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17602Drout, ed., _J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia_

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  • Carl F. Hostetter
    Dec 13, 2006
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      I just received my copy of Drout, ed.'s, _J.R.R. Tolkien
      Encyclopedia_ this evening[1] and have spent about an hour reading in
      it. I thought I'd share some initial thoughts.

      Leaving aside the price,[2] which seems outrageous (though it is
      unfortunately not out of line with academic publishers who aim their
      works primarily at libraries, not at readers), this is a book that
      nonetheless contains quite a bit of meat for the price of the meal.
      Most of the important Tolkien scholars are represented here (the most
      obvious exception being Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, who were
      engaged in their own great works at the time), and those whom you
      have come to know and trust do not disappoint in their articles,
      which make for important reading.

      Unfortunately, among this meat there are some veins of gristle, as
      well as some other, mysterious substances. The "ists" appear here and
      there to assert their favorite "isms" at Tolkien's expense, and there
      are some frankly strange articles even apart from these, such as the
      one on "Missions from Anglo-Saxon England" that, while no doubt
      entirely accurate in its contents, makes _not one mention_ of Tolkien
      or his works, and seems entirely unconnected with the titular purpose
      of this _Encyclopedia_.[3]

      The greatest flaws of this work are the unevenness of its
      contributions, and the large number of editing and typographical
      errors. Both of these can be laid at the feet of the stern insistence
      of the publisher to meet a really completely arbitrary deadline (esp.
      given the price of the volume: one cannot imagine that Routledge
      believed it would appear on shelves in the malls this Christmas!).
      What was needed, and I think had been planned by editor Drout, was at
      least a few months subsequent to getting all the articles in hand in
      which he could uniformly proof, edit, pare, cross-reference, and
      (where necessary) fill in any remaining gaps in the scope.
      Unfortunately, Drout was denied that chance by the editor (as those
      of us working with Drout at the end can painfully attest), and even
      such corrections as were supplied by those of us who were able to see
      some of the work in galleys are only partially evidenced in the
      published work, leaving many glaring errors intact. Needless to say,
      such flaws as remain in the published work do not redound to the
      glory of Routledge as an academic publisher; but then, in my
      (admittedly limited) experience, academic publishing generally seems
      ever less and less interested in quality than in quantity.

      Nonetheless, if one can make allowance for such blemishes, on
      balance, I think the volume important and even worth the money (if
      one can afford it). Which of course only makes its flaws, entirely
      avoidable save for the impatience of the publisher, all the more
      lamentable.

      ----

      [1]: Michael D.C. Drout, ed., _J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia:
      Scholarship and Critical Assessment_. New York: Routledge, 2006.
      <http://www.routledge-ny.com/ref/tolkien/>.

      [2]: For fellow contributors: I ended up having to buy my own, as I
      was politely but firmly informed by the Routledge rep. that
      contributors were not due copies. The best deal I found, even better
      than the contributor's discount offered by Routledge, is to order
      from Barnes and Noble online: <http://search.barnesandnoble.com/
      booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780415969420&itm=1> as a "B&N
      Member" for $140 w/ free shipping -- even if you have to pay the $25/
      year fee to become a member, this works out to be a better deal --
      and then also apply the coupon code D3W6C9D (expires today, alas!)
      for an additional %25 off.

      [3]: A fact I mentioned to Dr. Drout upon seeing it in galleys, but
      which he, alas, seems to have been unable to do anything about.
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