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Re: New Letter from Tolkien found between books
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Since there could be a consensus but not a resolution among the writers in this thread, we asked Christopher and Baillie Tolkien about the letter to the Fourth Class and the larger question about secretaries signing Tolkien's name in his style. Christopher knows his father's writing very well, as no one would dispute, and his wife Baillie had direct experience as one of JRRT's secretaries. Christopher replied this morning that the letter of 31 December 1964 is genuinely by his father, 'entirely characteristic, and signed by him: the signature is unquestionable and in no way out of the ordinary'. Further, Christopher rejected completely the idea that his father would have directed a secretary to imitate his signature, or that a secretary would have done so without direction: this would have been 'contrary to his sense of propriety'.

Wayne & Christina

Posted on: 2010/2/12 19:30


Re: New Letter from Tolkien found between books
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But I believe it is mainly caused because of the many 'fakes' that are being thrown on the market almost on a weekly basis.

We weren't aware that fakes were showing up that frequently. It would be useful to note them on this site as they come to your attention.

I came to the conclusion that at that time Tolkien did use his fountain pen in almost all occasions where he wanted to sign 'personal' letters and books.

Almost all, yes, but not all. We would not, anyway, consider the letter to the Fourth Class necessarily 'personal' but part of the business of being a popular author.

I hope soon to find all the elements I see consistently repeated in these secretary signed letters on for example a handwritten book or a handwritten letter.

By 'secretary signed letters' we assume that you mean signed letters typed by a secretary, as it is not yet proven that any secretary signed any of Tolkien's letters. And again, you can't expect consistency when circumstances constantly change. Tolkien had written to Rayner Unwin on 28 May 1964 that arthritis was affecting him more and more; this didn't prevent him from handwriting letters with his fountain pen, but one has to take into account that a square-nibbed pen requires finer control than a ballpoint pen and can be more tiring to the hand. Also, Tolkien may have been more willing to use his fountain pen when there only one letter to sign than when there were several and his secretary was waiting to fold and post them. (Ballpoint/biro of course doesn't need much time to dry.)

Up to the moment I do, I believe I need to keep the theory open and the more I put these early secretary letters next to each other (and see these are 'remarkable' consistent) it either means Tolkien used two distinctive different autographs in the same period (a fast and a more carefully (or personal) one) or when I see other 'fast' signatures from the same period which are in fact much closer to his 'early flowing' signature there was in fact a time when some secretary copied his autograph.

In this you should be careful not to find consistency or pattern because you expect to find consistency or pattern.

I'll leave it open for now and don't feel like that it would be a good idea to start posting examples here (because I'm afraid of getting more fakes), but it might be a good idea if for example I could one day 'show' Christina & Wayne why this thought is growing on me.

As an alternative to posting scans here, you could give a list of examples of letters with ballpoint signatures which we could compare against our own file and information about Tolkien's several secretaries. Of the over 200 examples you've seen, which you believe to have been both signed and typed by a secretary, how many appear in each year? What are the earliest and latest examples? Which are the best examples in between? Any data of this sort could be useful.

Wayne & Christina

Posted on: 2010/2/8 6:09


Re: New Letter from Tolkien found between books
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Beren, you're trying to impose too much consistency on an activity that's inherently inconsistent. We all sign our names differently depending on what writing instrument is used, whether one is sitting or standing, what surface the paper is on, whether one is at leisure or pressed for time, the state of one's arthritis, etc. Tolkien's signature made with a square-nibbed fountain pen is clearly different from that made with a ballpoint pen (biro). In our file of letters we've found numerous signatures, certainly by Tolkien, very similar to that on the letter in question. Given this, and our feeling that Tolkien would have found a secretarial facsimile of his name dishonest, our conclusion is simply that it's a 'fast' signature, as you put it.

Wayne & Christina

Posted on: 2010/2/7 14:47


Re: New Letter from Tolkien found between books
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When did Tolkien first get a secretary to answer his mail, I always thought it was 1965 which is the year after this letter?

You may be thinking of Joy Hill, who began to help Tolkien with his fan mail by mid-1965. Christopher Tolkien has assumed that his father obtained a secretary circa December 1957. The earliest mention we have seen of Tolkien having a secretary is in a letter to Rayner Unwin of 24 February 1959. (See our Chronology, pp. 799-800.)

Wayne & Christina

Posted on: 2010/2/7 9:09


Re: New Letter from Tolkien found between books
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The letter seems genuine to us too, typed by a secretary but signed (quickly, in ballpoint) by Tolkien. For what it's worth, we've never seen a secretary-typed letter from Tolkien that he didn't sign personally, except for those clearly marked "p.p." (per procuriationem, by delegation to) with the secretary's name or initials. None of Tolkien's secretaries, as far as we know, ever tried to imitate his signature -- we doubt that he would have approved of the deception. Nor is it likely that Tolkien, who always took special care when writing to children, would not have signed this particular letter himself.

Wayne & Christina

Posted on: 2010/2/6 20:03



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