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Re: Tolkien signature
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Thanks Wayne for joining in and giving your thoughtful reply. We seem to be on the same line for the ebay signature...

But for the notes (abebooks items) I believe them to be genuine.
First of all, it is not atypical for Tolkien to write down or type down the sentence and sign it. I have now found multiple cases where Tolkien did exactly that. The most famous example is the card currently up for sale at Magss (here: http://www.maggs.com/title/AU4228.asp)

Have a look at this:
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You are exactly right about Tolkien being invariably around that time, but I have seen these items before and I have actually held them in my hands. Knowing where they come from and having seen the autographs up close I am almost certain these items are genuine. Originally they were in a signed book, with a handwritten letter and the note and the type letter signed (lacking the top) were together. They belonged to a friend who lived very close the Miramar and frequently visited Tolkien when he was at the hotel.

I can't tell why the typewriting does noet look Tolkien's... but you are correct there. But having seen book, handwritten letter together with these notes (all having the same blue pen autograph) I believe them to be genuine. Still, if I am correct, the note about Priscilla typing out parts of the manuscript might be a very interesting fact, not known before!

Posted on: 2008/10/1 7:39


Re: Tolkien signature
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The abebooks items may be genuine. But Christina and I look at them and see one red flag after the other, so many that we wouldn’t consider buying them -- if we could afford the prices, and to speak only for ourselves. The fact that the two items were in a signed book and with a handwritten letter means only that at some time they were put together: the authenticity of one item in a group is no guarantee of the authenticity of its neighbor. Each piece must be judged on its own merits. Nor does the proximity of a former owner to the Miramar necessarily say something about a letter dated c. 1943, when the earliest reference we have to Tolkien at the Miramar is for 1958.

To begin with, we find a lot to question about the signatures. In each, the J with a sort of cross bar is peculiar. The T is oddly flattened. The extension of the k seems contrived. The dots beneath the initials are more irregular than one would expect even if the signature were hurried. And the whole strikes us as lacking the spontaneity and flair that Tolkien usually put into his calligraphy in general and his name in particular. We could be wrong, but these things occur to us after having seen hundreds of Tolkien letters and signatures.

Second, there’s the typewriting. The font is a fairly standard pica, at least similar to that used by Tolkien in the forties -- the photo on abebooks isn’t good enough to make a proper comparison of letterforms -- but the fit of the characters in the letter in question is, in our experience, not to be found in anything Tolkien typed.

Third, there’s the problem that Tolkien wasn’t generally typing his letters c. 1943. In our calendar of his correspondence we record only the very occasional typed letter by him in the twenties and thirties, always on business or to a professional colleague. Almost all of Tolkien's letters, business or personal, that we’ve seen were handwritten. He was of the old school, and typewriting didn’t become a more frequent mode for him until mid-1944, by which time he was regularly typing air letters to Christopher (and that only because he could get more on a limited piece of paper with his midget Hammond typewriter font).

Fourth, there’s the curiosity of both items being on torn sheets.

Finally, there’s questionable content. In the one piece, there are more typos and misspellings than usual in a Tolkien letter, and only one corrected in manuscript. ‘Creaturues’? ‘Gandor’? ‘Shant’ with no apostrophe? ‘Of couse’? Moreover, Christopher is said to be ‘drawing some maps of the Shire’, plural, when only one of the maps he was making in 1943 (before being called up for service in July) was of the Shire proper (see Return of the Shadow, pp. 107, 200). It is known, by the way, that Priscilla typed out some of the LR chapters at about age 14: she and John say so in The Tolkien Family Album, p. 72, and we note it in Chronology, p. 257.

As for the ‘Eala Earendel’ typed quotation, if Tolkien typed this out himself, why should he go to the trouble of using a typewriter for just over one line of text? And would he really have made it ‘monnu’ when the word is ‘monnum’? This is certainly not equivalent to the card being offered by Maggs. The latter is typical of Tolkien when doing something personal -- handwritten and done with style -- whereas, in comparison, the typed quotation on abebooks is cold and impersonal. (The Maggs card first came to our attention in December 2006, too late to be included in our Chronology but it’s in our online Addenda and Corrigenda. It was a greeting by Tolkien to a postgraduate student, D.C. Levinson, whose work was on an Old English subject and which he particularly appreciated, so the quotation was apt. This was just before Christmas, but also just one month before Miss Levinson received her B.Litt. In this manuscript quotation, Tolkien correctly rendered ‘monnū’ with a macron over the ‘u’ as the abbreviation for ‘um’.)

Genuine, maybe, but suspect.

Wayne

Posted on: 2008/10/1 19:56


Re: Tolkien signature
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Thanks Wayne an Christina,

I'm happy for this very good answer. It is indeed easy to be mislead when looking at Tolkien signed notes. In fact, when I saw them, and was offered to buy them (much cheaper then they are listed at abe) I was very much tempted, but I did not buy them.

Typed notes are always tricky and when you spent your money on them you want to be sure that, if you ever need to re-sell them you want to be able to have good provenance. Or at least that they have something like a date, a known letter-head or something to back up the authenticity.

I did not find anything on these torn sheets that would be a good enough proof for them to be genuine. Together with the signed book and the handwritten letter, it would have been a good extra, but once you see them on theirselves, they become very tricky indeed.

Still, having seen them up close I believe them to be genuine. But you are right about "Gandor" and the other mistakes, it was something that I did not like to see.

While the autographs, when compared to other signatures from the same period look fine to me, put together with all the red flags you mention here, I'm very happy I did not buy them.

Thanks for pointing out the note on Priscilla typing out the chapters, I just did lent a copy of the Tolkien Family Album from Johan Vanhecke. For one or another reason I have bid on that book on ebay for about 50 or more times, but never won it. I have finally bought it now from someone over here in Belgium, but it has not arrived yet.

I should have checked chronology, but did not find it at first glance.

Posted on: 2008/10/2 2:04


Re: Tolkien signature
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This has certainly been an interesting discussion. It illustrates how important provenance is and how difficult it can be verifying a signature for collectors without provenance.

It is certainly a worry when considering not only the money that is involved with buying an item of this sort and after following this discussion my opinion has been swayed by arguements for and against.

My other concern is that if even one of these items (or others) is a fake, it may enter into the field of Tolkien Studies as genuine and its contents misleading us.

Thankfully we do have people who have a lot of experence with Tolkien's documents who are willing to offer their advice.
Thanks

Dior

Posted on: 2008/10/2 4:24


Re: Tolkien signature
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I also have loved this spirited discussion!

And I must say, when Beren said this

I should have checked chronology, but did not find it at first glance.


I had this mental picture of him wandering around his library, looking for the book amongst the shelves...

(Yes, I know what you were really saying Beren, but I still wanted to share. )

Posted on: 2008/10/2 17:01
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