Glen GoodKnight (1941-2010) lived in a home decorated the way many fans would like, the walls all covered with bookcases. Glen filled his shelves with multiple editions of Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, not only in English but in many different languages — collecting them was his lifelong passion. And now his family has made sure Glen’s collection of Inklngs rarities will remain intact by donating it to Azusa Pacific University.
The 4,000 volume GoodKnight Collection will become a featured part of APU’s Inklings Collection, curated by Roger White, Ed.D., which already includes the Owen Barfield Family Collection, and many other Inklings-related publications and artifacts.
Glen started reading and acquiring the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams as a teenager, writings he valued so highly he founded the Mythopoeic Society in 1967, devoted to the study of mythopoeic literature, particularly the works of members of the informal Oxford literary circle known as the Inklings.
That same year, 1967, Glen’s collection took First Prize in the Student Library Competition at CSULA, though in size it was less than 3% of what it would become. By 1992, the Tolkien portion alone amounted to 700 volumes published in 29 languages and, he told a reporter that he lacked only the versions in Armenian, Moldavian and Faeroese, a language spoken on islands near Iceland. In 2010, Glen’s website devoted to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Editions and Translations showed that series had been published in 47 languages or scripts other than English (including Braille).
Family members transferred the GoodKnight Collection to APU this summer, where it is being processed and cataloged. In July, Roger White invited me to see some of the amazing things that will be available to future scholars thanks to this donation.
Perhaps the rarest Tolkien collectible GoodKnight owned is the small paperbound copy of Songs for the Philologists (Tolkien & Gordon, 1936), printed by students in hand-set type as an exercise on a reconstructed wooden hand-press but never distributed because permission had not been requested from Tolkien or Gordon. The stored copies burned when the building where they were kept was bombed during WWII. However, a few copies survived in the hands of the students who printed them.
Another old volume, with some of Tolkien’s early published poetry, is Leeds University Verse 1914-1924, an anthology with three of his poems.
GoodKnight also collected examples of Tolkien’s scholarship, such as the 1932 article on “The name ‘Nodens’” published as an appendix to Report on the Excavation of the Prehistoric, Roman, and Post-Roman Site in Lydney Park, Gloucestershire, a discussion of three inscriptions found at the excavations which he concluded is the name of an unrecorded deity.
The GoodKnight Collection contains 100 English-language versions of The Hobbit – ranging from the 1938 first American edition, to a 1968 copy from Tolkien’s own library with his notes.
There are many inscribed books, such as a copy of The Hobbit (1937) signed by the author’s son, Christopher Tolkien, and a boxed set of Lord of the Rings which Christopher Tolkien signed when he attended the 1987 Mythopoeic Conference at Marquette University.
GoodKnight built his collection through a combination of diligence and good luck. In the days before the internet, he made discoveries by checking bookstores in every city he visited, combing through book dealers’ catalogs, and bidding on items auctioned at the annual Mythopoeic Conferences. On top of that, he had the good luck to visit England in 1975 and meet Priscilla Tolkien, then selling books for charitable purposes that had belonged to her father (who died in 1973). About half of these were first edition translations of Tolkien in various languages. He bought all he could carry away in two empty suitcases.
Among the works once owned by Tolkien as part of his personal library are:
- Foreign translations of The Hobbit in Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch (first edition, with Tolkien’s pipe ash where the pages meet in several places), Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Spanish and Swedish.
- In de Ban van de Ring (3 vols.), the Dutch first edition of The Lord of the Rings published in 1956; signed by Tolkien.
- Mythlore (first issue) – with handwritten comments by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Lord of the Rings inscribed by members of the Tolkien family.
- Preface to Paradise Lost 1942 first edition inscribed “with kind regards, C.S. Lewis, Jan, 1943.”
The acquisition of the GoodKnight Collection adds greatly to the Inklings-owned books already held by APU, which includes the Owen Barfield Family Collection.
- More than 250 books from the family library
- More than 300 family photographs
- Postcard collection from the early 1900s
- Assorted personal documents and household records
C.S. Lewis called Barfield “the best and wisest of my unofficial teachers.”
APU’s Inklings Collection also owns a number of books that were formerly part of C.S. Lewis’ personal library, acquired from Lewis biographer George Sayers. One is C. S. Lewis’s annotated copy of E. M. W. Tillyard’s Milton, a book that prompted an exchange between the two men that led to their jointly authored work, The Personal Heresy. Some of Lewis’s books include handwritten notes he made on end pages, plus the dates he read or reread them.
There are 50 books from Priscilla Tolkien’s personal library – for example, a Sir Walter Scott novel received as a present from Christopher Tolkien in 1943.
APU even possesses the manuscript of Humphrey Carpenter’s group biography The Inklings.
Glen’s friends will be delighted to know that his collection is being preserved, and that in years to come scholars will be able to use it to do innovative research projects about this group of writers.