Tag Archives: libraries

Lacunas fallaces sub Bodleian

There are many ways that Tolkien’s Christian faith could have been represented, even in the relatively limited space available. One item already on display was a 1914 letter to Edith. The display label transcribes, from Tolkien’s small and difficult-to-read handwriting, a paragraph about officer-training maneuvers on Port Meadow.

Immediately following this portion of the original letter is Tolkien’s comment that the next day “I got up at 7.40 and just reached church on time, and went to Communion.” Just one more sentence on an already existing display label would have given a glimpse of Tolkien’s faith in practice. As it is, nearly all visitors will miss this reference entirely; I very nearly did.

Other extracts from letters could have been shown, such as the 1956 letter in which Tolkien relates Frodo’s failure to give up the Ring to the petition in the Lord’s Prayer “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Or perhaps the 1944 letter in which Tolkien discusses modern healing miracles and describes the Resurrection as the “happy ending” of human history.

Several examples of his Elvish calligraphy were displayed; one could have been selected from the prayers that Tolkien translated into Elvish, such as the Lord’s Prayer. Both the 1956 letter and this translation show the way that Tolkien’s faith, and indeed specifically his prayer life, had an influence on his writing—exactly the kind of influence we would hope to see emphasized in an exhibit on an author.

We might also have seen a photograph of one of the churches at which Tolkien worshiped in Oxford, such as St. Gregory’s on Woodstock Road, which is mentioned several times in the Letters. The exhibit display included Tolkien’s pipes and hat; surely it could also have included religious items such as a rosary, a worship missal, or a prayer card.

These references, if they had been included, need not have been emphasized, but for one who knows of Tolkien’s faith, the absence of any such small detail is striking.

–Holly Ordway, “The Maker of the Maker of Middle-earth”




Via endlesslibraries, Book Lovers Never Go to Bed Alone, the library, and step on it!, and bibliotheca-santus.

Prospecting in the children’s library

“Truth to tell, I never felt I really belonged in the adult library, and I wonder now if that’s because the loss of human space figured the even more important loss of books as stories. I was not ready to give up stories. If I didn’t actually read all the children’s books, I read every one I checked out—from the first word to the last. Today the only books I still read that way are mysteries. I am a proper grown-up about all the books and journals I use in my work. Like a good librarian, I order and maintain them, and even replace those that disappear. They are shelved according to topic in alphabetical order. I can almost always find what I’m looking for. But the mysteries are shelved to replicate the children’s library, or at least my memory of it. I am not usually looking for any one in particular, and so I read what catches my eye. And when I want a particular book, I tear the shelves apart looking for it, happier than I care to admit wallowing in the stacks of books surrounding me.”

—Linda Brodkey, “Writing on the Bias” (1994)