Thursday, May 12, 2016

Antiquarian Book News

Magic Green Pen

A map of Middle-earth, which was heavily annotated by J. R. R. Tolkien, has been acquired by the Bodleian library in Oxford to add to the largest collection in the world of material relating to his work, including the manuscripts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The annotations, in green ink and pencil, demonstrate how real his creation was in Tolkien’s mind: “Hobbiton is assumed to be approx at latitude of Oxford,” he once wrote.

The geographical pointers were intended to give Pauline Baynes, the artist who was creating an illustrated map of his world, guidelines about the climate of key sites in the story. Baynes was the only illustrator Tolkien approved of, and he also introduced her to his Oxford friend C. S. Lewis, which led to her illustrating all of his Narnia books. Her poster map, published in 1970, was bordered with the first illustrations of Tolkien’s characters, but was based on the fold-out map in the first volumes of the 1954 Ring trilogy, which had been drawn by Tolkien’s son, Christopher, to his father’s meticulous instructions.

Baynes tore the map out of her own copy and took it to Tolkien, who covered it with notes, including many extra place names that do not appear in the book. Baynes died in 2008, but the map was only rediscovered last year, tucked into a book she had owned. The Oxford bookshop Blackwells put it on display and valued it at £60,000. The Bodleian managed to buy it with grants from the V&A Purchase Fund and the friends of the library.

Isaac Newton manuscript on abstaining from blood for auction

One of Isaac Newton's last projects, an important three-page manuscript entitled "The Question stated about abstaining from blood", dating from 1719 and forming part of his Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms, will be offered in Bonham's sale of Fine Books, Manuscripts and Original Illustrations on 15th June with an estimate of £50,000-70,000.

The manuscript, with extensive autograph revisions, grapples with the idea that early laws of God, preceding that of Abraham, imposed on all nations the avoidance of eating of blood – a prohibition of course which underpins Jewish kosher and Muslim halal methods of preparing food. It was rumoured among his contemporaries that Newton abstained from black-pudding and rabbits because of this Old Testament prohibition. After his death his niece, Catherine Conduitt, confirmed this conviction, claiming his abstinence was indeed a matter of ethics rather than taste. The present manuscript derives from her collection, which later formed part of the Portsmouth Papers famously sold at auction in 1936.

For enquiries please contact or the Book Department on 020 7393 3828. It may be viewed here.

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