Tolkien Studies #14 (2017)

The new edition of the leading journal Tolkien Studies (Volume 14, 2017) appears to be available now at Project MUSE. Not that I’d be able to tell, as it’s pay-walled there. Scholars outside academia and outside the USA have to pony up $70 for a paperback version. $70!

Why is there no ebook version, on Amazon? The editors might be able to make more profit that way, according to my back-of-the-envelope sums. Let’s say they sell 1,000 copies of the $50-$70 paperback and make $38 a copy after printing and overheads. That’s $38,000 profit in maybe 18 months of sales. Let’s say that West Virginia University Press takes a 35% publisher’s cut, thus leaving the editors with about $25k per issue.

But if there was an $8.95 Amazon-delivered ebook giving $6 profit per book, after Amazon’s modest cut, and it sold 5,000 copies (because it was on Amazon, and so cheap and accessible in digital form) then that would give $30k profit in 18 months or so.

Anyway…. the highlights of the issue, for those not interested in the invented languages, are:

* The Mystical Philology of J.R.R. Tolkien and Sir Israel Gollancz: Monsters and Critics.
* Visualizing the Word: Tolkien as Artist and Writer.
* The Year’s Work in Tolkien Studies 2014. (The usual lengthy and authoritative survey review)

Project MUSE does at least have the first page of each of these, for free.


The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee beacons of 1897.

In June 1897, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee beacons blazed across the nation. Many were of tremendous size. A record of them seems very elusive in north Staffordshire, though one certainly happened atop the Broom Hills near Rudyard. Relics like that shown on the above postcard suggest many more also happened here, and into Cheshire and the Peak, to the same extent as in the south of Staffordshire.

Here’s a June 1897 letter from the poet A. E. Housman, on observing the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee bonfires and beacons to the south-west of the Black Country (South Staffordshire):

“Five minutes or so after the hour [of 10pm, their official starting time] I easily counted 67 [from his vantage point on Walton Hill, Clent]. Some of these were small affairs in the near neighbourhood, which soon died down; but at half-past there were fifty-two burning merrily on the south and west, from the Lickey on the left to the Wrekin on the right. Northward I did not attempt to count, as it was hard to tell the beacons from the ordinary illuminations of the Black Country. Of the distant fires Malvern was much the largest: the pile was sixty feet high and could be seen with the naked eye by daylight: through a telescope it looked like the Eiffel tower, as it was much higher than its width and held together with iron. But it had been so saturated with paraffin that it burnt out in an hour. The Clent fire was on the further hill, and not on the top The Clent fire was on the further hill, and not on the top but on the south-western face. By midnight, the number of fires had very much decreased, and only four, besides the Clent one, were visible at two o’clock: two distant ones somewhere by the Brown Clee, and two nearer, — one Droitwich way, and one on Kinver Edge which burnt till daylight brilliantly. It was a fine night, and at midnight the sky in the north had enough light for me to see the time by my watch. At two I heard a cuckoo, and immediately afterwards the larks began to go up and make a deafening noise, and some person at Kingswinford, possibly wishing to stop the row, sent up a sky-rocket. (There had been a number of rockets at Birmingham before 10.) About this time the first tinge that you could call blue came in the sky, which had turned buff and green soon after one: at 5 the clouds were red. I stayed to see the sun get above the mists and clouds, which was just 4 o’clock, and then I went back to bed at 5.15. There was a fair crowd round the Clent fire, but a policeman, who told me at 3 that he had been on duty ever since 6 a.m. the day before, said that it was not near so large as in 1887.”