2 December 2003
TOLKIEN, John Ronald Reuel (1892-1973). Autograph letter signed to Jennifer [Paxman], Merton College, Oxford, 26 September 1947, 4 pages, 4°.
A FINE AND DETAILED LETTER ON MISTAKES IN THE HOBBIT AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF RUNES. The letter begins with advice on the choice of a college at Oxford, explaining that the post-war crush has made entry difficult, disclaiming patronage, but recommending Lady Margaret Hall over Somerville. On errors in The Hobbit, Tolkien makes some criticism of Allen & Unwin ('I find them rather unbusinesslike'), but admits that 'the author also made errors', chiefly with the dating of the phrase 'the third of March a hundred years ago last Thursday'. Turning to the question of runes, Tolkien remarks that 'The whole linguistic situation in "The Hobbit" has become rather complicated owing to the necessity for translation', before going on to explain the use of English for 'the Common Speech of the West', and the origins of that language, as well as the secret language of the Dwarves, and their alphabet; 'The Elvish Alphabets do not come into the Hobbit' (though he points out their appearance in one of the illustrations to one edition), but 'this alphabet plays a considerable part in the sequel "The Lord of the Rings"'. On the discussion of actual runes in The Hobbit, Tolkien comments on an error remarked only by his correspondent concerning dwarf-names, and reveals the source of these names in 'the first poem of the Elder Edda'. On the 'intentional inaccuracies' of spelling in the red runes 'Five feet high the dor and three may wolk abreast', Tolkien makes a learned digression on the shifts in sound and meaning of certain Anglo-Saxon runes. The letter ends with news of an excursion to Lincolnshire, and of an inaccurate citation of Chaucer at the tomb of Little Saint Hugh. A postscript expresses surprise at his correspondent having a copy of the American edition of The Hobbit, and notes the differences between the English editions.
Contact Client Service
New York +1 212 636 2000
London +44 (0)20 7839 9060
Asia +852 2760 1766
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis
What leading art, technology and finance specialists said at the inaugural Art +Tech Summit at Christie’s in London
From Connecticut to Kent in southeast England, homes with links to such classic works as Desire under the Elms, Lord of the Flies and The Deep Blue Sea