Friday, June 9, 2023

"Doc" Weir Revisited

In a post from 2021 on this blog, I wrote:

Doc Weir* (1906-1961) had self-published as a booklet one of the first internal studies of Tolkien’s invented world, A Study of the Hithlain of the Wood-Elves of Lórien (1957), the year before he joined science fiction fandom.

I must revise this statement, as I have finally seen the item referred to. It is catalogued in library databases as though it is an item written and published by the author in 1957. Thus it seemed to be the first booklet of Middle-earth studies--that is, a study of some interior aspect of Tolkien's invented world (or at least "fictional" nonfiction, set within the world of Middle-earth). But this is incorrect. 

The library catalog refers to it as a typescript copy, and it is held in the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the University of California, Riverside. And that is what it is: a typescript of eight pages with a titled cover page. The cover page notes that the quotations from The Lord of the Rings come from a 1957 printing of the book.  Weir's address is also given on the page, below the note on the text that was used.  It reads: "Primrose Cottage, Westonbirt Village, nr. Tetbury, Glos. England."

From I Palantir, August 1960
Seeing this in context, it is clearly a submission manuscript, not in any sense a booklet or a publication. The essay appeared in the fanzine I Palantir, issue no. 1 (August 1960). I Palantir was founded by, and its first two issues edited by, Ted Johnstone and published by Bruce Pelz, both Los Angeles fans; the next two (and final) issues were both edited and published by Pelz. Pelz (1936-2002), was a famous Los Angeles fan, whose very large collection of fanzines is now part of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the University of California, Riverside.  It seems that the Weir typescript is the original submission copy to the fanzine.

And it likely dates to 1960, a submission by a fan in England to a forthcoming fanzine in Los Angeles. The date of 1957 for the printings used of The Lord of the Rings thus has no exact correlation to the date of the essay. 

So that leaves open the question of what was the first booklet published about Tolkien? My current guess: Astra's Tower, special leaflet no. 5 (May 1961), written and published by Marion Zimmer Bradley, a 26 page fanzine which includes a Preface (p. 2) by Bradley and her essay "Of Men, Halflings and Hero Worship" (pp. 3-25). And what was the first booklet of Middle-earth studies?  Marion Zimmer Bradley's fan fiction "The Jewel of Arwen" came out in I Palantir issue no. 2 (August 1961), but did not appear on its own as a booklet until 1974. Were there other items in between?

* Actually Arthur R. Weir, known familiarly as "Doc" because of his advanced degree in chemistry.