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An inscribed Lord of the Rings

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  • David Bratman
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 21, 2011
      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
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