Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hot off the virtual presses!

Ages ago, I wrote about the online Literary Encyclopedia, which, in spite of its breadth and quality still seems largely undis-covered — largely, but not completely; I’ve started to see a few references to it popping up here and there. When last I wrote, a bit more than a year ago, the Literary Encyclopedia comprised some 5,000 entries, totaling roughly nine million words; today, they’re up to 6,400 entries and ten million words. That is to say, they’re growing at roughly 2,000 words every day. Pretty impressive.

I’m writing today to announce the publication of my newest entry, a 2,200-word overview of J.R.R. Tolkien’s History of Middle-earth. You can only read the first 150 or so words without a subscription, but subscriptions aren’t terribly expensive — and in any case, your local library or university may already have one. Look into it! Anyone who has full access and reads my entry, I welcome opinions. The twelve-volume History of Middle-earth, the inception of the series, its progress over more than a dozen years, and the subsequent reception and critical response — these are not the easiest things to summarize in 2,000 words!

According to my original schedule, I should have had many, many more entries written by now, but alas, the intrusions of “real life” being what they are, this is only the second in the series I proposed (the first was a general entry on the Inklings). I hope to pick up the pace a little bit, though, and I am already working on a third entry, on C.S. Lewis’s The Dark Tower and Other Stories. I have also cleared the way to write an entry (or more than one) on Lloyd Alexander, at some point when time permits.


  1. Damn: the University of Arizona isn't a subscriber. Nonetheless, I'll keep an eye out for alternate means of finding a way in.

  2. I don’t know whether you’d care to subscribe as an individual, but the cost is really not bad at all. Follow this link for details. If I didn’t get a free subscription as a contributor, I would consider buying one myself.

    It’s hard to argue with this: “Membership costs just $18.95 for a full year [...] or $9.95 for a month. This price is kept deliberately low since we wish to be as socially inclusive as possible: it is intended to be roughly equal to the cost of one scholarly paperback intended for student use. For this price we offer you not 150 pages but 25,000 pages, more than 10 million words of authoritative writing by named scholars, [...]. If you subscribe for one year and are not happy with what you see within the first 24 hours, send us an email saying why and we will refund your subscription price less $3 for administration.”

  3. Thanks for pointing something out that I had never really noticed during several decades of Tolkien fandom: Unfinished Tales has a subtitle!

  4. I live to serve, squire. The rest of the title is very easily overlooked. In Unfinished Tales itself, the full title appears only on the full title page, not the half-title page, introductory matter, lists of books by the author, etc. Even Christopher Tolkien himself refers to it as just Unfinished Tales (e.g., in the forewords to The Book of Lost Tales, Part One and The Peoples of Middle-earth, to give just two instances). It’s only natural to forget the rest of the title — but then, you’ve got somebody like me to remind you. ;)

  5. My first edition (bought when it came out, not as a rarity) of Unfinished Tales has no such subtitles; I believe it was added later.

  6. I think you might be mistaken, John — unless your first edition is a variant printing that I haven’t come across. My first edition and others I’ve examined do indeed have the subtitle — if you know where to look for it.


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