have put forward as the author of a medieval Cosmographia otherwise ascribed to Aethicus Ister: ‘Either “Virgil” forges a scientific text, or he writes in his spare time and for his own pleasure a work of fiction. If he writes a work of fiction, that does not reflect on his reputation as a scholar. (In our time J.R.R. Tolkien has edited Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and he has written The Lord of the Rings.)’ Annotated by Tolkien on three pages. Tolkien library label.


Jacob, H. ‘On Language Making’. Pamphlet printing of a paper read to the Philological Society on 6 February 1948. Inscribed by Tolkien: ‘Very interesting paper’. Tolkien library label.


Language (journal of the Linguistic Society of America), September 1933. Complete issue. Inscribed: ‘JRRT’. In the table of contents, ‘A Note on the Development of the Indo-European Dental Groups’ by M.B. Emeneau is ticked, and ‘The Germano-Celtic Vocabulary’ by George S. Lane is underlined. Annotated by Tolkien on four pages (in the Lane article). Tolkien library label.


Prospectus for the Linguistic Atlas of New England by Hans Kurath (1938). Includes a fold-out map illustrating the use in New England of earthworm and its variants. Annotated by Tolkien on one page. Tolkien library label.


Marche romane (journal of the Association des Romanistes de l’Université de Liège), Juin 1951. Complete issue, probably obtained by Tolkien during the Congrès International de Philologie Moderne in September 1951. Tolkien library label.


Savage, Henry L. ‘A Note on Parlement of the Thre Ages 38’. Offprint from Modern Language Notes, March 1928. Inscribed by the author: ‘With the author’s greetings!’


Savage, Henry L. ‘A Note on Parlement of the Thre Ages, 220’. Offprint from Modern Language Notes, March 1930. Inscribed by the author, but with most of the inscription cut away.


Savage, Henry L. ‘Notes on the Prologue of “The Parlement of the Thre Ages”’. Reprint from the Journal of English and Germanic Philology, January 1930. Inscribed by Tolkien: ‘JRRT  Savage — Notes on Parlement of the Thre Ages’. Tolkien library label.


Savage, Henry L. ‘Sir Gawain “Fer ouer þe French flod”’. Reprint from the Journal of English and Germanic Philology, January 1948. Inscribed by the author: ‘With the author’s good wishes, H.L.S.’ Tolkien library label.


Serjeantson, Mary S. ‘The Dialect of the Earliest Complete English Prose Psalter’. Offprint from English Studies (Amsterdam) 6 (1924). Inscribed by Tolkien: ‘Serjeantson E.E. Prose Psalter’. Tolkien library label.


Wadstein, Elis. ‘The Beowulf Poem as an English National Epos’. Reprint from Acta Philologica Scandinavica 1931–2. Inscribed by the author: ‘With the author’s compliments’. Inscribed by Tolkien: ‘Beowulf a National Epos Wadstein’. Tolkien library label.


Wayne’s purchase was modest compared with a much larger lot we previewed later at Phillips’ auction rooms in Oxford, in October 1988, ‘a collection of over 250 offprints, etc. presented to Tolkien by their authors, often signed by them, covering the areas of study in which he was a specialist’. ‘These papers are the seed-bed from which Tolkien’s linguistic genius sprang’, the catalogue adds – well, they were not exactly that, but related to his linguistic interests, and they illustrate the esteem in which Tolkien was held even relatively early in his career as a scholar and teacher. This lot had a house estimate of £100–120, and probably sold within that range. Also in the sale were three smaller lots (as described in the printed catalogue):


STRONG (A.T.): Short History of English Literature, 1921; LINDSAY (D.): Voyage to Arcturus, 1946; PATMORE (C.): The Wedding Sermon, n.d.; and 35 other books and pamphlets on early English literature from Tolkien’s library, many he has written on thin covers, etc. Estimate: £40–45.


A similar collection of 27 miscellaneous books and pamphlets including a volume of Catholic pamphlets, 1912, etc.; his Roman missal, 1917; and his friend G.B. Smith’s copy of Goethe’s Faust, circa 1909. Estimate: £30–40.


[Tolkien ephemera]: 3 page typed letter signed from Derek Price to T., 1952; and 2 pp. typed letter and typed article from R.M. Wilson signed with relative offprints and an ALS [autograph letter signed] from Sir Lionel Whitby, Master of Downing College to Tolkien, 1950; and a number of signed pamphlets, etc. Estimate: £20–30.


A collection of 17 volumes of Works by various authors, all with presentation inscriptions to Tolkien, including Works by Sterling E. Lanier (2), David Beattie, Peter Howard and Boru Dernoki, a possibly unique typescript. Estate: £20–30.


Tolkien library label

All of these lots, indeed the first part of the Phillips sale of that day, was from the library of Stanley Revell, an Oxford resident who had purchased many items from Tolkien’s library (and a few from Christopher Tolkien’s), reportedly in order to sell them to help fund collecting his favourite author, T.S. Eliot. It was Revell who is said to have created the Tolkien library label (‘From the Library of J.R.R. Tolkien’), a self-adhesive ‘bookplate’ whose glue unfortunately ‘bled through’ thin paper wrappers.

Looking back at this catalogue of the Phillips sale from a distance of thirty years, of course all of the house estimates seem now like small change, given the development of interest in Tolkien and the resulting growth of the Tolkien collectors’ market.

  1. Renée Vink permalink
    May 6, 2018 3:44 pm

    It was nice to see Tolkien owned an article by Maartje Draak (1907-1995), a well known professor of Celtic studies and medieval literature at the Universities of Amsterdam and Utrecht. And not just that: given the inscription she was most likely a fan, she knew Tolkien was being criticised for spending his time on writing fiction instead of scholarly work, and she let him know she was on his side. Thanks!

  2. Renée Vink permalink
    May 6, 2018 3:46 pm

    P.S. Forgot to add that she translated a medieval Dutch version of the Voyage of St. Brendan, so she shared this interest with him.

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