Thursday, February 7, 2008

There’s a copy of the Tolkien Encyclopedia near you — maybe

For anyone keeping score, the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment that I’ve written so much about is both expensive (at best, about $160) and not plentiful (according to its editor, Michael Drout, only 800 copies were printed, instead of the planned 2,500). That makes it pretty hard for the average Tolkien admirer to get hold of one. But don’t forget the libraries, Tolkien fans! With this kind of pricetag, libraries were the real intended market for the Encyclopedia anyway, and thanks to the wonders of the Internet age, it’s possible to track down almost half of the Encyclopedias in print. Just follow me to ...

Worldcat. I’ve mentioned Worldcat here before — blogging about how it can slice and dice academic citations better than any set of Ginsu steak knives! — and here it comes to the rescue again. Suppose you live in Dallas like me, and you want to find the nearest copy. Just follow this link to view all 313 library copies, arranged by distance from my ZIP code. (This was 305 copies just last week, so it’s clear that libraries are continuing to acquire it.) That’s nearly half the original print order accounted for, right there. Some additional number are owned by individuals, too, so who knows how many are actually left? And the Worldcat results may not be absolutely complete; I suppose some libraries may fall under its radar.

But it’s very interesting to see where copies of the Encyclopedia have landed. Currently, here’s the international breakdown:

United States — 285 copies
Canada — 10
Germany — 4
United Kingdon — 3
New Zealand — 3*
Hong Kong — 2
Taiwan — 2
The Netherlands — 1
Denmark — 1
Slovenia — 1
South Africa — 1

No copies in the French, Italian, Belgian, Swiss, Spanish, Polish, or Czech library systems. Only a single copy to share across all of Scandinavia. A single copy for the entire continent of Africa — even though I’ve clearly shown that Gandalf has been to Nigeria, hahae. Nothing for Finland, or even Russia. No copies in Australia or Japan. No copies anywhere on the entire South American continent. You folks better start talking to your libraries before they’re all gone. For the rest of you who haven’t seen one yet but have been eager to, find out how interlibrary loan works at your local lending institution.

* Is this perhaps purely because the Peter Jackson films were made there? “Middle-earth” tourism has become a major industry in New Zealand as a result!


  1. Hm.. Unfortunately, libraries in Bulgaria are too cheap to buy it, and the book itself is out of my price range. I would have to make threatening calls to the univeristy I work at and who knows... :)

  2. The nearest copy to you is the one in Slovenia. No idea whether they would lend it across country borders, but probably not. Maybe you should try making some of those threatening calls. ;)

  3. My university has two copies: one in Flint, MI and one in Ann Arbor, MI. the Flint copy is still "in labeling" so I haven't actually seen it yet. I'm trying hard to be patient...

  4. There are 14 copies in Michigan as of now, according to Worldcat. And even in the UM system, there’s also a copy at the Dearborn campus. You ought to be able to get hold one of these without much more waiting.

  5. My catalog defaults to Flint and Ann Arbor, so I missed the Dearborn copy. Glad they have one!

    One of my librarian friends told me how to flag the item so I will be alerted with it goes on the shelf. Woo hoo!