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The database is done

24 February 2016

  • theProject

Three years it took. Not full-time work, admittedly, but it’s been the main thrust of my professional work for those three years.

Of course, it got re-designed in the middle, which never helps. The original design was actually working in limited use, but was far too complex for FileMaker to handle with any kind of speed. And — crucially — it would not have migrated well to a PostgreSQL or other database in iOS.

For rendering formatted text, of course, the better answer was light HTML formatting and intelligent CSS. It does mean that hundreds of little HTML text files are now proliferating on my Mac, but using the same Mac’s built-in web server and FileMaker web views is actually working perfectly.

At any rate, this is a great relief. References to maps, artwork, and text can easily be entered and formatted — and found again and selected and sorted and output and….

I’m so looking forward to finally getting on to the real work, now that the necessary tool has been written!


The climate of Middle-earth

9 March 2014

  • Tolkien
  • cartography

It seems that one Radagast the Brown (of Rhosgobel & The Cabot Institute) has published a paper presenting the results of his climate simulation modelling for Middle-earth.

meteorological chart of Middle-earth

Though obviously mock-serious, the modelling and the science are real enough. Definitely worth a few of your hard-won free minutes.

(Not surprisingly, these last two seem to be merely nicely formatted font-transfers.)


Facsimile of Tolkien’s full 1956 letter to Cotton Minchin

13 February 2014

  • Tolkien
  • cartography
Tolkien’s letter to H. Cotton Minchin, page one

The American auction house RR Auction recently sold Tolkien’s 1956 letter to H. Cotton Minchin. Much of the text of this letter has been available in the form of Humphrey Carpenter’s abridgment of Tolkien’s draft of the letter. 

See The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981, #187.

Tolkien’s letter to H. Cotton Minchin, page two Tolkien’s letter to H. Cotton Minchin, page three Tolkien’s letter to H. Cotton Minchin, page four Tolkien’s letter to H. Cotton Minchin, page five

As part of the auction, RR Auction made available good-quality scans of all five pages of the letter, affording us the opportunity of reading the full text of Tolkien’s final (beautifully penned) draft for what I believe is the first time.

Pieter Collier at The Tolkien Library has republished the scans (as I have here, too), and has transcribed the letter in full. An ad hoc group of Tolkien scholars promptly submitted a number of corrections and suggestions, which Pieter immediately incorporated into his transcription. The result seems to be a highly accurate reading of Tolkien’s letter. Some highlights:

Maps take a lot of time and work. It would of course be impossible to make a map of an ‘invented’ tale, or rather to write a mappable tale, unless one started with a Map from the beginning. That I did — though inevitably some inconsistencies, needing the adjustment of map or text, crept in in the course of a long work, constantly interrupted. But there is a wide gap between a rough map, though accurate in scale and distances, and one drawn and lettered passably enough for reproduction!
You would, by the way, render us a very great service, if more and better maps are to be produced, if you would be so kind as to send us any notes of faults, inconsistencies, or omissions, in maps or text.

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