Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Merton Photo

So, after discussing an unfamiliar photo of JRRT in a recent comment on a recent post, I went back to see if I cd find where I'd first come across it. And, with a little digging, I did: it was in David Barratt's little book, C. S. LEWIS AND HIS WORLD [1991], page 21. I'd been impressed by this book, which unlike most picture-heavy books actually included text that made a serious critique of Lewis's work instead of offering up the usual fluff, but what impressed me most was that he printed a photo of Tolkien I'd never seen before. In fact, I've been wondering in retrospect if I myself might have been Blackwelder's source, especially since it wasn't in the original version of his book, PHOTOS AND SKETCHES OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN [n.d. -- circa 1983?], which I also have a copy of.

Not so, it turns out, since his image (in the 1993 expanded edition, TOLKIEN PORTRAITURE) includes the original caption from its apparent first publication (wherever that was), while Barratt's reproduction has its own caption ("Professor J. R. T. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, in his study at Merton College, Oxford"). And, just for the record, Barratt in his Photograph acknowledgments credits BBC Hutton Picture Library for this image.

By the way, while searching for something else today on WorldCat, to my surprise I discovered a copy of Dr. Blackwelder's never-published book listed (the 1993 version, I think), w. myself given as one of the assisting authors:

This turns out to be Marquette's copy, wh. Dr. Blackwelder would have given them along with the rest of his bequest. So I assume any researcher who visits the Special Collection there shd be able to consult it for themselves. Just don't be disappointed by the poor quality of the photocopy reproductions of the photos and drawings; the pictures are recognizable but much of the detail is lost, since this was just a working project, not anything finalized for publication.

Still, it's a handy referent, and shows how interesting a full-fledged book on the topic would be. I'd love to see a book someday similar to THE PORTRAITS AND DAGUERREOTYPES OF EDGAR ALLAN POE (by Michael J. Deas [1989]), which reproduces, in sequence, every known surviving photo or contemporary painting of Poe.* But I don't think we'll be getting one anytime soon.

In any case, as I said in my most recent Simon Tolkien post -- hooray! Today we get a new Tolkien photo!

--John R.

*a collection made all the more interesting by the little-known fact that Poe only grew his moustache the last four years of his life; before that he'd had sideburns.


Extollager said...

A book with all of the Tolkien photographs would be welcome. Perhaps it could include photographs of residences and neighborhoods known to Tolkien, including, where possible, images from his time; so we'd get something like a cross between the Poe book you mention and the Gilbert/Kilby book of about 40 years ago, C. S. Lewis: Images of His World. (There's something like the Gilbert/Kilby book, by the way, but on George MacDonald.) A book of this sort on Arthur Machen would be interesting.

David Bratman said...

I've seen the copy of Dr. Blackwelder's "Portraiture" in the Marquette archives. One of his many dazzling accomplishments.

It may be time to start collecting misspellings of Tolkien's name. "Tolkein", of course, and the infamous "Tonkien" from the 1901 census; "Renel" for "Reuel" that the Library of Congress had for a while. "J.R.T. Tolkien" is one I don't think I've seen before; Chad Walsh had "F.R.R."; "J.J.R." has been seen somewhere, as has just "J.R." without the second "R."

Ardamir said...

John, I also searched for the book on the web and found it, so I actually thought it had been published, but I think I also found just the Marquette archives copy. Is Blackwelder's original book a similar, unpublished book too?

I happen to collect electronical photos of Tolkien and related ones, and have currently around 1700 such photos in my collection, of which half are of places and the other half are of people (and that includes very few photos of C.S. Lewis yet).