A happy day it would have been to find this letter, handwritten by J.R.R. Tolkien himself, pressed between the pages of an old book. The Telegraph reports that this is just what happened to an anonymous man who put it up for auction at Richard Winterton auctioneers in Lichfield, Staffordshire.
“It’s a complete mystery how it turned up,” says Adrian Rathbone of Richard Winterton auctioneers. “The letter was addressed to a couple Tolkien had met on holiday, but it wasn’t the seller’s family.” Not only is there no link between the seller’s family and Tolkien; even the book whose pages preserved the letter was not one of the professor’s works.
In the letter, Tolkien addresses a couple as “My Dear People” whom he met on “rather a disastrous (and costly) ‘holiday’?” taken in 1963. He explains that he had planned to send the letter sooner, but both he and Edith had been ill. He goes on:
“I am feeling better now, but I am afraid Edith is not – a v nasty cold. Rather a disgusting and costly holiday, but for us it was at any rate made memorable by your company and kindness.
“We thought of you yesterday, and hoped your journey home would be less unpleasant than our icy winds and snow have foreboded.”
Along with the note was a Christmas card and a photograph of Tolkien with his “Dear People”, Wilfrid and Nora.
Adrian Rathbone showed surprise at the price fetched by this piece. “The former owners brought it in to a valuation day that we held having found it at home. Letters like this do sell, but I have to say I thought the maximum it would fetch was GBP300-400, not GBP1,700.”
Just as the seller’s identity has not been given , so the name of the winner – an online bidder who seized the rare opportunity- remains hidden.