An inscribed Lord of the Rings
- Recently I had a chance to view a set of author-inscribed copies of the 3
volumes of The Lord of the Rings that are unknown to the Tolkien trade, as
they've been in the same private hands for fifty years. With the owner's
permission, I'm here to tell you about them.
The story as I understand it is that an American family on a sabbatical or
exchange visit for a year in Oxford around 1960 were near neighbors of the
Tolkiens and either had him over or visited him for tea one day. As the
children were enthusiastic fans of The Lord of the Rings, they asked him to
sign the family copies of the volumes and to write "Speak friend and enter"
in one of them.
Tolkien signed the recto of the loose front flyleaf (if I recall correctly)
of each volume with forms of his usual signature, with the dots underneath
his initials and an ornamental line beneath the whole. In vols. 1 and 2,
the upper diagonal of the "k" extends over the "ien"; in the more neatly
written v. 3 it does not.
Vol. 1 contains no inscription; vols. 2 and 3 have differing inscriptions
below the signature, both in Tengwar. The interesting thing is that the
owner, who was one of the children who had the books, had no idea what they
said or which, if either, bore the requested text. I don't read Tengwar
well enough to have been able to tell him on the spot, but I took
photocopies home and was able to confirm that it is the neatly written
inscription in vol. 3 that reads "pedo mellon a minno", i.e. the westgate
inscription in Sindarin.
But what does the other one, in vol. 2, which is quite different, say?
Well, it's kind of loosely scrawled, and as I said my Tengwar is not
entirely up to snuff, but what I think it says is - in English - "For the
family Moses", Moses being their surname.
The other question the owner had is how much, if anything, the books are
worth, and there I could not help him. Maybe some of you more knowledgable
on the book trade would have some idea. They're all early printings of the
A&U publication (FR 3rd, TT 2nd, RK 1st, according to the t.p. verso). The
flyleafs are all rather strongly foxed, but the rest of the interiors are in
pretty good shape. The problem is, as the owner apologetically informed me,
that they were heavily-used reading copies for many years. The interiors
are physically intact and holding together (at least one of the folding maps
is detached, but they're all present), but the cover bindings are completely
demolished. The boards are falling off or detached altogether, and the
covers of all three spines are completely gone.
But they have these unseen signatures and inscriptions ... what do you