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The editing of _Etymologies_

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  • Carl F. Hostetter
    I d like to expand on Pat s comments regarding the distinction in our Addenda and Corrigenda to the _Etymologies_ between an erratum, proper, and the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 8, 2004
      I'd like to expand on Pat's comments regarding the distinction in our
      "Addenda and Corrigenda to the _Etymologies_" between an erratum,
      proper, and the editorial choices of Christopher Tolkien when producing
      the text published in _The Lost Road_.

      Predictably (alas!), since the publication of the first part of our
      "A&C", certain quarters have used the occasion to launch an attack
      against Christopher Tolkien, for supposedly "missing" or "concealing"
      entries and items in _Etymologies_. This position reflects a profound
      misunderstanding of the nature of the _Etymologies_ and of the
      intentions of Christopher Tolkien in presenting an edited version of
      the text in _The Lost Road_, as well as a profound ignorance of the
      actual process of editing a manuscript that is in fact a long,
      convolved, and multilayered record of shifting conceptions over a
      decade or so.

      It was never Christopher Tolkien's intention to discern and present
      every jot and tittle of the manuscript: even if that were possible,
      such a work would be wholly unsuited to even the more specialized
      audience of readers that could be imagined to be interested in _The
      History of Middle-earth_ as a chronological presentation of the
      literary and mythological materials that formed _The Silmarillion_ and
      _The Lord of the Rings_. Rather, Christopher's goal was to present a
      more-or-less consistent and coherent picture of the linguistic elements
      in _Etymologies_ that pertained to the literary/mythological writings
      he was engaged in presenting, in particular the nomenclature found
      throughout and the relative dating thereof, taking into account the
      changes that Tolkien made to try to discern the latest intention among
      multiple versions, deletions, and revisions of entries and derivations.
      It is true that he included material that went beyond the strict
      boundaries of those purposes, but that in itself does not mean that the
      central purpose was discarded, or that he was thereby obligated to
      present _every_ entry, deletion, change, or form to be found in the
      manuscript, of whatever stage, or however difficult the reading,
      particularly as doing so would have _greatly_ complicated and expanded
      the presentation, far beyond his purposes and the limits imposed by the
      publisher on length.

      In compiling and publishing the "A&C" (with, of course, Christopher
      Tolkien's permission and blessing), we by no means intend to fault or
      undo Christopher's editorial approach, which in fact was and remains
      entirely well-suited to his intentions and audience, but rather simply
      to present a different editorial view on the manuscript, intended for a
      much different, far more specialized audience than that for _The
      History of Middle-earth_. For _this_ audience, it is entirely
      appropriate to present a far more complete description of the
      manuscript, detailing its internal development in ways meaningful to
      the Tolkienian linguist, but of little or no interest to the more
      general community of Tolkien fans and scholars.

      And finally, I would like to point out that the "A&C" comprises far
      more "A" than "C": there are actually surprisingly few outright errors
      in the _Etymologies_ considering the inherent difficulty and complexity
      of the manuscript and its contents, and the vagaries of preparing such
      a document for publication by a non-specialist press.

      | Carl F. Hostetter Aelfwine@... http://www.elvish.org |
      | |
      | ho bios brachys, he de techne makre. |
      | Ars longa, vita brevis. |
      | The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne. |
      | "I wish life was not so short," he thought. "Languages take |
      | such a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about." |

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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