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Lord of the Rings Comparison 4

July 17, 2020

Tolkien set paperback HarperCollins 2020Two new boxed sets of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the latter in three volumes, were published this year by HarperCollins, London. The earliest issued of these sets, in B format (trade) paperback, is in a lightweight paper slipcase. The cover and slipcase art is photographic, with each illustration made from combined and modified stock photos. The Fellowship of the Ring includes Douglas A. Anderson’s ‘Note on the Text’ and our ‘Note on the 50th Anniversary Edition’. Our revised index is in The Return of the King. Maps are printed in sections on text pages, except for the Shire map which is printed as usual on its own page.

HarperCollins have also published a set of the four volumes in hardback, with dust-jackets, in a stiff board slipcase, with illustrations and cover art by Alan Lee. It’s what one might call a semi-de luxe edition, with titling, running heads, page numbers, and the Ring inscription in Book I, Chapter 2 printed in red. This edition omits both notes on the text, the first to do so since the 50th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings in 2004, but includes our revised index. The two larger maps are printed as endpapers, the Shire map as usual.

Tolkien set hardback HarperCollins 2020In our Comparison 2 we documented four typesettings of The Lord of the Rings from 2004 to 2014: eleven of configuration A (from the original 50th anniversary edition), four of B (primarily a mass-market, A format paperback), one of C (a Houghton Mifflin trade paperback), and one of D (the de luxe HarperCollins volume in a plastic slipcase). The two new editions of 2020 share yet another typesetting altogether: we will call the paperback and hardback respectively E1 and E2.

Compared against known errors in other copies and printings, E1 and E2 seem to be currently the most accurate texts. They incorporate all of the corrections noted in our Comparison 3 in June 2016. At least one error remains, however: ‘Dear Frodo,’ at the beginning of Gandalf’s letter received by Frodo at Bree, is still indented. Given that E is a new typesetting, it may be that new printing errors were introduced; but at present we do not know of any.

Update, July 18: In comments to this post, Douglas Bailey points out another known error uncorrected in the new editions: in Book V, Chapter 1, p. 756 of the 50th anniversary edition (our setting A), the sentence ‘“I am,” said Pippin’ should be run on with Gandalf’s dialogue in the preceding paragraph. This is explained in our online addenda and corrigenda to The Lord of the Rings. There we also identify additions and corrections to the index, which were not taken up when the references were changed to suit the new pagination. Douglas comments as well that the two endpaper maps of Middle-earth are not consistent which each other in detail; we noted this to be true of other editions in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, p. lxvii.

Tolkien Notes 18

July 15, 2020

Well Known?

The Spring number of the journal The Book Collector refers (p. 135) to a ‘well known’ story ‘about Tolkien being advised by a friend to whom he showed his first manuscript to stick to teaching Anglo-Saxon’. Well known to whom? Not to us. And what was the ‘first manuscript’?

The same number, and same page, tells a story about Anthony Price, who as a young reporter on the Oxford Mail was asked to review The Fellowship of the Ring. His editor thought that the book looked ‘a bit dull’ and was worth only 400 words maximum. Price ‘disagreed and arranged an interview with Tolkien, who thereupon handed over proofs for the next two volumes, with handwritten annotations’. Price asked if he could write a feature article on Tolkien for the Mail; no, replied his editor, because Tolkien had written ‘a very odd book’, and the editor had talked with ‘some dons about Tolkien – they say he’s a real weirdo. But do the 400.’ Price’s review of The Fellowship of the Ring was published on 16 September 1954, as ‘Fairy Story for Grownups Too’; its length, however, is closer to 800 words than to 400. We know that Price spoke with Tolkien in September 1954, as Tolkien mentions it in a letter, but his interview was not published until 27 January 1956, and in the Oxford Times rather than the Mail. In the meantime, Price also reviewed for the Mail, in January and October 1955, The Two Towers (comparatively briefly) and The Return of the King.


Addenda and Corrigenda Updates

After a very long gap of time – nearly two years! – we have made new updates to many of the pages on our website listing addenda and corrigenda to our several books. These are:

Life in the Time of Coronavirus

March 21, 2020

It has been some months since we posted to our blog. This has been due to work (and general laziness), not to COVID-19. We wanted our readers to know that we’re safe and sound, at least so far.

Williams College sent its students away for spring break a week early. They are to take their classes online until the end of Spring Term. Faculty now have only a short time to revamp their syllabi and change their teaching methods to suit the new reality of ‘social distancing’, and librarians like Wayne are similarly having to adapt. Like most of the Williams staff, Wayne has been working from home since last Wednesday. Since he can no longer provide rare books and manuscripts to students and faculty in person, he’s filling the hours checking catalog records, revising bibliographical descriptions, planning summer exhibitions – hoping that the exhibition galleries will re-open by summer – and meeting colleagues online. He’s also standing by to scan or photograph materials, though this falls short of experiencing the immediacy of original objects.

Since we’re both of an age, and since Christina has an artificial heart valve, we’re being especially careful about exposure. At the beginning of March, we went to New York City for the antiquarian book fair, one of the two big buying trips Wayne does as Chapin Librarian every year. Concerns about the virus were then only just becoming urgent, with elbow bumps beginning to replace handshakes. The fair was less crowded than usual, though in density of people far in excess of the levels now recommended. Of course, fewer buyers meant less competition, and Wayne did well in the five hours we allowed. Since it was Christina’s birthday, we bought for our home library something she had wanted for many years, the two-volume set of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung (1910–11) illustrated by Arthur Rackham. We couldn’t find one of the deluxe copies bound in white vellum, but spotted a first printing of the trade edition, itself somewhat deluxe, in very good condition and with its rare original dust-jackets.

Earlier this week, we learned that at least one of the dealers at the fair later tested positive for the coronavirus, and a few others were assumed to be infected. None of these was among those we visited, and most of those Wayne spoke with the longest have told him they’re doing fine. We ourselves have now passed the fourteen-day mark since the fair, without symptoms. We’re staying in as much as possible; each of our dentists and Christina’s hairdresser cancelled appointments as they too distance socially (to adapt the phrase), and we expect that other events in our diaries will have to be rescheduled also. For the time being, Wayne is making the weekly supermarket run solo, for perishables and prescriptions, to spare Christina the effort. Wayne having read about the fragility of supply chains, we had begun to build up a stock of non-perishables and other supplies even before our New York trip, and that has proved to be a good thing as our local supermarket now has many empty shelves and bins which are not being restocked very quickly.

A booklist from Sotheran’s, the London dealer, received about a week ago included an amusing note:

The nightmare of self-isolation – fourteen days at home, unable to leave the house, and nothing left on Netflix. And then you turn to the beautiful prints you bought that brighten up the walls, and the lovely books that stir your imagination and fill up the hours to the brim. Actually, is two weeks long enough?

Two weeks wouldn’t make much of a dent in the books we want to read and already have, let alone those yet to come, or the music we want to listen to, or videos to watch (we don’t do streaming, but have many DVDs). So fourteen days would not be a hardship – or fourteen months, for that matter. Christina, being retired, spends most of her time at home anyway; through the winter she has kept busy continuing to index our collection of Tolkien-related cuttings, letters, and ephemera. With spring having arrived, she’s looking ahead to work in the garden once the local nurseries re-open (we hope) starting April 1st. When not at the library, Wayne is still picking away at our long-expected book on Pauline Baynes. Together we wrote a brief obituary of Christopher Tolkien for the newsletter of the Children’s Books History Society, and are preparing a longer appreciation of Christopher for the next number of Tolkien Studies.

Stay well!

Tolkien Collection Quantified – Comments

July 31, 2019

Quite a few of you looked at our latest post. Thanks, and apologies for the length of time between that post and the one before that. We’ve had some comments, both direct to our blog and on the Tolkien Society’s Facebook page.

Clive Shergold asked, presumably with tongue in cheek (though one never knows), what our figure in linear feet translates to in hobbit ells. First, define an ell, hobbit or otherwise! Then do the math. We measured in linear feet because that’s what librarians do on this side of the pond (though they express book heights in centimetres), and because American shelving tends to be sold in feet, typically three feet to a shelf (though with a lot of variation by manufacturer).

Juan Manuel Grijalvo thought that quantifying our Tolkien collection suggested that we don’t have a catalogue or inventory of it. We do have a catalogue, or rather catalogues, or lists, as one may like to call them. One is only of books and other materials (such as audio recordings) by Tolkien. Another comprises all other books in our library, including works on Tolkien, as well as everything ‘non-Tolkien’. These are kept in electronic form and updated as needed. But Christina has also been making shelflists – more detailed lists of books as we have them on our shelves, so that we can find an item more precisely if we want it. Our booklists, and lists of CDs, DVDs, etc., and other lists as well, travel with us on our laptop and tablets, so that we can refer to them and prevent buying something all over again that we forgot we had. We used to print lists out and carry them into book and record shops, but that became unwieldy, and of course electronic lists can be more easily searched.

Drew Foster would like us to do a video tour of our house. Drew, it’s hard enough to get good still photos of our books, etc., but rest assured that we’re not living among stacks of books in the middle of the floor or piled high against the windows. We’re collectors, not hoarders, and as librarians (one still active, one retired) we like and appreciate order. We even have (some) wall space on which to hang pictures!

Naturesfocus asked if we also have a fair amount of digital material in our collection. We have downloaded selectively (and legally), including some materials ‘born digital’, but our focus is on physical resources.

Note to anyone still planning to buy a copy of the new (2017) edition of our J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, this is currently on sale from Amazon U.K. for only 61.89 (plus shipping), which we think is the lowest the online price has ever been, a 48% discount.

Tolkien Collection Quantified

July 26, 2019

Books about Tolkien in sitting roomEvery so often, we become curious about how many books we have in our library. Not too many, no! But if asked, how many should we say (besides ‘a lot’)? Wayne once made an estimate, based on the total linear feet of our shelves multiplied by the average number of volumes per shelf, and came up with a figure close to 20,000 volumes – plus magazines, recordings, comic books, posters, etc. A few years later, he tried that again and got a number around 18,000 volumes; and since we haven’t weeded 2000 books in the meantime, it was clear that the final figure depended on how one came up with an average number per shelf. Some shelves, with thick books, are easier to count than those with children’s picture books or books of poetry, which tend to be slim.

Now Christina has given it a go, looking specifically at our Tolkien collection and measuring only linear feet of shelving. (If you, dear reader, would like to do the math, a good average number of volumes per linear foot would be 12. This would apply to categories 1–7 and 16. Items in the other categories are stored in boxes of various size.) At present, we have:

1. Books by Tolkien in English and primary publications in English, and including books and magazines by or with contributions by Tolkien, primary publications of letters, and artwork (Hammond bibliography sections A–E): 165 LF (linear feet; 1 foot = 0.3048 metres)

2. Books by Tolkien in translation (in 65 languages): 183 LF

3. Books about Tolkien in English: 44 LF

4. Books about Tolkien in other languages: 3 LF

5. Anthologies: 6 LF

6. Books on art inspired by Tolkien: 3 LF

7. Graphic novels and official film guides: 3 LF

8. Journals, fanzines, etc.: 60 LF

9. Media (tape, cassette, CD, DVD): 18 LF

10. Calendars: 3 LF

11. Posters: 24 LF

12. Jigsaws, games, ICE booklets etc.: 4 LF

13. Research papers related to Tolkien: 17 LF

14. Scrapbooks (miscellaneous cuttings)*: 8 LF

15. Storage boxes with hanging files†: 44 LF

16. Miscellaneous books‡: 26 LF

17. Miscellaneous other§: 28 LF

Altogether, this totals 640 linear feet – as of now.

Also of relevance, we have books illustrated by Pauline Baynes (30 LF), books on children’s literature and fantasy, many with Tolkien references (33 LF), and books on C.S. Lewis and the other Inklings (18 LF). A substantial general reference collection, including works such as the OED and Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary, supports the whole.

At the rate books by Tolkien are reissued (we’re looking at you, Easton Press, whose edition of The Lost Road arrived today), or books about Tolkien, especially essay collections, are turned out, the figure will continue to increase. What is our limit of growth? We don’t know yet, but are bound to hit it someday.




* These are scrapbooks compiled by Christina, mainly in England (until 1995) and her first few years in the U.S.A., in 237 books, each with 34 pages. Contents include copies of rare published material, interviews, photographs, obituaries, notes on associated places, miscellaneous biographical information, reviews including works by and about Tolkien, and adaptations. Articles are roughly sorted (bibliography, religion, sources, relevance, publishing, exploitation, inspired artwork, Tolkien Society, events, etc.), plus a multitude of minor mentions. Originally accessed by typewritten lists identifying the contents of each scrapbook and a manuscript list of publications from which the contents were taken (where relevant). The scrapbooks are now continued by hanging files, as below.

† Storage boxes with hanging files, containing material such as would have been pasted into scrapbooks, which piled up in the years we were writing The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion and The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (original editions), and our edition of The Lord of the Rings, as well as anything acquired to date. In 2007 Christina began the long task of sorting accumulated material into legal-size folders, and those into hanging files in (currently) 17 office storage boxes, listing each item with a brief summary and cross-referencing in lists of authors and publications. This work was completed early in 2016, and new material is incorporated periodically. About a quarter of the scrapbooks have been incorporated into the same database, currently up to and including reviews of works by Tolkien.

‡ That is, books on Oxford, Oxford University, Birmingham, Switzerland, George Allen & Unwin, and the First World War, books by Rayner Unwin, volumes from the series Oxford English Monographs, books which influenced Tolkien, Whitaker’s Almanack for 1941–3, diaries, postcard books, quiz books, spoofs, books of fiction with Tolkien as a character, minor mentions, English books about Tolkien (e.g. by Tom Shippey) translated into other languages, etc.

§ Plates (china) reproducing Ted Nasmith art, catalogues issued by Tolkien’s publishers, spare copies of books, old listings, book catalogues, Royal Mail publications, cards, postcards, miscellaneous cuttings, Bodleian Library ephemera, buttons, badges, etc.


Shown: Some of our books about Tolkien, in a sitting room corner. Shelves of books illustrated by Pauline Baynes are at left.

Addenda & Corrigenda September 2018

September 16, 2018

We have posted to our website new addenda and corrigenda to several of our books, links as follows:

Tolkien Notes 17

September 8, 2018

The Fall of Gondolin

We received today (in Massachusetts) our copies of the HarperCollins trade and deluxe editions of The Fall of Gondolin. Both are first printings. We ordered them in good time before publication on 30 August, and Amazon UK posted them that day. Their packaging, however, was weak relative to the weight of the two books (in one parcel), and from a Royal Mail note on the wrapping, appears to have come apart even before it began to cross the Atlantic. Royal Mail taped the package shut, which probably delayed onward shipping, and it arrived in our box in a plastic bag courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service. Fortunately, neither volume was damaged.


‘From Words to Pictures’

Catherine McIlwaine, Tolkien Curator at the Bodleian Libraries and curator of the Oxford exhibition ‘Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth’, has published an article, ‘From Words to Pictures’, in the Summer 2018 number (no. 56) of Illustration magazine. McIlwaine summarizes Tolkien’s creative endeavours, focusing on selected works of art he produced for ‘The Silmarillion’, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. The watercolour painting Bilbo Comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves for The Hobbit is featured on the cover. Illustration is a fine quarterly publication (by Cello Press), each issue of which has articles on classic and contemporary illustration art.


‘Tolkien and the Visual Image’

We have been invited to give an illustrated public lecture on ‘Tolkien and the Visual Image’ at the Morgan Library and Museum, in connection with ‘Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth’ when it travels to New York from the Bodleian. We will be speaking in the evening on 31 January 2019, shortly after the exhibition opens on 25 January. Further details and ticket ordering will be available later this year through the Morgan Library website.

Tolkien Notes 16

September 2, 2018

Forty-five Years

We’ve been recalling our sadness when we read, in newspapers a day later, of the death of J.R.R. Tolkien forty-five years ago today. Christina was visiting her parents in Bristol, England, Wayne was still living with his parents in Brooklyn, Ohio while attending college. One thought, Will I ever see The Silmarillion? We had no idea then that so many unpublished works by Tolkien would be brought out, over so many years, let alone that we (who had not yet met) would have a hand in the process.



A few weeks ago we read on the Tolkien Society’s Facebook page of a new ‘special J.R.R. Tolkien edition’ of Newsweek magazine, obviously to coincide with the publication of The Fall of Gondolin on 30 August. Since there are no newsagents near us, we found a copy of the special magazine available on eBay. It’s heavily pictorial, and most of the photos are from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, but remarkably, it includes two double-page spreads devoted to our Art of The Hobbit and Art of The Lord of the Rings. The former book is said to offer ‘a look at the artistic process that fleshed out Middle-earth in pencil and ink’ (well, watercolour too), while the latter explores ‘the Lord of the Rings trilogy [it’s not a trilogy!] in incredible detail’. We’re happy to have the publicity.


A Hole in the Ground

Every now and then a Tolkien enthusiast decides to construct, or have constructed, an actual hobbit-hole – or at least something along those lines. We visited perhaps the best-known of them, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, but many exist (just Google ‘hobbit house’). There are even firms which sell pre-fabricated ‘hobbit houses’ to install in the side of a hill – excavation and finishing not included. The latest article about a sort-of-Bag-End can be read on the website: ‘A “Lord of the Rings” Fan Makes His Dream Hobbit House’. Actually there are two ‘hobbit’ structures: the owner’s first attempt was a backyard shed, now home to a lawn tractor. The more elaborate of the two, Hobbit Hollow, has two bedrooms and two bathrooms in 1,500 square feet. It isn’t completely set into a hillside, but has windows front and back, and skylights. The result is interesting if vaguely industrial. Both structures have round door frames, but standard rectangular doors set into them; the Pennsylvania ‘hobbit house’ has an actual round door, with a custom-made hinge.


‘Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth’

By all reports, the Tolkien exhibition at the Weston Library of the Bodleian in Oxford, which runs until 28 October, has been consistently well attended. An enthusiastic review in the latest number of The Book Collector (Autumn 2018, p. 582) describes a crowd ‘packed, shoulder to shoulder . . . as silent and unmoving as that before the finest hanging of Rembrandts. One had the feeling it would have been the same had people had to pay.’ (Which they will when the show moves to the Morgan Library in New York this January.) Much of its charm, the reviewer says, comes from the intimacy of the exhibits, ‘lent by [Tolkien’s] four children’; would that this were possible, but John and Michael are no longer among the living.


New Books

Yesterday’s post brought the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt edition of The Fall of Gondolin and the HarperCollins paperback of The Story of Kullervo. Gondolin is a first printing, but Kullervo is a third. Even though we ordered Kullervo a year ago (when it was originally announced to appear), because we did so online we were at the mercy of the warehouse gods and got whatever is in stock. We had the same problem with the HarperCollins paperback Beren and Lúthien, i.e. we received a later printing from an online order, and had to hunt around shops when we were in London in May to find a first. HarperCollins sometimes have short print runs, which is hard on collectors but satisfies demand closer to real time and cuts down on copies stored in the warehouse.


Tolkien’s Spanish Connection

We’ve just written a review of a useful book by José Manuel Ferrández Bru, ‘Uncle Curro’: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Spanish Connection. The ‘connection’ is Father Francis Xavier Morgan, the Catholic priest who acted as guardian to Ronald and Hilary Tolkien after the death of their mother in 1904. Father Francis famously forbade Tolkien from seeing or writing to his beloved, Edith Bratt, for three years, until he came of age at twenty-one; but one can argue that this was for Tolkien’s own good, hard though it was, as it brought his attention back to his studies (extra-curricular interests such as Gothic, the invention of languages, and the writing of poetry notwithstanding). Ferrández Bru explores the life and ancestry of Father Francis in great detail, as well as his close relationship with the Tolkiens. Our review can be read in the online Journal of Tolkien Research.

Tolkien’s Published Art: A Revised List

July 11, 2018

The two books by Catherine McIlwaine issued in conjunction with the current Tolkien exhibition at the Bodleian Library, Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth and Tolkien Treasures, contain previously unpublished reproductions of Tolkien’s art, other reproductions not previously published in colour, and enlarged details which reveal intricate features of some of Tolkien’s paintings and drawings. Rather than try to indicate in our online Addenda and Corrigenda where these new reproductions would be inserted into our existing list of Tolkien’s published art, in the second volume of our J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Reader’s Guide (2nd edn. 2017), we have made a new, revised version of the list and posted it on our website.

In the process, we took the opportunity to correct a few errors of formatting and to emend some inconsistencies of form, presentation, and classification, as well as our introductory note.

We are also compiling a list of pages, or parts of pages, of Tolkien’s literary manuscripts and typescripts which have been reproduced in various sources.

Adventures in England, Part Two: Oxford

July 2, 2018

Continued from Adventures in England, Part One: London


Wednesday, 30 May

Although we didn’t expect our room in Oxford to be available until mid-afternoon, we decided to make an early start from London. From Grosvenor Gardens we took the Oxford Tube, a coach which runs several times per hour, makes the journey to Oxford in around 90 minutes, and has a stop in the High Street almost outside of our hotel, The Old Bank. Staff kindly stored our bags until our room was ready, while we were out and about. For lunch we ate on George Street at the excellent Côte Brasserie.

At the Bodleian Library shop in the old quad we picked up some cards with Tolkien art, then spent time in Blackwell’s and in the new Bodleian shop attached to the Weston Library (the former New Bodleian). We had arranged to pick up four copies of the Tolkien exhibition catalogue in advance of publication: two trade hardbacks as our authors’ copies, and a trade paperback and deluxe hardback we had ordered. The staff were then clearing tables and shelves, preparing to put out Tolkien-related merchandise the next day.

At the Old Bank we were given (at a higher rate) a very nice room on the front of the building, overlooking the High, with window seats and a (non-functioning) fireplace. There was scaffolding in front of our windows, part of a renovation project, of which the hotel had warned us and gave us a discount for the inconvenience, but our view wasn’t badly blocked, and we never saw or heard anyone use the scaffolding. The only issue we had was on the Saturday night, when customers below us shouted and cheered very loudly until midnight over some sports match, and the sound carried.

On Wednesday night we had dinner at high table at Exeter College, to which we had been invited by the Rector, Sir Rick Trainor. Williams College has a cooperative arrangement with Exeter, whereby selected Williams students spend their junior year at Oxford. For the past two years, Exeter students have in turn come to Williams for two weeks in January, and Wayne has helped to teach them, using rare materials. Dinner at high table is a fascinating experience, part ritual, part socializing. This dinner happened to coincide with exam period, and the hall was filled with students in high spirits. As the days progressed, we saw many students on the streets hurrying to exams, each by tradition in ‘sub-fusc’ and gowns and with a carnation: white for the first exam, pink for those in the middle, red for the last (supposedly symbolizing the scholar’s life-blood poured into the effort).


Thursday, 31 May

While in Oxford we had our breakfasts at Quod, the restaurant in the Old Bank. Quod has good breakfast offerings, though still a limited selection. Christina usually had eggs benedict, but always asked for only one rather than the standard two, as she can eat only one and doesn’t like to waste food. After a couple of days, the restaurant charged for only one, half the menu price, which was very kind of them. Wayne usually had fried or poached eggs, with very good toast. One morning, he tried the banana pancakes but was disappointed to find that this was just regular pancakes with sliced banana.

After breakfast on Thursday we went to the admissions office at the Weston Library to renew our Bodleian reader’s cards, planning to do work in the Tolkien papers the following Monday. Admission was a smooth process – we had filled in the forms in advance, from the Libraries’ website, and had brought the required proof of address, etc., as well as our old cards – and since we planned to use material only in the Weston Library, that is, not in the Old Bodleian or at some other library at Oxford, we paid no fee.

From there we returned to the Weston shop, and were pleased to see that a wide array of exhibition merchandise has sprung up overnight; we had had reason to think that they would hold off until the evening opening. As it was still hours before the private reception and a day before the general public could see the exhibition, and most other Tolkien fans attending the opening had not yet arrived in Oxford, we more or less had our pick. Staff kindly arranged to have some of our purchases shipped to us (e.g. pillows and mugs), while we bought separately items we could more easily carry home (such as tote bags and small posters). We would return to the shop several times in the next days, as a few other items, such as the Tolkien Treasures book (a reduction of the main catalogue), were put out. We splurged on the deluxe set of reproductions of Hobbit art, leaving the Lord of the Rings set as we thought it less interesting a selection, and decided not to buy any of the jewelry based on Tolkien designs, as we thought that the various pieces didn’t convey the delicacy of the original art.

We spent the early afternoon looking in shops, and had lunch at the larger of two Prets in the Cornmarket. After changing, we were in Blackwell Hall, the lobby of the Weston Library, in good time for the preview of the Tolkien exhibition. While waiting, we looked at a small display of editions of Euclid’s Geometry and of books inspired by Euclid. We had been offered a private tour of the Tolkien exhibition by its curator, Catherine McIlwaine, and had signed up for the first of three, at 4.00. Others who had written for the catalogue, and additional guests such as Wayne’s friend from the Arthur Ransome Society, Christina Hardyment, were also there. We were torn between renewing acquaintances, or speaking with people we had not met before, and looking at the exhibition. Fortunately, we had already booked tickets for the exhibition on two other days.

Around 4.30 we were called away to sign copies of the Bodleian catalogue with our fellow authors, mainly for Bodleian or Oxford staff and friends. A production line was set up in a private room, and catalogues were quickly passed from one author to the other, from John Garth, to Verlyn Flieger, to Carl Hostetter, to Tom Shippey, and finally to us, according to the order of our contributions as printed. Some, with shorter names, were able to sign quickly; Wayne found it hard to keep up, with all of the curves in ‘Hammond’. Altogether we signed 82 copies in about an hour, then hurried back to the exhibition while we still had some time.

By then, guests (we heard that there were at least 300) had begun to arrive for a 6.00 reception. In the circumstances, we weren’t able to meet or speak with as many people as we would have liked, and apologize to those to whom we were able to say only a few words. We ran into Baillie Tolkien (Christopher’s wife) and Cathleen Blackburn (Tolkien Estate attorney) in the exhibition, and found Priscilla Tolkien in the crowd and confirmed a lunch date with her. We were delighted to see Colin Harris, former head of the Bodleian reading rooms, who gave us so much help over the years when we were doing research in the old Room 132. We also met many old friends from the Tolkien Society’s Northfarthing (London) Smial, as well as some Society members we hadn’t seen in a while, such as Pat and Trevor Reynolds. Brian Sibley and David Weeks were there, and David Bratman of Tolkien Studies, and several persons we knew only from the Internet. We also saw David Brawn and Chris Smith from HarperCollins, and were introduced to two representatives of Tolkien’s continental publishers.

Soon after 6.00 there were speeches by Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, and Tolkien’s grandson Michael. Nearer 7.00, those of us with special dinner invitations were escorted across Broad Street to the Divinity School, the oldest part of the original Bodleian Library. Also at our table there were Carl Hostetter, Stuart Lee from Oxford, Shaun Gunner (Tolkien Society chair), scholar Dimitra Fimi, and artist Alan Lee. Unfortunately, the table was so large that one could mostly talk only with those immediately to one’s left or right: Christina was between Carl and Wayne, and Wayne between Christina and Catriona Cannon, Deputy Librarian of the Bodleian. Richard Ovenden spoke again briefly, and Baillie Tolkien spoke for the Tolkien family. Fortunately for us, the storm that blew through Oxford that evening began and ended while we were in the Divinity School, so we were spared having to deal with the rain and flooding of the streets.


Friday, 1 June

By 10.00 the next morning we were back in Blackwell Hall for the first of the ticketed viewings of the exhibition. Many others had booked for the first time slot also, so we saw many familiar faces. Before long there were many Tolkien scholars and enthusiasts in the exhibition room at the same time – now joined by, among others, Americans Lynn Maudlin and Bruce Leonard – and in the general excitement voices sometimes rose beyond the norm, further flustering the guards who, already dealing with bigger crowds than usually seen, were also having to warn people not to take photos, or that a backpack had to be either carried or worn on the front.

One enters the exhibition through a short hallway in which parts of a map of Middle-earth are projected on the floor and Tolkien’s design for the doors of Moria on the wall. Inside the gallery are nine glass cases, some very wide, containing manuscripts and works of art by Tolkien, artefacts such as pipes that Tolkien smoked and one of his writing desks, maps, books, and fan letters from the likes of then-future writer Terry Pratchett and singer Joni Mitchell. A great deal is compressed into a single large room. Jeremy Edmonds of the Tolkien Collectors Guide website, with Jason Fisher and Marcel Aubron-Bülles, has drawn a map and key to the show. The printed map of Middle-earth from The Lord of the Rings that the Bodleian purchased a few years ago, with annotations by Tolkien and Pauline Baynes preparatory to Pauline’s poster Map of Middle-earth, is on display (and available in reproductions), as are Pauline’s original paintings for A Map of Middle-earth and for her Hobbit map, There and Back Again. Slides of Tolkien manuscripts and art are projected within the gallery, there’s an interactive map for The Lord of the Rings as well as a three-dimensional map showing the progress of events in The Lord of the Rings, and there are two terminals at which one can test one’s knowledge of Elvish or hear Tolkien read.

We had held in our hands many of the items on display in the course of our Tolkien research, but any item can be seen in a new light when put on view behind glass and expertly lit, Tolkien’s art especially when taken out of the window mounts in which it’s stored. Even so, we were most interested in items we had never seen, some of which were lent by the Tolkien family, and we made many notes, for example of the details of Tolkien’s World War Two identity card. Wayne was told off by one of the guards for taking notes in pen rather than pencil; Wayne knew that one is supposed to use only pencil (or a computer keyboard) when working in a rare books library or archive, and as a rare books librarian himself always carries a pencil, but in more than forty years he has never known that rule to apply in an exhibition hall, where everything is behind glass!

As noon approached, we again visited the Bodleian shop, and on the steps of the Weston Library came upon some of our friends who were being interviewed by two women from BBC Radio. We stood by in case we were also wanted, and indeed spoke with the BBC crew, who had come to realize, as Wayne put it, that they had stumbled into a nest of Tolkien scholars; but they weren’t sure how to handle a pair of them at once. In the end we weren’t recorded, as the crew already had a lot ‘in the can’, and we’ve not been able to find that anyone recorded that day made it to the air or to the BBC website. Instead, the BBC released a video of a Tolkien fan who has ‘mastered Elvish and Dwarvish’ (serious enthusiasts will understand this necessarily involves a certain amount of invention).

That afternoon, we walked to Walton Street in the Jericho neighbourhood for a guided tour by Sir Rick Trainor of Cohen Quad, Exeter College’s new building on Walton Street which combines student accommodation, classrooms, a learning commons, a café, and – which Wayne was particularly interested to see – new rooms for the College’s rare books collection. The building is a good example of new construction on an existing and limited footprint, while retaining a historic façade, the exterior of the former Ruskin College. On arrival at the Quad, we were joined by Verlyn Flieger.

Following the tour, the two of us had a late lunch or early dinner at a restaurant further down Walton Street we had wanted to try, Brasserie Blanc. Around 6.00 we met many other Tolkien enthusiasts at the King’s Arms pub near the Weston Library. We were glad to have time to speak at least briefly, as far as speaking was possible over a general din, with Beregond (Anders Stenström) from Sweden, Yoko Hemmi from Japan, Andrew Ferguson (a Tolkien collector we had previously known only online), Daniel Helen from the Tolkien Society, scholars Nelson Goering, Holly Ordway, and Michael Ward, Laura Schmidt from the Marion E. Wade Center, Bill Fliss from Marquette, et al., as well as Tolkien Archivist Catherine McIlwaine from the Bodleian and, again, our Northfarthing friends.


Saturday, 2 June

This morning we had time to kill before meeting friends for lunch, so wandered to the Proscholium at the Old Bodleian to see a small exhibition on science in the First World War, to the shop at the Ashmolean Museum, to St Philips bookshop in St Aldate’s, and again to the Weston Library shop, where we added two more posters to our Tolkien-related purchases. As we still had time, we saw the other, smaller Bodleian exhibition, Sappho to Suffrage, on ‘achievements of women who dared to do the unexpected’, such as advocate for the vote.

In Blackwell Hall we met friends also going to the lunch scheduled for 1.00. Since Broad Street by this time was filled with a parade celebrating gay pride, we walked with Jeremy Edmonds along Parks Road, skirting the crowds, and came out to St Giles’ via Museum Road and the passage next to the Lamb and Flag. It had been suggested that we have lunch at the Eagle and Child in St Giles’, the best known of the pubs frequented by Tolkien and the Inklings, but lunch was in full gear, on a Saturday no less, and it was immediately clear that if we were to fit in the ‘Bird and Baby’ at all, we would be scattered. Instead, we crossed the road again and were able to claim the back room at the Lamb and Flag, which had also been an Inklings pub.

While at lunch, we learned from Laura Schmidt that Taruithorn, the Oxford Tolkien group, was having a strawberry picnic in the Masters Garden at Christ Church and that we would be welcome to attend. We trooped there, and after John Garth made inquiries, were able to get to the right place, away from the tourists who come to see a college associated with Lewis Carroll and (in the movies) Harry Potter. Wayne thought that it was very much an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland moment, as the picnic was at the edge of a croquet lawn.

Eventually we made our way back to the Old Bank, to rest before going to dinner at the home of our friend Christina Hardyment, author of Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint’s Trunk, among much else. This was just a short bus ride west of central Oxford. We had a lovely meal and a walk in Christina’s extensive garden, also with Samuel Fanous, head of Bodleian publishing whom we had met at the exhibition opening, Peter Groves, the vicar of St Mary Magdalen in Oxford, who by chance had also been at high table at Exeter, and Peter’s wife Beatrice, of Trinity College, Oxford, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter.


Sunday, 3 June

After a quiet morning, we were picked up by our friends Jane, Chris, and Eileen for lunch at The Perch, northwest of Oxford on the Thames. The Perch attracts many visitors, not only because of its age (parts date to the 17th century) and the quality of its food, but because it was a favourite of Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and Inspector Morse. Although the restaurant area was crowded, we had a good table, the weather was lovely, and The Perch puts on a substantial Sunday lunch. Afterward, we wandered through a patch of woods down to the river.

We had hoped to meet another friend for dinner, but this plan unfortunately fell through. Instead, we went to Quod for a light meal.


Monday, 4 June

A busy day. We were at the Weston Library when it opened, navigated the security gates, found the lovely new reading rooms, and picked up material we had pre-ordered from the Tolkien papers. There were several things we wanted to recheck that we had been unable to see again in earlier years (when we were writing the first Companion and Guide), due to the papers being processed and so unavailable. We were also able to have a few words again with Catherine McIlwaine, and were pleased to chat more with Colin Harris who, though retired, volunteers at the Library.

We interrupted our work at midday to have lunch, as arranged, with Priscilla Tolkien at the restaurant in the Cotswold Lodge. We try to see Priscilla whenever we’re in Oxford and always have a lovely time. Afterward, we returned to the Weston, completed our work, and said goodbye to some of our friends, other Tolkien scholars taking advantage of being in Oxford to visit the Bodleian, as we weren’t sure we would see them all again before we flew home on Wednesday. On the way back to the hotel, we picked up sandwiches from Pret to eat in our room.


Tuesday, 5 June

After a morning meeting, we had lunch again at Côte Brasserie, then went back to the Weston. We had booked to go the exhibition again this morning at 10.00, but had had to miss it; however, Catherine McIlwaine kindly arranged for us to get passes for 2.00 p.m., and we spent another hours and a half among the displays, making sure that we didn’t miss anything. Some of our friends were there again as well, and we were able to say hello to Andrew Higgins (editor with Dimitra Fimi of A Secret Vice) who had not been able to attend earlier. At the shop we bought up yet another of the larger Tolkien posters, which we added to the items to be shipped.

For dinner, rather than go to Côte yet again, as we had just been there for lunch, we went to Zizzi’s further along George Street. Afterward we wished that we had gone to Côte after all, as the food is better there and the rooms less noisy. Then it was back to the Old Bank to pack for our return flight. Now we broke out a fourth (soft) bag we always carry with us, to accommodate our copies of the Bodleian catalogue as well as, inevitably, a few more books acquired while in Oxford: Tolkien Treasures, a reduced version of the Maker of Middle-earth catalogue but worth having in its own right, and two used titles from the Oxfam shops in St Giles’ and the Turl.


Wednesday, 6 June

In the morning we took a coach to Heathrow, and as we were returning on in first class were able to have a nice lunch in the Concorde Room lounge (including, for Wayne, a ‘vegetable broth’ which was less broth than bisque, and much the better for it), then relax until boarding a 5.00 flight, to arrive in Boston at 7.40 local time. This journey was less fraught than our outward flight, with good service from British Airways and an excellent in-flight meal, and thanks to a helpful young agent in Boston we navigated the unintuitive new Immigration passport and fingerprint readers at Logan without too much delay. We returned to the Courtyard hotel for the night, and drove home the next morning, shopping for groceries and picking up our held post on the way.

Although we had read a proof of the Bodleian’s Tolkien catalogue before our trip, now we had ahead of us a closer reading and analysis, to pick out information to include in our online addenda and corrigenda. We also can look forward to a version of the Tolkien exhibition crossing the Atlantic to the Morgan Library in New York at the end of January 2019.

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