Letter link: Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Rayner Unwin • 12 May 1955 (#201)

This letter has been sent for auction at RR Auctions

Remarkable ALS signed three times with his initials, “JRRT,” five pages on three sheets, 5 x 6.75, personal letterhead, May 12, 1955. Lengthy, detailed handwritten letter to his publisher Rayner Unwin, commenting on his difficulties in finishing the third and final volume of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King. He focuses on corrections to proofs and revisions to the comprehensive appendices included in the work, which detail the history, cultures, genealogies, and languages that Tolkien imagined for the peoples of Middle-earth.

This letter offers exceptional insight into Tolkien's working practice, showcasing his attention to detail in building the world known as Middle-earth and in completing the final volume of his masterpiece. His correspondent, Rayner Unwin, had, at ten years old, recommended that his father publish The Hobbit; working for the George Allen & Unwin firm as an adult in 1951, Rayner also undertook the publication of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien clearly respected Rayner's literary opinion, asking if any sections of the appendix should be 'jettisoned'—and noting that his friend, the legendary poet W. H. Auden, felt that the romantic 'Tale of Aragorn and Arwen' should be discarded from Appendix A. Tolkien deemed Aragorn-Arwen episode 'really essential to the story' and, ultimately, decided to leave it in; the other sections in question, 'Writing and Spelling' (describing dwarves' runes) and 'On Translation,' also remained in the appendices.