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Vermont Softworks

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The climate of Middle-earth

    maps     humor     climate     Middle-earth

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. 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.)

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Facsimile of Tolkien’s full 1956 letter to Cotton Minchin

    maps     primary sources     Tolkien

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

page two

page three

page four

page five

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

The American auction house RR Auction recently sold Tolkien’s 1956 letter to H. Cotton Minchin.

2016-11-04: RR Auction has recycled its item numbers; this link now points to another item. — Ð

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.

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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Vermont Softworks creates site for Tolkien in Vermont conference

    conferences     Tolkien

I am very pleased to announce that the annual “Tolkien at UVM” conference finally has a home on the web. Now known as “Tolkien in Vermont,” the conference can be found on-line at http://tolkienvt.org.

Vermont Softworks is responsible for its unabashedly spartan design, and is footing the bill for its hosting at Pair Networks.

Many thanks to Chris Vaccaro for putting this excellent conference together for so many years. Best wishes for the 11th annual conference (the 10th anniversary!) and for many decades to come.

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Calvert Watkins

    Harvard     linguistics

Today, about five weeks after the fact, I learned of the death of Dr. Calvert Watkins.

I was very privileged to have taken several classes and seminars with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s at Harvard — and my Linguistics 101 class and Sanskrit class were taught by his wife, Dr. Stephanie Jamison. But I first “knew” him, of course, as the editor of the enthralling Indo-European roots appendix to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, which I discovered in 8th or 9th grade.

I always felt I was a bit of a disappointment to him; nonetheless, I can’t say how much I appreciate his prodigious knowledge, his quick wit, his gentle guidance.

Of his many stories, I think my favorite was of a seminar he’d gone to in Eastern Europe in the ’60s or ’70s — in Budapest maybe, or Prague — and it was led, I think, by Jakob Jakobsen. Jakobsen asked the participants which of several languages they preferred the seminar be conducted in. No one cared!

I haven’t seen him in 15 years; nonetheless, I’ll miss him.

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Support for Tolkien at UVM conference

    conferences     Tolkien

The University of Vermont has financially supported an annual “Tolkien at UVM” conference for most of its ten-year history. My understanding is that this has not been a large sum, but has been sufficient to pay a speaker’s honorarium and travel fees, as well as to provide a simple breakfast and light refreshments through the day.

I was told UVM had found that the bequest which had been funding the event should not have been used for such a purpose (fair enough: these things happen), but that no effort was made by the university to find an alternative source of support or to provide any stop-gap funds even for the scheduled 2013 conference or its engaged keynote speaker.

2016–11–16: Link again updated yet again, to reflect most recent URL. —Ð

Andy Peterson drafted the following letter to the editor of UVM’s student newspaper, The Cynic, which our colleague Mark Kaminsky and I whole-heartedly signed.

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Dear Editor,

We are writing to express our appreciation for both Chris Vaccaro, Senior Lecturer of English, and to The Tolkien Club at UVM for their outstanding work during the 10th annual Tolkien at UVM conference.

This year’s conference was organized in the face of financial adversity and administrative apathy.

With no funding from the college, the students of The Tolkien Club offered their time and money to make sure that those guests and lecturers in attendance were provided with coffee and donuts for breakfast and pizza for lunch. These students took it upon themselves to welcome the Tolkien academics who journeyed to Vermont for the conference. Their hospitality and generosity was much appreciated by all in attendance. We offer a tip of the hat to Anders Albertsson, Haley Markosian, Brenden Anderson, Braden Kaiser, Kerry Oster, and Corey Dawson for making us feel welcome. We look forward to seeing them again at next year’s conference.

Tolkien at UVM is the only conference of its type that is held annually on the East Coast. As such, it is an event that has been attended by such Tolkien luminaries as

and many other noted academics from other institutions including Middlebury, Rice, and Harvard.

These academics are a veritable “Who’s who” of Tolkien studies. They and many other independent scholars gather at this conference to share their thoughts and ideas about Tolkien’s legendarium. Of particular importance is the presentation of papers by students of Tolkien Studies under the scholarship of Chris Vaccaro. As Tolkien Studies is one of the only academic areas that allow for independent scholars to be actively involved in scholarship, this platform for their work should not only be encouraged but eagerly supported by the administration at UVM.

Chris Vaccaro should be congratulated for organizing the annual Tolkien at UVM conference for the past ten years. It is our hope that future conferences will be well-funded by the administration at the University of Vermont and that, once again, academics from all walks of life will gather to hear the thoughts of both the current and the next generation of Tolkien scholars.

Sincerely,

  • Andrew C. Peterson, ALB candidate, Harvard ’14
  • Mark Kaminsky, MIT/Lincoln Laboratory; ALB cum laude, Harvard ’10
  • Erik Mueller-Harder, Vermont Softworks; ALB cum laude, Harvard ’99