Number of Books: Total 4150: 1970 books by and about Tolkien, 2180 by and about C.S. Lewis and the other Inklings.
Collecting Since: 1958 for books generally
First Book: The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Best Bargain: $500 for The Lord of the Rings, 3 vols., first edition, first printing, in near mint condition.
Rare Book He'd Like to Own: Spirits in Bondage, 1919, by Clive Hamilton (psued. of C.S. Lewis)
Highest Price Paid for a Book: $3000 for Songs for Philologists, by Tolkien, now priced between $16 and $74,000 on AbeBooks
Top 3 Books in Collection:
- Songs for the Philologists by J.R.R. Tolkien and E.V. Gordon, privately printed in 1936 in the Department of English at University College, London. 36 pages stapled with blue covers in very good condition (provenance). It is believed only 13 other copies exist.
- The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, 1st edition, first printing, 1955, 1956, mint condition, published by George Allen and Unwin, London, with perfect original dust jackets, signed by Christopher Tolkien (literary executor of his father, J.R.R.)
- In de Ban van de Ring (3 vols.), the Dutch first edition of The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, published by Het Spectrum, Antwerp in 1956. Books and dust jackets in very good to good condition.
My collecting history started in the 1950s when, as a high school student, I first read Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. Both electrified me, changing my world view from teenage cynicism and negativity to one of hope and optimism. I was only able to collect a few books in high school, due to no allowance and depending on odd jobs. During the long nine years it took me to work my way through college, after the bills I had very little money. Nevertheless I did win the 1967 Student Library Collection Award at California State University at Los Angeles for Inklings related books. It was an honor for a struggling student. The collection was then about 70 books. Later in 1967, I founded The Mythopoeic Society, a literary and educational non-profit organization devoted to the study, discussion, and enjoyment of fantasy and mythic literature, especially the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams (http://www.mythsoc.org/).
In 1968 I began my near 39-year teaching career. When all the bills were paid, my first priority was buying Inklings books. I started as a used book store crawler there used to be many in Southern California, and whenever I visited another city or state, I would always allow time to go book hunting. Now with so many Southern California bookstores out of business, and the distances greater to go locally, I have turned to the Internet and eBay for most of my hunting. The secret to my large collections is not that I spent lavishly (except when huge bargains arose, for which I borrowed money), but that I have spent fairly consistently over the years, gradually more as my income slowly rose.
In 1975, I took a vacation/pilgrimage to England to see the people and places known by Tolkien and Lewis. There, I visited Tolkien's daughter, Priscilla, who was selling books from her recently passed father's library for charity at the then current English book store prices. There were first editions of Tolkien translated into a number of languages. Sensing the value of these books, including the Dutch first edition signed by Tolkien, the next day I took away two big suitcases of them and carefully mailed them home. My collecting foreign translations of Tolkien now amounts to 46 languages. I later started to earnestly collect Lewis's Narnia books, in English and 44 other languages. Now my Narnia collection composes 56 per cent - 1230 books - of my Lewis collection, and I reasonably believe it is the largest Narnia collection in the world.