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Lot #6153
J. R. R. Tolkien's Personal 'Introduction to Philosophy' Book and Handwritten Notes for Royal Navy and Air Force Cadet Courses

Philosophy book from the personal library of J. R. R. Tolkien, coupled with handwritten notes on the 'square circle' concept and war-dated course instructions for Navy and Air Force cadets, referring to both Sir Orfeo and The Canterbury Tales

Estimate: $6000+

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Server Time: 6/15/2024 10:30:31 PM EDT
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Description

Philosophy book from the personal library of J. R. R. Tolkien, coupled with handwritten notes on the 'square circle' concept and war-dated course instructions for Navy and Air Force cadets, referring to both Sir Orfeo and The Canterbury Tales

Rare signed book from the personal collection of J. R. R. Tolkien, which is accompanied by a two-sided sheet of handwritten notes by Tolkien, who on one side addresses the concept of a “square circle” found on page 192 of the book, and on the other side pens a “History of the English Language” study guideline for Royal cadets.

An Introduction to Philosophy by Jacques Martin (Translated by E. I. Watkin). Seventh impression. London, England: Sheed & Ward, 1942. Hardcover, 5.5 x 7.75, 272 pages. Neatly signed and dated on the first free-end page in fountain pen with his ownership signature, "J. R. R. Tolkien, 1944.” Autographic condition: fine. Book condition: VG/None, with slight sunning to spine, minor wear to spine ends, and a bookseller's notation ("Tolkien's Copy") penciled on the front pastedown.

Tolkien’s handwritten notes, unsigned, no date (circa 1943), are annotated in ink and pencil on both sides of an off-white 6 x 7 sheet of notebook paper, with the side in pencil headed “p. 192” and containing Tolkien’s thoughts on the content of said page. The notes, in part: “Square circle is not even a ‘pseudo-idea,’ it’s a mere verbalism, and due to invention of adjectives. But the ‘free adjective’ can by application is the names of things other than those from which it was originally abstracted general ideas (and images). Why not ‘square circle’? Because nouns (names) are not all of the same order. Thus we can say Blue Moon because although ‘moon’ has not usually the accident ‘blue,’ it would remain moon if it had that accident.”

The opposite side, which is penned in bold ink and headed “R.N. and R.A.F. Cadets, History of the English Language,” contains several of Tolkien’s course instructions, which read: “These copies of the Extracts (Old and Middle English) and Text are for use in Papers I and II Monday morning, 11 September; and Tuesday morning, 12 September. They should not be marked, and should be returned with the answer-paper at the end of the morning session on 12 September. The passage set for translation in The Reeve’s Tale (170-206) will be found on page 9 ‘Those sely clerks’ to page 10 ‘as is your guise!’ The passage set from Sir Orfeo is page 7 ‘O way!’ to the last line of the page (234-264).” In overall fine condition.

These ink notes undoubtedly date to Tolkien’s tenure as the first director of the Navy and Air Force cadet courses for the English School at Oxford, which was intended to broaden the mind of the British serviceman. Of further interest is the mention of “The Reeve's Tale,” the third story told in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, and of Sir Orfeo, a version that Tolkien prepared for the naval cadets’ course at Oxford; following Tolkien’s death in 1973, his son Christopher discovered an unpolished translation of Sir Orfeo, which he published in edited form with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl in 1975. Accompanied by an original “Special Examination for R.N. and R.A.F. Cadets, English, Use of English” test sheet, one page, both sides, 5.75 x 8.75, dated “[Vacation, 1944],” which contains a total of six problems that were ostensibly created and arranged by Tolkien.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Art, Literature, and Classical Music
  • Dates: May 22, 2024 - June 20, 2024