Tolkien Collector's Guide
New Letter from Tolkien found between books
By Max

New Letter from Tolkien found between books

Feb 5, 2010

I was totally flabbergasted when I went through the estate of my aunt and found an old envelop stamped in Oxford 31st, December 1964. Enclosed was a letter from J.R.R.Tolkien to the pupils of my aunt. My aunt was a primary schoolteacher and must have had contact with Tolkien. The letter is printed on Tolkien stationary and is signed.

It says:

Dear Children,

Thank you very much indeed for writing to me to say that you have enjoyed reading my books. It is always pleasant for an author to learn that his work has given pleasure.

I was particularly interested to know that you have not only read "The Hobbit" and " The Lord of the Rings" in your own language, but that they are helping you to learn English as well. And Miss Korff tells me that you have painted water-colours of many scenes from these stories.

I hope that the books will continue to give you pleasure, and I wish you all much success in your studies.

Yours sincerely

J.R.R.Tolkien

Does any body of you know what such a letter is worth and how to connect to a collector?

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Feb 6, 2010

Max wrote
Since I am totally new in this area, could anyone tell me how often you find a new letter from Tolkien in this forum?


At the moment we tend to see more fake letters than real ones, but Tolkien was a prolific letter writer so they must be a lot of letters from him ready to be found like you did.
Feb 6, 2010
I'd agree with Trotter and others - very nice to see what to all appearances is a real letter! Letters such as this show up for sale every few months or so, but most of those are well known (up for sale more than once as they change hands multiple times).

There is not much scholarly value to your particular letter, but it is very charming!
Feb 6, 2010
This is a typical secretary letter of which I have seen over 200 by now... typed by Tolkien's secretary and also signed by this person. Clear match in autograph as well.
Feb 7, 2010
I have seen some fan post which was not quit as personal and charming as this one.
Feb 7, 2010
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
Feb 7, 2010
When did Tolkien first get a secretary to answer his mail, I always thought it was 1965 which is the year after this letter?
Feb 7, 2010
The letter is from New Year's Eve 1964.
If he did now have a secretary at this time he would have written the letter himself. What is your feeling regarding style and content.
Did he write it himself? Does it tell anything about him?
Feb 7, 2010
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
Feb 7, 2010
I'm not wanting to disagree with Wayne & Christina, but I'm very much convinced this is in fact a secretary letter and autograph. Why I believe it to be so is because I have been comparing many autographs of this period and over the years have become convinced that there is one group of very similar autographs (exactly like you see here) that look different from the more general Tolkien signature he used in this period. Also, the big difference is that this signature is only used on these typed signature, are always 'kind replies' and there are even examples of Tolkien signing and adding some written extra // then using his black ink flowing signature. The difference between the two groups of signatures of this period is so significant that I have come to conclude that either this was Tolkien's 'fast' signature he used when signing a lot of secretary replies or in fact a secretary signature. But when I found more letters with the same typing machine, letterhead and content without this 'fast' autograph and where Tolkien wrote in black ink some extra lines and his flowing black ink signature I am now thinking that at this period there was indeed a secretary that did copy his autograph... anyways, it is just a theory - but the more I study it the more I start to believe I'm correct.
Feb 7, 2010
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
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