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Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics “Richard West” Binding 1977

7 Mar, 2023
2023-3-7 4:30:43 PM UTC

A few weeks ago, I found an item which I knew next to nothing about, a library bind from 1977 of Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics appearing to be bound in maroon library buckram from sheets from the 1969 American edition, of which there is only a small entry on


The site states that the first of these 52-page booklets in stapled card wrappers appeared in 1969 from the Folcroft press but that the location of the print and the binding details and amount is unknown.


It does have however have a one-line entry for a Richard West binding from 1977, which matches the title page of the one that I bought. Some of you may have heard of Richard C. West who is a noted Tolkien scholar, most notably for his work with the journal Orcrist and for his book Tolkien Criticism: An Annotated Checklist. There seemed to be a connection between him and this binding. I asked Urulókë, Trotter, Bill Fliss of Marquette University and a few others and no one could tell me much about this volume. The price was very low, so I went ahead and bought it while containing my research.


I could find next to nothing online about this library at all, I did find a listing for a Folcroft library 1985 edition that was in a green binding, but the description turned out to be wildly inaccurate. I found a couple of entries on Beren’s site of volumes that he had sold, the Arden Library edition of 1980 and the Folcroft Library edition of 1985 in which the copyright pages states a limitation of 150 and 100 copies respectively. But nothing at all on this Richard West edition of 1977.

I finally got a hit when I reached out to Findegil for help. Surely, they knew of something that could aid in my research. Turns out they did. They were able to consult their own extensive library as well as notes compiled from The Bookseller in December 1979 and The Author in Spring 1980, and "The Pirates of Philadelphia" by David Machin. That the “Richard West” on the title page was not the Tolkien scholar Richard C. West but an imprint of one firm, established and run by the Weiman family, under three imprints in Pennsylvania, as were the Norwood and Folcroft bindings as well. In the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. federal government gave libraries money to build their collections. Publishers like the Weiman’s then sprang up to create cheap photo-reprints of scholarly books for the libraries to buy and they appear to have not given any royalties back to the Tolkien Estate or other publishers. A Mr. Mark Weiman is quoted as saying that it was “unproductive for them to search out every author they reprinted to send a royalty, so they wouldn't.” Richard West (only by coincidence the name of the late Tolkien scholar), Norwood Editions, Folcroft Library Editions all appear to be the same publisher. Eventually the federal money ran out and these editions stopped being produced. It also appears that these editions may not have been as limited as first appears. Probably hundreds of copies in a print run and bound in whatever color was on hand for cost purposes. However, the reason they appear to be limited on the secondhand market is that they were library books, most having been discarded long ago.

All and all this is a neat volume to have and a great addition to my library. It’s a neat window into the history of Tolkien library binds in the U.S. market and what was available to readers of the time period. I still have yet to find another “Richard West” imprint listed anywhere so if any member here has one, please dig it out and show us here. Many thanks to Wayne and Christina for aiding me in my research.

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7 Mar, 2023
2023-3-7 4:58:20 PM UTC
Today I learned something new! Great writeup Mr. Underhill. I loved it.
7 Mar, 2023
2023-3-7 5:21:50 PM UTC
Never came across a "Richard West" Edition - but did not know about it until now - thanks for information. Another one to look out for. I have a few Folcroft and an Arden Library one.
7 Mar, 2023
2023-3-7 6:34:27 PM UTC
Great story Mr. Underhill
Always exciting to find new entries in our collections.
7 Mar, 2023
2023-3-7 11:01:45 PM UTC
Another Mr.Underhill mysterium. I really enjoy reading these.
8 Mar, 2023
2023-3-8 1:56:36 AM UTC
I have a copy of "Religion and Love in Dante: The Theology of Romantic Love" by Tolkien's fellow Inkling Charles Williams, in dark green buckram, that must have been manufactured by the same outfit. It says "This is a limited edition of 150 copies" -- Arden Library, 1980.

It's not ex libris. I bought it about 1980, probably from the Corner-Stone Book Shop, a mail order business operated by Terry and Nancy Duniho of Plattsburgh, NY. They used to issue mimeographed catalogs that were fun to browse, with chatty material along with a lot of attractive items for people looking for books by the Inklings, MacDonald, Chesterton, &c. (I regret that I didn't save those catalogs.) It appears that there's a store at what I think is the same mailing address I remember from more than 40 years ago, but with a different owner.

I could eat my heart out about Tolkien items I might have been able to afford buying at their prices back then, almost half a century ago, but I won't.

(I won't, I won't, I won't!)
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