I am a story-lover. Perhaps that is obvious. I am also a bibliophile. Perhaps that also is obvious. But I am a slow, discerning bibliophile. Perhaps that is not obvious. My library grows one book at a time. Rarely will you see me emerge from a bookshop with more than two under my arm. But I inevitably collect books when I travel, and my recent journey to Scotland was no exception. These, combined with a few necessary tomes required for an upcoming course, have caused my library to expand by no less than five books in the last four weeks.
The first was a wee splurge at the Tate Britain art gallery shop in London. Songs of Innocence and of Experience, written and illustrated by poet William Blake, was introduced to me by Malcolm Guite in one of his Spells in the Library. This particular edition is a reproduction of Blake’s original copy printed in 1794.
The second was bought in the village of Portree on the Isle of Skye. I have been an admirer of Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris’s work ever since I discovered their book The Lost Words. I shared one of their poems with you last summer, which you can read here. Never was £20 more wisely spent, nor more eagerly disposed of than on that morning.
During the fall semester I am auditing an online course with Signum University, enticingly titled Beowulf Through Tolkien. Following a superb semester of Anglo-Saxon literature last year, I am delighted to be studying J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf at a graduate level under the guidance of Dr. Tom Shippey. Preparing for the course naturally demanded the enjoyable task of purchasing the required books. I am especially pleased to own The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays as there are some pieces included there, namely “English and Welsh,” which I have wished to read for some time.
Since I began to study Anglo-Saxon literature last fall, I have been searching for a copy of Beowulf in Old English. My search was, for many months, in vain, until I came upon a copy unexpectedly in a local used bookshop. It was edited by C.L. Wrenn, whose name I confess meant nothing to me at the time. I discovered later, however, that Wrenn held the Chair of Anglo-Saxon in Oxford directly following J.R.R. Tolkien. Furthermore, it appears he knew Tolkien personally, and was a member of the Inklings! My own copy (whose value is now considerably higher in my eyes) was printed in 1969. Thrills run through me when I recall that this very copy was in the world when its author and Tolkien were alive.
I do not know how much time my study will require. I plan to continue writing here every other week, as I have been doing, sharing the wonderful insights I am discovering. For now, I dive into Beowulf, both with Signum University and with The Wordstapas, and endeavour to keep the King Arthur flame burning.