Rachel A. Fletcher, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, has published a new paper in the latest issue of the Journal of Tolkien Research, which shows some additional detail of the skills and effort that Tolkien brought to his job at the Oxford English Dictionary after his World War 1 service. Not only does it show a few additional words that Tolkien had some involvement with, it also shows that Tolkien was working for the OED months before previously known. Various previous accounts (Including Carpenter's Biography and Scull & Hammond's Chronology) had Tolkien accepting the position in November of 1918 and finding housing in Oxford that same month, but not starting work until early 1919. New evidence found and documented in this paper show that Tolkien made at least one contribution that was sent to the publisher on December 24th, 1918.

I asked Rachel what prompted this thread of her research:

  • I was actually at the DOE doing research for my PhD on OE dictionaries. They asked if I'd like to look through their OED slips, but it wasn't until I sorted through them and recognised Tolkien's handwriting that I thought I might be onto something. What really allowed me to connect the dots was the fantastic work of Peter Gilliver. I asked him for tips when working through the DOE collection; he suggested that I keep an eye out for Tolkien & was very generous helping me interpret my findings when they started to surface!

The paper is well written and documented with multiple images of various "slips" in Tolkien's handwriting, so even if you are not interested in his research for the OED, the paper is well worth downloading just for those new samples of his handwriting from this era.

Fletcher, Rachel A. (2020) "Tolkien's Work on the Oxford English Dictionary: Some New Evidence From Quotation Slips," Journal of Tolkien Research: Vol. 10 : Iss. 2 , Article 9.
Available at: https://scholar.valpo.edu/journaloftolkienresearch/vol10/iss2/9