Tolkien Gateway

Letter 166

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 166
RecipientAllen and Unwin
Date22 July 1955
Subject(s)Proofing the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings

Letter 166 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Proofs for the Appendices arrived late from the printers and the phonetic "key" to the Angerthas or Dwarf-runes was missing the phonetic symbols. Tolkien had drawn in the symbols by hand and the printers reproduced his rough drawing in facsimile when he intended that the symbols be done in type. Tolkien was also anxiously awaiting page proofs incorporating revisions of the narrative to The Return of the King.

Tolkien informed the publishers that he had returned material sent to him but that it may have missed that day’s post. He realized that time was short but the material was intricate. He found the proofing procedure overly laborious on his part and felt that it greatly increased the chances of errors and discrepancies. Tolkien pointed out that he had sent in corrections for revised page proofs, but he was receiving queries from the head reader that showed that the latest revisions were not being used. He complained that the compositors always made mistakes in setting from his handwriting. Also, he was disturbed that selected query pages, marked "for Queries only", while containing corrections of small details, often had errors that were neither queried nor corrected. Being unsatisfied, Tolkien made a list of all emendations, insertions, and corrections which had not yet appeared in the proofs, hoping it was clear and would be checked against the text.

Turning to the Angerthas, Tolkien was worried. Tolkien had made a suggestion to use the phonetic letter "ŋ" instead of "ng" with a bow (ᵔ) above but it seemed that the bowed "ng" was still in the table. He hoped that whichever was used would the only one used, without flip-flopping between the symbols. Also, he strongly warned against replacing regular unbowed “ng” with "ŋ".