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Yorkshire Poetry (1922 edition, not the edition with Tolkien's contribution), A Northern Venture and Leeds University Verse 1914-24



This article is primarily about the Swan Press and Tolkien's contributions made during his tenure at Leeds University.

Tolkien's contributions appear in

  • A Northern Venture
  • Yorkshire Poetry Volume 2 Number 19 October–November 1923
  • Leeds University Verse 1914-1924

As all three of these publications are now antiques and in the Public Domain, I am able to display images from the publications of Tolkien's contributions.

Additionally, Tolkien contributed to The Gryphon (University of Leeds) and The Microcosm (North Country Press).

Tolkien at Leeds University



Tolkien moved to Leeds in 1920 and took up his role at the English Department at the University

Early in 1922 a new junior lecturer was appointed to the language side of the English Department at Leeds, a young man named E. V. Gordon. This small dark Canadian (who was unrelated to George Gordon) had been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and Tolkien had tutored him during 1920. Now he made him very welcome in Leeds. ‘Eric Valentine Gordon has come and got firmly established and is my devoted friend and pal,’ he wrote in his diary.

Soon after Gordon’s arrival the two men began to collaborate on a major piece of scholarship. Tolkien had been working for some time at a glossary for a book of Middle English extracts that his former tutor Kenneth Sisam had edited. This meant in effect compiling a small Middle English dictionary, a task that he undertook with infinite precision and much imagination. The glossary took a long time to complete, but it reached print early in 1922, by which time Tolkien wanted to turn his hand to something that would give greater scope to his scholarship. He and E. V. Gordon decided to compile a new edition of the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as there was none in print that was suitable for university students. Tolkien was to be responsible for the text and glossary while Gordon would provide the greater part of the notes.Carpenter, Humphrey. J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (p. 145). HarperCollins Publishers.[1]

E. V. Gordon shared Tolkien’s sense of humour. Together the two men helped to form a Viking Club among the undergraduates, which met to drink large quantities of beer, read sagas, and sing comic songs. These were mostly written by Tolkien and Gordon, who made up rude verses about the students, translated nursery rhymes into Anglo-Saxon, and sang drinking songs in Old Norse. Several of their verses were printed privately some years later as Songs for the Philologists.Carpenter, Humphrey. J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (p. 146). HarperCollins Publishers.[2]

He had been composing a good deal of verse over the last few years. Much of it was concerned with his mythology. Some found its way into print in the Leeds university magazine The Gryphon, in a local series called Yorkshire Poetry, and in a book of verses by members of the English Department entitled Northern Venture.Carpenter, Humphrey. J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (p. 146). HarperCollins Publishers. [3]

Tolkien became Professor of English Language before his move back to Oxford University in 1925 and Humphrey Carpenter states
And after this, you might say, nothing else really happened.Carpenter, Humphrey. J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (p. 150). HarperCollins Publishers.[4]

The Swan Press



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At the sign of the swan



The Swan Press was a small publishing house founded by Sydney Matthewman in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, in 1921. It published poetry, plays, and translations of classical and foreign literature, often with illustrations by local artists. Some of the authors associated with the press were Matthew Arnold, Herbert Read, and Phyllis Matthewman. The press moved to London in 1929 and ceased operations in the 1930s.

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Sydney Matthewman (scanned photograph by Michael Green), the frontispiece to Poems (1927)Lesser-Known Writers S. Matthewman - Douglas A Anderson http://desturmobed.blogspot.com/2012/06/s-matthewman.html[5]



For more information on Sydney Matthewman and the Swan Press, please look at these articles


A Northern Venture



The book was published in June 1923 for 1 shilling and 6 pence and 170 copies were printed. It was reprinted in July 1923 at a reduced price, 1 shilling and 200 copies were printed. This is labelled as the 'second edition' but is really the second impression. The images shown are from the 'second edition' and I am not aware of any significant changes between the two editions.

This publication includes three poems contributed by J.R.R. Tolkien

  • Tha Eadigan Saelidan: The Happy Mariners

The poem was previously published in a revised form in The Stapeldon Magazine in 1920. It was later published in Tolkien and the Great War and The Book of Lost Tales Part Two.

  • Why The Man In The Moon Came Down Too Soon

This poem was reprinted in revised form in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and The Book of Lost Tales Part One.

  • Enigmata Saxonica Nuper Inventa Duo

This poem was included in the second edition of The Annotated Hobbit.

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Advert in Yorkshire Poetry


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Review of A Northern Venture - The Times Literary Supplement 1923https://www.tolkienguide.com/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?post_id=24408#forumpost24408[6]


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Cover of A Northern Venture


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The Eadigan Saelidan (The Happy Mariners) by J.R.R. Tolkien


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The Eadigan Saelidan (The Happy Mariners) by J.R.R. Tolkien cont. and Why the Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon by J.R.R. Tolkien


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Why the Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon by J.R.R. Tolkien cont.


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Enigmata Saxonica Nuper Inventa Duo by J.R.R. Tolkien



Yorkshire Poetry Volume 2 Number 19 October–November 1923Images shown are from copies held by the British Library[7]



This publication includes one poem by J.R.R. Tolkien and was published in October 1923 for 4 pence. I do not have any information on the number of copies printed.

  • The Cat and the Fiddle A Nursery-Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked.
The poem is reprinted in Three Early Poems and a revised version of the poem is published in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

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Yorkshire Poetry Volume 2 Number 19 October–November 1923 cover


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Yorkshire Poetry Volume 2 Number 19 October–November 1923 editorial


The Cat and the Fiddle A Nursery-Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked, Yorkshire Poetry, Vol. 11 No. 19, October-November 1923 page 1.jpg

The Cat and the Fiddle A Nursery-Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked by J.R.R. Tolkien


The Cat and the Fiddle A Nursery-Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked, Yorkshire Poetry, Vol. 11 No. 19, October-November 1923 page 2.jpg

The Cat and the Fiddle A Nursery-Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked by J.R.R. Tolkien cont.


The Cat and the Fiddle A Nursery-Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked, Yorkshire Poetry, Vol. 11 No. 19, October-November 1923 page 3.jpg

The Cat and the Fiddle A Nursery-Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked by J.R.R. Tolkien cont.



Leeds University Verse 1914-1924



This publication includes three poems contributed by J.R.R. Tolkien. The book was printed in May 1924 for 2 shillings and 500 copies were printed.

  • An Evening in Tavrobel
Reprinted in Three Early Poems.

  • The Lonely Isle
Reprinted in Tolkien and the Great War

  • The Princess Ní
Reprinted in Three Early Poems. This poem was revised as Princess Mee, which is published in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

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Leeds University Verse 1914-1924 cover


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Leeds University Verse 1914-1924 rear


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Leeds University Verse 1914-1924 title-page


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Leeds University Verse 1914-1924 contents


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Leeds University Verse 1914-1924 advertisment


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An Evening in Tavrobel and The Lonely Isle by J.R.R. Tolkien


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The Princess Ni. by J.R.R. Tolkien



Collecting these items



These are very difficult to collect, due to the scarcity of the items, and they are very old and fragile items. They are ranked in terms of scarity

1 - Yorkshire Poetry
2 - A Northern Venture
3 - Leeds University Verse 1914-1924

But they very rarely appear on the secondary market and have very high prices when they do. Lucius Books has a copy of Leeds University Verse 1914-1924 listed for GBP 4,000. I really liked the clamshell case design from this listing, so copied it for my editions.

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Other material


  • Father Christmas Letters
Tolkien started to write these letters during his time at Leeds. More about the Father Christmas Letters will be added to the site soon.
  • Songs for the Philologists
I hope to do a seperate article on this unauthorised edition later this year.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


Other resources


  • Leeds University Website Gryphon Magazine
- Vol. 4, No. 3 December 1922
- Vol. 4, No. 3 January 1923
- Vol. 6, No. 6 June 1925

Credits



  • Hammond & Anderson (H&A) - J.R.R. Tolkien - A Descriptive Bibliography
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J.R.R. Tolkien - A Descriptive Bibliography

Oak Knoll (1993)


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The Book of Lost Tales 1 (UK Edition)

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  • Book of Lost Tales Part 2
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  • Tolkien & The Great War
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Tolkien and the Great War

HarperCollins Publishers (2004-09-03)


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  • The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
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The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from The Red Book

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  • The Annotated Hobbit (2nd edition)
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Disclaimer



Under the copyright law of the United States every work published prior to 1928 is public domain, all the publications shown were published prior to 1928. Image copyright © belongs to the tolkienguide.com.

1 Carpenter, Humphrey. J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (p. 145). HarperCollins Publishers.
2 Carpenter, Humphrey. J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (p. 146). HarperCollins Publishers.
3 Carpenter, Humphrey. J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (p. 146). HarperCollins Publishers.
4 Carpenter, Humphrey. J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (p. 150). HarperCollins Publishers.
5 Lesser-Known Writers S. Matthewman - Douglas A Anderson http://desturmobed.blogspot.com/2012/06/s-matthewman.html
6 https://www.tolkienguide.com/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?post_id=24408#forumpost24408
7 Images shown are from copies held by the British Library