New Editions From Houghton Mifflin – Letters and Biography Re-Released

by May 16, 2000Books

Finally they have re-released Letters!
I received my press copies of Houghton Mifflin’s latest editions of The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien and J.R.R Tolkien: A Biography. The arrival of these editions is great news for people like my local librarian and me. I can now safely return their copies and pay my fines. I hope they understand. By the way, if you are my local librarian, and you are reading this I’m sure we can work something out.

For all you out there who have not had a chance to read either of these books, it is time to fix this inadequacy. The arrival of these editions excites me because I now know many others will have a chance to study up on their obscure Tolkien trivia.

Below is an excerpt from the official press release.

Who was the man behind Middle-earth?

Two new paperback reprints from Houghton Mifflin – Humphrey Carpenter’s J. R .R Tolkien: A Biography and The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, edited by Carpenter – throw the spotlight on the Oxford professor whose fantasy classics The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have been read by some 50 million readers since they first were published in the 1930s.

Houghton Mifflin, a longtime publisher of Tolkien’s work and work about Tolkien, is pleased to present Carpenter’s authorized biography, first published twenty-two years ago, in a new paperback edition. The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, first published in the United States in 1978, is now available in paperback the first time, with a greatly expanded index that will be a boon for fans and scholars.

Both books should help feed a fan base so insatiable that some 6.6 million people downloaded the online trailer for New Line Cinema’s upcoming adaptation of Lord of the Rings in the week of its debut – even though the film, the first of a planned trilogy, isn’t due to be released until Christmas 2001.

For his biography, Carpenter was given unrestricted access to all of Tolkien’s papers, diaries, and manuscripts, and interviewed the author’s friends and family. He tells how Tolkien, born in South Africa in 1892, was orphaned at an early age, fought in the devastating Battle of the Somme, and then returned to England to work on the venerable Oxford Dictionary.

But it was Tolkien’s doodling – he wrote the sentence “In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit” in the margin of an exam paper while a professor of English at Oxford – that led to his unexpected fame. A specialist in Britain’s ancient literary tradition and Northern European mythology, Tolkien with the encouragement of a circle of fellow professors that included C. S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, crafted a language and mythology for this imagined world – and created a classic in the process.

The edited collection of Tolkien’s prolific correspondence provides the best firsthand account of Tolkien’s relationships with Lewis and others, as well as his own assessment of his work and his writing process.


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