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Details about  J.R.R Tolkien, Rare hand-written letter by Tolkien

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J.R.R Tolkien, Rare hand-written letter by Tolkien
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05 Jan, 2015 11:01:49 GMT
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Item location:
Machynlleth, United Kingdom

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Last updated on  19 Dec, 2014 00:11:17 GMT  View all revisions
htiaF kraM
fasI goideochclwB
ddyweC mwC
EE9 02YS
modgniK detinU

:enohP923135 05610

Item specifics

Format: Hardback Printing Year: 1961
Special Attributes: 1st Edition, Signed
A letter to Mrs E.C. Ossen Drijver, 5 January 1961. One page, both sides. Increasingly impossible to find a hand-written letter with good content on his writing. Even more scarce as it includes the original envelope.  Contact us for a copy of both sides of the letter. Note- excerpts of this letter can be found on page 303 of the book The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 1981. Please, serious inquiries only. contact

We have been kindly informed of the importance of this letter, especially as there are differences to the transcript in the book. 

What is incorrect in the published versions by the way?

The published excerpt in Carpenter's Letters of JRR Tolkien (letter #227, p303) isn't greatly flawed with respect to context, but there are four significant deviations which actually have a considerable impact on the study of Tolkien's invented languages.  


In the two sentences at the bottom of the obverse, in the discussion of the etymology of Númenor, Carpenter's transcription traces the first element to numé-n from the root(s) ndū and nu.  This makes it seem as though Númenórë, despite the long-vowel marked with an acute accent on the ú, potentially hails from a root or stem without long vowel (i.e., num-én from nu).  This in turn allows one to contemplate that the long vowel on the u might be an emergent property of the compound with nórë ‘land’.  But the actual letter clearly has núme-n and nū, and this resolves any ambiguity, showing that Númenórë descends directly from núme-n, ultimately from either ndū or nū.


Note, too, that where Carpenter has nórë and twice has Númenórë, the manuscript actually has nóre and (in the second instance, on the penultimate line) Númenóre, both without diaeresis on the final -e.  This isn't a grievous deviation, since it only marks a vowel which receives its own pronunciation (i.e., not a silent vowel, nor part of a diphthong) as in, for instance, Noël or Zoë.  But this was always optional, as Tolkien indicates in Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings: Final e is never mute or a mere sign of length as in English. To mark this final e it is often (but not consistently) written ë.


Carpenter has perhaps understandably opted for consistency with the initial instance of Númenórë (so written by Tolkien) but it's interesting to note that Tolkien was less concerned with mere consistency.  To him, the rule that "[f]inal e is never mute or a mere sign of length" trumped the need to consistently mark the e.


There are a few other, minor, typographical deviations from the original.  For instance, Tolkien actually wrote "summarized" (with a z) on the obverse, wheres Carpenter regularizes this to the more common British spelling "summarised".  In truth, though, and particularly in Tolkien's day, both were equally acceptable British orthography.  It's only in the US that "summarize" remains the only correct spelling.


Thanks again for the images: most kind.


Dr Marc Zender
Assistant Professor, Anthropology

Tulane University

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