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By Jlong
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Tolkien Signed Book

25 Jan, 2009
2009-1-25 5:04:08 PM UTC

This one came up on and is sold by The Tolkien Bookshelf. What do you guys think?

Description: A copy of the 1st edition of Gottfried Keller's, 'Werke, Band 3, Der Grune Heinrich, Fragmente Aus Der Ersten Fassung, Dramatische Fragmente'. The significant part of this book is the signature of J.R.R. Tolkien to the front endpaper. Front endpaper has previous owners name and 'The Queens College, Oxford", with the Tolkien signature below. Possibly from a former student of Tolkien's. Appears legitimate, but no other provenance known.

251_497c9b66f2fda.jpg 850X669 px
26 Jan, 2009
2009-1-26 12:01:54 AM UTC
To me, the signature looks a rather similar to some of the dodgy blue-pen ones which Tolkien Bookshelf has - presumably inadvertently - had up for sale in the past. With no provenance, I would probably avoid.

26 Jan, 2009
2009-1-26 2:21:07 AM UTC
I wasn't thinking of purchasing it; the "no other provenance known" already makes the item questionable, but it also seemed to me to be rather similar to some of the other sketchy signatures that have been circulating lately--same style and similar blue ink (as Stu notes). I just wanted to post it and see if you guys agreed. If this is, in fact, a fake, should someone contact the seller? What do you guys think?
27 Jan, 2009
2009-1-27 10:56:42 AM UTC
Poor old David Miller! (dunedain; Tolkien Bookshelf)

We should just invite him to screen all his sales/listings thro' this forum first! ; before he lists them on Abebooks, with Tolkien Library, or on eBay. His name(s) does crop up quite frequently...

27 Jan, 2009
2009-1-27 11:13:10 AM UTC
>His name(s) does crop up quite frequently.

Indeed. Odd, that....
27 Jan, 2009
2009-1-27 6:59:31 PM UTC
I had the same thought.

There is bound to be the occasional questionable signature through any channel (auction houses, dealer, eBay), and to his credit the Tolkien Bookshelf does a good job bringing a large number of signed items to market at reasonable prices. In order to get lower prices on signed Tolkien items, you have to be willing to accept less provenance or a complete lack of it.

That is a risk that David seems to be willing to take, too - carrying items with lack of provenance runs the risk of getting his reputation tarnished when something is "identified" as a fake. (It is a whole separate topic to discuss when something that a handful of experts calls a fake, when there are likely other experts out there who think it is real.) To David's enduring credit, he has pulled from sale every item that has reached "fake" consensus that I know of.

This one at a cursory level looks pretty good to me. Looks like a fountain pen rather than a ball-point, and nothing obviously wrong with it.
28 Jan, 2009
2009-1-28 3:06:25 AM UTC
I just noticed today that this book is also for sale through Beren's website--Tolkien Library. I guess it must be pretty legit then even though it lacks a provenance.
28 Jan, 2009
2009-1-28 4:12:18 AM UTC
>I just noticed today that this book is also for sale through Beren's website--Tolkien Library. I guess it must be pretty legit then even though it lacks a provenance.

Yes, the Tolkien library shop essentially points to David Miller's (i.e. Tolkien Bookshelf's) store. The presence of an item on the Tolkien Library store has no real bearing - IMHO - on the legitimacy of that item or the accuracy of its description. Actually, some of the descriptions that David Miller uses for items on the Tolkien Library store are a bit questionable: e.g. describing a book [#000444] as "mint condition, opened only to inspect" and "mint unread condition" on the one hand (in bold) and then stating "a few spots of foxing on the limitation notice" (in normal typeface) on the other. It's either mint or has foxing, not both. In this case, looking at the picture, it can be seen that the foxing is quite severe and the book is not "mint" at all.

I've seen a few examples of this in the store, and they have always really irked me. They may just be cut and paste errors, but I believe these are all things that impact on the credibility of the seller.

I'm not saying this particular item [the signed book] is not legit, as I really don't have enough expertise to judge (although I reserve the right to form an opinion). However, I don't think it is a safe assumption that one can authenticate an item simply because the seller happens to have an association with someone you happen to trust (in this case, Beren). I think each item needs to be judged on its merit.

29 Jan, 2009
2009-1-29 6:15:00 PM UTC
I'm sure Beren will be on soon enough! But, it really is (or I'd imagine it is) pretty difficult to sell signatures without coming up against this problem. Decent provenance doesn't always come with all signed books; so what else is a seller to do? Other than, pull a sale if its seriously in question. Of course one could avoid aquiring them in the first place...

(Stu) On the matter of descriptions of condition; heavens! -this is a whole other thread! Any glance at Abebooks reveals that the majority of sellers are incapable (or simply unwilling) to list condition correctly; as well as a number of other important bibliographical points.

Why can't they stick to the guidance give by their respective associations (i.e. the ABAA, ILAB, PBFA etc). 'Mint' is not a recognised description of condition; books & jackets should be given a seperate condition grading etc etc. Hardly any sellers comply with these 'rules'; and many have no interest in answering specific questions you ask (mainly due to their lack of detail). There's also the historical nonsense that is the statement '1rst Edition'. Bah!...

29 Jan, 2009
2009-1-29 7:43:41 PM UTC
I don't see any problem what so ever in this signature... it looks very fine to me. It does not all resemble the blue pen autographs that David pulled out; but it made him more cautious I believe... hence the description.

Buying and selling autograpgs is a tricky business and if you want perfect provenance, you will have to pay 'big' bucks. Signatures at this price never come with any provenance... the only thing you can do is have some expert look at it; and even the biggest expert will not give you 100% garantee... Since something can look ugly, and still be genuine, and the opposite is true as well. Tolkien however has some elements in the autograph that are so 'Tolkien' and are hard to fake...

To make a long story short... I believe this to be a fine autograph by Tolkien for not a bad price, seen there is no provenance coming with the book.

Also I believe we have to give David some credit... he was writing about Tolkien and buying / selling Tolkien before most of us started. He is a great dealer and has a no questions asked return policy, perfect handling and years of experience as a bookdealer.
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