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The Introduction to The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien is written by Humphrey Carpenter in order to explain how The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien collection lcame about and how he and Christopher Tolkien started working on this collection of 354 letters.
The introduction begins with Humphrey Carpenter recalling that towards the end of his life J.R.R. Tolkien was for a few week deprived of the use of his right arm. Telling his publisher that: "I found not being able to use a pen or pencil as defeating as the loss of her beak would be to a hen". The introduction then goes on to tell us that much of Tolkien's life was spent writing and that he was a very avid letter writer as well. So that an immense number of letters of Tolkien survive and most had to be omitted from this collection and that in selecting the letters he and Christopher Tolkien not only wanted to include letters which were obviously related to "Middle-Earth" but also letters that showed Tolkien's mind, interests and view of the world. Among the omissions is a very large body of letters who were of a personal nature and only a fe relevant passages of these are included in this book. When a passage is omitted they are however rarely of a personal nature and are rather left out because of space. An omitted passage is shown by a row of four dots. Tolkien's original text has been left unaltered however except in case of address and date which have been standardized. Some included letters are only based on drafts for those letters and might not reflect the final sent letter if a letter was sent at all. When a portion of a letter has been printed the opening address, ending and signature have been omitted also footnotes to letters are Tolkien's own. Where necessary letters are preceded by a headnote in order to explain the context of the correspondence. All others can be found at Notes. It is also assumed that a reader of this book has a thorough knowledge of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books. In the editorial notes four other books are cited by brief titles: Pictures, Unfinished Tales, Biography and Inklings. The introduction then concludes with Humphrey Carpenter explain how exactly the Formation began and that he is grateful and thankful to all those who have lend them letters and also to all the organisations and individuals who have helped him. Especially Douglas Anderson and Charles Noad. Finally it ends with the line: That despite the length of this volume many more letters remain untraced and that he hopes he might someday make a second edition of this book.