AUTOGRAPH LETTERS SIGNED BY J.R.R. TOLKIEN AND C.S. LEWIS
J.R.R.; LEWIS; C.S.; BURCHFIELD, R.W.
Archive of letters with two related books
Letters and books- including an autograph letter by
J.R.R. Tolkien and two autograph letters and an autograph note by C.S.
Lewis- from the collection of Robert W. Burchfield.
Burchfield (1923-2004), noted philologist,
lexicographer (he was the chief editor of the Supplement to the
Oxford English Dictionary), and friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, arrived
at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar from his native New Zealand in
1949. At Magdalen College, he studied English under both Tolkien and
C.S. Lewis, forming a particularly close bond with Tolkien, who served
as a mentor to the young Burchfield. In his capacity as chief editor of
the OED Supplement, he initiated an interesting correspondence
with Tolkien (who was an assistant lexicographer himself on the original
OED from 1918-20) concerning the origin of the word 'Hobbit'.
In a letter of 11 September 1970, Tolkien wrote: "For the moment this is
held up, because I am having the matter of the etymology: 'Invented by
J.R.R. Tolkien': investigated by experts. I knew that the claim was not
clear, but I had not troubled to look into it, until faced by the
inclusion of hobbit in the Supplement". Tolkien
suggested a definition which was later adopted verbatim, prefaced by the
words "In the tales of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)" (J.R.R. Tolkien,
Letters, 1981, no.316 and note p.453).
In the early 1960's, it was Burchfield, "then the
editorial secretary of the Early English Text Society, with Professor
Norman Davis, the director of the EETS, [who] 'gently bullied' Tolkien"
to complete and submit his edition of Ancrene Wisse which
Tolkien had begun as early as 1936 (Hammond and Anderson, 309). In a
1989 article in the Independent titled "My Hero", Burchfield
details the great influence Tolkien had over his life, describing
Tolkien as "the puckering fisherman who drew me into his philological
The collection consists of::
Autograph letter signed by Christopher Tolkien (Tolkien's son) to
Burchfield dated 27 June 1974 explaining that he found a book
(Wallenberg's Kentish Place-Names, included in the collection)
among his father's possessions after he died and is now returning it;
Autograph letter signed by J.R.R. Tolkien to Burchfield dated June 11,
1972 and written from Merton College, apologizing for not returning the
book (Kentish Place-Names) he borrowed: "My dear Burchfield /
In unpacking my books from shore [?; probably Bournemouth, from which he
moved in March 1972] I discovered this book which belongs to you. You
lent it me a long while ago- but as I was in hospital at the time of my
reward from Oxford [an honorary doctorate] I was not guilty of removing
it to [...?], though guilty (with more excuse) for not returning it
later. Forgive me. / Yours... / J.R.R. Tolkien";
3) The copy of J.K. Wallenberg's Kentish
Place-Names that Tolkien borrowed and Christopher Tolkien returned
to Burchfield. Octavo, original wrappers. Wrappers detached with
Autograph letter signed by C.S. Lewis dated June 18, 1956 written from
The Kilns, to Burchfield asking for assistance in joining the Early
English Text Society (EETS): "Dear Burchfield / I shd. like to become a
member of the E.E.T.S. Are you the right man to approach? If not (but I
think you must be) no doubt you can '[...?] me bettere' / Yours / C.S.
Autograph letter signed by C.S. Lewis dated June 26, 1956 written from
The Kilns, to Burchfield discussing the exchange of books: "Dear
Burchfield- (I'd rather you called me Lewis than Professor)- As I didn't
by any means want to get all numbers [?] sent me automatically, I'll
travel second-class. / I would like the South East
Legendary when it comes back. If Brock's Morte Arthur (E.88) is a
new post-Brock, edn. of the alliterative Morte I'd also like it. Most of
the [......?] wd. really like one- naturally- O.P. / Yours, C.S. Lewis";
Autograph postcard from C.S. Lewis to Burchfield (dated June 1953),
initialed by Lewis, written in Anglo-Saxon, referring to C.T. Onions
(fellow and librarian of Magdalen College, Oxford, and co-editor of the
OED supplement and editor of the Shorter OED) and
Typed Letter signed by C.L. Wrenn (Inkling member, Professor of
Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, the successor to Tolkien's chair, and editor of a
scholarly edition of Beowulf) and a note and draft letter by
8) Beowulf with the Finnesburg Fragment,
edited by C.L. Wrenn. London: George G. Harrap & Co. LTD, (1953).
Octavo, original black cloth. R.W. Burchfield's copy, with his signature
on front free endpaper and notes in pencil throughout. Interestingly,
Wrenn's gratitude to Tolkien is mentioned in the Preface (they had
previously collaborated on a 1940 edition of Beowulf with
Tolkien writing the Preface and Wrenn providing the Notes and
Introduction). A very good copy.
An important archive uniting the greatest English philologists and
lexicographers of the mid-20th century. $5800.