Unfinished index

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The Unfinished index is an unfinished glossary-index of place-names occurring in The Lord of the Rings.[1] Christopher Tolkien used the index while compiling his own smaller indices for The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.[2]

Several quotes from the manuscript were included in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion.[note 1]


In his Foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien expressed a desire to produce an "accessory volume", with more information especially about linguistics. This volume would contain a "complete index, making full use of the material prepared by Mrs. N. Smith".[3] Referring to the index in a draft letter, Tolkien wrote that:

An index of names was to be produced, which by etymological interpreation would also provide quite a large Elvish vocabulary; this is of course a first requirement. I worked at it for months, and indexed the first two vols. (it was the chief cause of delay of Vol iii) until it became clear that size and cost were ruinous.

Tolkien likely began preparing the index in 1953, continuing into at least 1954,[1] but only completed a list of names of "places, natural features, and buildings".[3] The unfinished index was used by Christopher Tolkien when compiling many of the glosses appearing in the indexes to The Silmarillion and the Unfinished Tales.[4][3]

Despite the statement in the 1956 draft letter, the manuscript of the index includes references to the Prologue and all books of The Lord of the Rings. Hammond and Scull have noted that the manuscript is "built up evidently in snatches of time, to judge by the great number of variations in Tolkien's handwriting".[3]

The manuscript was sold by Christie's in 2002, and a description was featured in the catalogue Christie's Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts 24 May 2002.[5]

From Christie's

TOLKIEN, John Ronald Reuel (1892-1973). Manuscript notes signed ("J.R.R. Tolkien" on page 3, and initial-signed at end), comprising detailed instructions for the index to The Lord of the Rings. 12 March 1958. 4 pages, 4to. With a typed questionnaire headed "Index questions," from Smith annotated by Tolkien in red, 2 pages, 4to.


Following publication of the final volume of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, demand grew among readers for an index to the monumental work and the publisher, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., eventually complied to these requests only after Tolkien himself sought an index for his own use. The managing director of the firm, Rayner S. Unwin offered the assignment to Mrs. Nancy Smith, an editor and family friend. Her husband, Bernard S. Smith, was a British foreign service officer who shared rooms at Oxford with Christopher Tolkien and Rayner Unwin.

Preparation of the index engendered some correspondence between Smith and Tolkien, who wanted the material to be divided into three parts: Persons, Places, and Things. Smith began the index in January of 1958, and it took four months to completion. The finished result, a carbon copy of which accompanies this lot, filled 84 single-spaced typed pages. Mrs. Smith was paid the standard rate of £5 per volume for her work.

Smith sent a two-page typed list of "Index questions," to Tolkien at the early stages of the project. He began annotating the margins in reply to the eight questions posed by Smith, but ended up writing out a four-page outline carefully defining his specific requirements for the index with numerous examples.

"The index is intended primarily for my personal use. I hope to prepare from it some sort of glossary/index such as readers' letters suggest is most desired. But its immediate uses will be: (a) correction (where needed of inconsistencies, in spelling or use, or errors in the present text; and (b) co-ordination of the nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings with other work."

He concludes, "I hope these notes on the queries will be useful. In any points where the compiler is in doubt a (?) query will really be sufficient, as it will warn me that there is an unclarity or doubt, which I can then consider." The index first appeared in published editions of the trilogy in 1962, and has continued to been included at the end of the final volume of subsequent editions of the trilogy to present.

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External links


  1. Hammond and Scull has noted all occurrences of citations from the Unfinished index in their own Index (cf. pp. 863-4).


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, Preface, p. xv
  2. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. lxxxi
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, pp. xxxiv, lxxx-lxxxi
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Eldarin Hands, Fingers & Numerals and Related Writings — Part Two" (edited by Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 48, December 2005, p. 33 (note 22)
  5. Sale 1083/Lot 409 at Christies.com (accessed 24 June 2011)