December Artifact of the Month: First edition of The Hobbit

One book Tolkien fans always love to see when visiting the Wade Center is our first edition of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

THE HOBBIT first edition

THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien. London: Allen and Unwin, 1937. 1st edition, 1st impression. Cover design by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Originally published in 1937, The Hobbit had a quite notable and unusual beginning. Sometime around the summer of 1930, Tolkien recalls sitting at his desk grading examination papers. The work provided his family with some extra income during the summer months. It was a task which was, according to an interview he did for the film “Tolkien in Oxford” (BBC, 1968), “very laborious and unfortunately also very boring.” He recalls that one page of an examination was left blank with nothing to read, and he scribbled on it without knowing why: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” That sentence, the opening line of The Hobbit, has become one of the most famous lines in literature.

Tolkien went on to develop the story as he told it to his four children, and eventually sent it to the publisher Allen and Unwin. Stanley Unwin, the firm’s chairman, believed that children were the best judges of children’s literature and hired his ten-year-old son Rayner to write a review of The Hobbit before officially accepting it for publication. Rayner wrote a very favorable review, stating at the end that “This book, with the help of maps, … is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9.” He received a shilling for his work, and The Hobbit was first published in England on September 21, 1937, with an initial print run of 1,500 copies. C.S. Lewis supported Tolkien by anonymously contributing 2 glowing reviews of the book to The Times in October 1937.

The first printing sold well enough that a second printing was needed before Christmas. Four full-color plates of Tolkien’s own artwork were added for this second printing of 2,300 copies. These Hobbit first editions remain rare to this day and are sought-after collector’s items — most especially due to the unfortunate loss of 423 copies when a London warehouse was bombed by the German Luftwaffe in November 1940 during World War II.

The Wade has both the British (Allen and Unwin, 1937) and American (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1938) first editions of The Hobbit. One of our British first editions (a second impression, “impression” being a term for the number of copies of an edition printed at one time) contains Tolkien’s signature in the front as shown here, perhaps given to someone as a gift.

Tolkien Signature

1st edition of THE HOBBIT signed by J.R.R. Tolkien. Click to enlarge.

The original dust jacket of The Hobbit was illustrated by Tolkien, and similar designs using his artwork appear on modern editions as well.


First edition of THE HOBBIT, dust jacket design by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Enjoyment of The Hobbit continues, and in 2012 the book celebrated its 75th anniversary. This December also marks the release of the last of the Hobbit films in a trilogy by Director Peter Jackson. If you are looking for some special holiday reading, settle in a cozy armchair with a copy of The Hobbit, and enjoy.

For more information on The Hobbit and its various editions, here are some recommended resources:

Chapter 5, “Riddles in the Dark,” has a different ending in the first edition than in the current edition. Gollum has quite a different personality. The full text of both editions is available in The Annotated Hobbit as well as The History of The Hobbit (listed above).

November Artifact of the Month: Video footage from Poets’ Corner

One year ago on, November 22, 2013, a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis took place at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, London. A full gathering of those grateful for the life and work of C.S. Lewis watched the unveiling of a memorial stone in his honor, placing his legacy alongside memorials for over three thousand other men and women revered in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the English-speaking world.

The Wade Center was very pleased to be able to obtain video footage from the ceremony via a UK-based company filming a documentary on C.S. Lewis, and this video is our featured November “Artifact of the Month.” The film from What Larks Productions Ltd. features unedited footage of the Abbey, ceremony guests arriving and departing, and excerpts from the service itself. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, gave the Address.

The complete video is available for viewing at the Wade Center (call number CSL-Y / VR-78), and we are glad to provide a sample of it with this excerpt on YouTube.

The video excerpt includes a reading from the final chapter of Lewis’s The Last Battle by Douglas Gresham (younger stepson of C.S. Lewis), prayer, and the unveiling of the Lewis memorial stone. The participants in the video are shown in the photo below.

Unveiling the memorial stone. L to R:  Gregory Lippiatt (godson of Walter Hooper), Walter Hooper (Trustee and Literary Adviser to the Lewis Estate, and Lewis Scholar), the Very Reverend Dr. John Hall (Dean of Westminster), Dr. Michael Ward (Senior Research Fellow, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, Lewis scholar, organizer of the Westminster Abbey event, and Wade Board member), and Douglas Gresham (younger stepson of C.S. Lewis).

Unveiling the Lewis memorial stone. L to R: Gregory Lippiatt (godson of Walter Hooper), Walter Hooper (Trustee and Literary Adviser to the Lewis Estate, and Lewis Scholar), the Very Reverend Dr. John Hall (Dean of Westminster), Dr. Michael Ward (Senior Research Fellow, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, Lewis scholar, organizer of the Westminster Abbey event, and Wade Board member), and Douglas Gresham (younger stepson of C.S. Lewis).

The memorial stone, shown below, contains the following quote by C.S. Lewis: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.”

The quote comes from his address titled “Is Theology Poetry,” which he gave at the Oxford debating society called The Socratic Club on November 6, 1944. Dr. Michael Ward reflected on the meaning of these words in the service program for the ceremony:

“The address was one of many he gave to the Socratic Club, the forum for debate between Christians and non-Christians, of which he was President. Thus the inscription points to his role as an apologist who publicly – and not without professional cost – defended the faith … The sentence is straightforwardly confessional, marking the centrality of his faith at a personal level.”

Dr. Ward served as the organizer of the Poets’ Corner event, is on the Wade’s VII Advisory Board, and has been a member of the Wade Board since September 2007.

Walter Hooper, Trustee and Literary Adviser to the Lewis Estate, and his godson Gregory Lippiatt, placed a floral arrangement by the stone during the dedication. The bouquet contained 64 white roses (one for each year of Lewis’s life), 7 sprigs of holly berries (one for each Narnia book), 3 sprigs of rosemary (one for each book of the Ransom trilogy), and a single red rose (for the medieval poem “Romance of the Rose,” featured in Lewis’s Allegory of Love).


The C.S. Lewis memorial stone, now in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, London.

In addition to the video footage of the ceremony available through the Wade Center, a number of related resources surrounding the anniversary’s events can be found online. An audio excerpt from the Poets’ Corner ceremony is available here. The first words of the recording are of C.S. Lewis himself from one of his BBC Radio broadcasts which later became the book Mere Christianity. This excerpt is from “Beyond Personality: The New Men.”

The Westminster Abbey Institute also sponsored a C.S. Lewis Symposium on November 21, the day before the memorial stone ceremony. Audio recordings of the talks from the symposium are available via the links below:

Telling the Truth through Rational Argument by Alister McGrath

Telling the Truth through Imaginative Fiction by Malcolm Guite

Panel Discussion: What can 21st Century Apologetics learn from C.S. Lewis? Chaired by Michael Ward

Cataloging the Wade: An update from Elaine Hooker

Elaine Hooker, Wade Center Catalog Librarian

Elaine Hooker, Wade Center Catalog Librarian

Wade Catalog Librarian Elaine Hooker shares some of her thoughts and experiences on undertaking the monumental task of cataloging the Wade Center’s collections. Her work will, for the first time in its history, allow researchers from around the globe to access descriptions of what is in the Wade’s holdings.

Since its founding in 1965 by Dr. Clyde S. Kilby, the Wade Center’s collection has grown from 15 Lewis letters into a world-renowned and extremely deep collection of manuscripts (1,600), correspondence (26,500), articles (21,000), and other materials, which include over 18,000 books by and about the seven Wade authors, and several thousand books that the authors themselves owned.

Like most of the best things in my life, my involvement with the Wade Center has been an unexpected gift. Being daily surrounded by the output of seven brilliant minds has formed me in ways I continue to ponder. I find the way that each author’s scholarship influenced the others endlessly fascinating. My sensibilities tend to lean towards the personal and the intimate as shaped by scholarship and the intellect, and I have been struck by how well one can get to know these authors and who they were by their output collected at the Wade, which includes not only various editions of their own works, but books about things that interested them, books they owned, and books written and owned by people they loved. Not only is their work a gift to us, but who they were is a gift to us. And they continue to speak, shape, and influence us today.

My own credentials include a B.A. in English language and literature from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., a liberal arts school about the same size as Wheaton College, and a Master of Science in Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This path was born of a desire to use every bit of knowledge I had gleaned throughout my educational career in service to others.

First day of the Wade Center cataloging project, August 2011. Pictured: catalogers Nicole Swanson (nee Long) and Karl Pettitt.

First day of the Wade Center cataloging project, August 2011. Pictured: catalogers Nicole Long Swanson and Karl Pettitt.

Once upon a time (and not so long ago), in order to use a book from the Wade, you had to ask the archivist if the Wade had the item that you needed or wanted. Since the beginnings of the collection, Wade staff have diligently collected and organized information pertaining to the seven authors, but this information wasn’t publicly searchable or accessible off-site. In 2011, the Wade Center began an initiative to professionally catalog the collections according to nationally recognized library standards and make those descriptive records publicly accessible by scholars worldwide. The Wade Center’s first Catalog Librarian, Nicole Long Swanson, set up cataloging procedures and workflows and cataloged examples of various formats of materials, including all materials published prior to 1850.

Coincidentally, I came to the Wade Center in 2012 with a desire to offer my services as a cataloger just as the cataloging initiative was getting started. I began cataloging dissertations, and then continued helping to catalog general materials after Nicole took a new position. Currently, all of the dissertations, large runs of periodicals, all of the archival collections, and approximately 66% of the book collection are cataloged. After the book collection is fully cataloged, we will continue cataloging our audiovisual materials, and offer increased access to our photo collections and other artifacts.

The book "Irene Iddesleigh" by Amanda McKittrick Ros was read aloud at Inklings meetings in C.S. Lewis's Magdalen College rooms at Oxford University. Each reader was to read a selection from the book aloud and see how long they could keep reading without bursting into laughter.

The book “Irene Iddesleigh” by Amanda McKittrick Ros was read aloud at Inklings meetings in C.S. Lewis’s Magdalen College rooms at Oxford University. Each reader was to read a selection from the book aloud and see how long they could keep reading without bursting into laughter.

Since joining the initiative, I have delighted in daily discoveries–from doodles penciled by G.K. Chesterton in the margins of his schoolbooks, to the book the Inklings read to each other until they burst out laughing. I’ve seen annotations in the back of A Grief Observed showing Clyde S. Kilby figuring out that N.W. Clerk was a pen name being used by C.S. Lewis before this was publicly known. And I’ve seen the map plotting out Kilby’s travels through England to meet with the players in these stories that led to important connections and acquisitions in future years.

Dr. Kilby's copy of "A Grief Observed" (Greenwich, CT: Seabury Press, 1963). Here he has written the reasons for (right page) and against (left page) C.S. Lewis being the author of the book before the fact was publicly known. "N.W. Clerk" was a pen name Lewis used.

Dr. Kilby’s copy of “A Grief Observed” (Greenwich, CT: Seabury Press, 1963). Here he has written the reasons for (right page) and against (left page) C.S. Lewis being the author of the book before the fact was publicly known. “N.W. Clerk” was a pen name Lewis used.


Map of England used by Dr. Clyde Kilby for his travels making connections on behalf of the Wade Center. National Atlas: Road Maps & Town Plans-Great Britain. London: George Philip & Son Ltd., 1968.

I’m thrilled that such discoveries can now be more easily shared by researchers worldwide. My thesis in library school was about information-seeking behaviors. Sometimes researchers know exactly what they want and are easily able to identify who has those resources. But as an information professional, I have learned much about the equal importance of other techniques, often compared to pearl gathering, or following the “bread crumb trail” left by other researchers. Professionally cataloging the Wade Center’s collections exponentially increases the ways in which researchers can interact with and glean information from the collection.

As we near 2015, I can finally see an end of this project on the horizon. And yet, I sense that this end is just the beginning of one discovery leading to another and another for myself and for those who find themselves drawn into the ageless story woven by these creative and faithful writers.

Elaine at work examining a volume with Sarah, a Wade Center volunteer.

Elaine at work examining a volume with Sarah, a Wade Center volunteer.

Guest Post: Joel Heck on Researching at the Wade

This post features some reflections by Dr. Joel D. Heck, a C.S. Lewis scholar and regular researcher at the Wade Center. Joel shares about what it is like to research at the Wade, and what projects he is currently working on. Joel also has an archival collection at the Wade Center containing materials he used for his book, Irrigating Deserts: C.S. Lewis on Education (Concordia 2005).

Dr. Joel D. Heck

Dr. Joel D. Heck

The Wade Center has become my summer home for a couple of weeks each of the past several years, while working on various research projects. My wife Cheryl and I travel from Austin, Texas, to the Midwest to see family and include Wheaton, Illinois, in our stops. The holdings in this research center are unparalleled, many of them unique, and they cover virtually everything and anything that a researcher might want to delve into regarding one of the seven Wade Center authors. While there are many online resources available to anyone, these firsthand resources make it worthwhile to take this trip.

My interest is C.S. Lewis, as well as the other six authors to the extent that they intersect with Lewis. Among the many holdings of the Wade Center are a copy of virtually every book or article ever published on Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, Charles Williams, Dorothy L. Sayers, Owen Barfield, and George MacDonald as well as many letters, diaries, and other written records that have never been published. In fact, I don’t spend a lot of time with published materials. My focus has been especially in the unpublished materials, specifically the diaries of Warren Lewis (the brother of C.S. Lewis), the diaries and letters of Arthur Greeves (C.S. Lewis’s lifelong friend), the Stella Aldwinckle Papers (the co-leader of the Socratic Club with C.S. Lewis), and the massive Lewis Family Papers (an 11-volume collection of letters and diary excerpts from the Lewis family from 1850 to 1930). All of this is well catalogued at the Wade Center, searchable online (i.e. the bibliographical information, not the full text), and available to researchers on site.

Some readers may know the reason for my particular interests. For the past several years I have been putting together a historical resource for students of Lewis, entitled “Chronologically Lewis.” This resource contains a day by day (sometimes even hour by hour), month by month, year by year chronicle of every known event in the lives of C. S. Lewis and his brother Warren. I remember asking Peter Schakel, another Lewis scholar, in the Kilby Reading Room at the Wade if he knew whether there were a resource like this that brought together the many different historical pieces of information into one centralized place. He said that he didn’t think so, and at that time I decided to go forward with what has become a 435,000-word and 685-page document, all of it based on sixty-plus different books and articles. And it’s growing.

IrrigatingDesertsThe Wade Center has also been quite helpful in other work I have done, including assisting in the reprinting of The Personal Heresy (a little known dialogue between C. S. Lewis and E. M. W. Tillyard), the Socratic Digest (a record of the meetings of the Socratic Club between 1942 and 1952), and my own Irrigating Deserts: C. S. Lewis on Education (which received the 2004 Clyde S. Kilby Research Grant from the Marion E. Wade Center). The Wade Center’s resources have also helped me with a new project I’m working on, a book entitled C.S. Lewis, Atheist.

I can’t write about the resources of the Wade Center without writing a few words about the kind, friendly, and professional staff. From Laura Schmidt (my Wade Center MVP and usually my first contact) to Marj Mead to Kendra Juskus to Shawn Mrakovich to Elaine Hooker, each person handles herself and her responsibilities with care and efficiency. That makes it easy for me to plan my next visit in the coming summer.

Dr. Joel Heck serves Concordia University Texas as Professor of Theology. He teaches courses in Old Testament, New Testament, Reformation history, and C.S. Lewis. He is the author or editor of thirteen books, most recently a reprint of the Socratic Digest, and he maintains a C.S. Lewis website at He is currently working on a book to be entitled, C.S. Lewis, Atheist. He and his wife Cheryl have three grown children and live in Austin, Texas.

October Artifact of the Month: G.K.’s Weekly

GKs-WeeklyOur October Artifact of the Month features the newspaper GK’s Weekly, a periodical that G.K. Chesterton edited, contributed to, and even bears his name in the title. Original issues of the paper are rare, but the Wade Center owns a complete run which visitors can access by request in the Wade Center Reading Room, along with a contents listing for every issue. Exploring the paper offers a unique view into the context of British society in the early 20th century, as well as the mind of G.K. Chesterton.

G.K.’s Weekly was a British newspaper headed by G.K. Chesterton from 1925 until his death in 1936. Chesterton was already an experienced journalist and had managed a previous paper called New Witness leading up to the launch of G.K.’s Weekly. The paper contained commentary on political, cultural, and social issues, as well as poems, cartoons, and fiction. The variety of content is difficult to categorize, as difficult indeed as it is to define Chesterton himself. His distinctive style is noticeable throughout. Along with Chesterton and a dedicated small staff of workers for the paper, other contributors included Ronald Knox, J.B. Morton, Walter de la Mare, Patrick Cahill, G.B. Shaw, Maurice Baring, Hilaire Belloc, Eric Gill, and Vincent McNabb.

In a period of severe economic, social, and political upheaval in Britain’s history, Chesterton viewed his work as a writer and a journalist as a way to champion the rights of the common man, and push against the ills which he believed accompanied the rampant urbanization and industrialization prevalent in Britain at the time. The Weekly served as the perfect platform from which to promote these goals. Distributism, the ideology at the heart of G.K.’s Weekly that was shared by Chesterton and others, focuses on private ownership, the value of small businesses, disengagement from usurious financial practices, governance within local communities consisting of families and small business owners (rather than by large government), and distribution of property in the widest possible way.

G.K.'s Weekly: A Sampler. Edited with an Introduction by Lyle W. Dorsett. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1986. Mention this blog post and receive a FREE copy when you visit the Wade during the month of October.Thirty issues of G.K.’s Weekly have been republished in the volume, G.K.’s Weekly: A Sampler (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1986), which is available for sale at the Wade and was edited by Lyle Dorsett, the second Director of the Wade Center. Dorsett writes the following about G.K.’s Weekly in his introduction to the book:

“It is commonly said that there is nothing so out of date as yesterday’s newspaper … [but] for those who know and love the writings of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, this weekly that bears his initials contains some of his scarcest prose, making the reprinting of this weekly paper a service to people who appreciate the late Englishman’s work.”

-Lyle W. Dorsett

As any Chesterton enthusiast can tell you, his writing continues to challenge, delight, and inspire long after the day when G.K.’s Weekly first appeared on the local newsstand.

In celebration of G.K.’s Weekly as our October Artifact of the Month, we are pleased to offer a FREE copy of G.K.’s Weekly: A Sampler to Wade Center visitors who refer to this blog post during the month of October. So be sure to mention this blog post when you visit (sorry, no free copies via mail) and receive your free copy; limit of one per family. Hope to see you soon!

Artifact of the Month: Dr. Clyde Kilby’s Portrait

September "Artifact of the Month" - Portrait of Clyde S. Kilby by Deborah Melvin Beisner, 1987. Oil on canvas with the inscription "Soli Deo Gloria."

September “Artifact of the Month” – Portrait of Clyde S. Kilby by Deborah Melvin Beisner, 1987. Oil on canvas with the inscription “Soli Deo Gloria.”

The September Artifact of the Month is an oil portrait of Wade Center founder Dr. Clyde S. Kilby, painted by Deborah Melvin Beisner in 1987, and given to the Wade by Leanne Payne in 2011. This month’s artifact not only highlights an interesting piece of memorabilia archived at the Wade Center; it also celebrates the legacy of the founder and first director of the Marion E. Wade Center, Dr. Clyde S. Kilby.

Born on September 26, 1902, Dr. Kilby taught English literature at Wheaton College from 1935 until 1981. During that time he was deeply affected by the writings of C.S. Lewis and began a correspondence with him. After Lewis’s death in 1963, Dr. Kilby began to gather together books and papers related not only to C.S. Lewis, but also to six other British authors who were connected to Lewis in terms of literary and spiritual thought. From this modest beginning has grown the internationally recognized research collection now known as the Marion E. Wade Center.

Martha Kilby, Marilee Melvin, and Clyde S. Kilby, Summer 1985.

Martha Kilby, Marilee Melvin, and Clyde S. Kilby, Summer 1985.

Dr. Kilby was a well-loved professor at Wheaton, and many students were shaped and inspired by his teaching and his personal mentorship. He and his wife, Martha, regularly welcomed students into their home for meals and conversation, introducing them to their talking pet parakeet and discussing faith, literature, and the imagination, as well as any issues or questions a given student might have. One such student who benefited from the Kilbys’ friendship was Marilee Melvin, now the executive assistant to Wheaton College President Philip G. Ryken and a Wade Center Board member.

Marilee’s mother remembered Dr. Kilby as one of her favorite professors at Wheaton, and during her own time as a student at Wheaton (from 1968-1972), Marilee took Dr. Kilby’s courses on Romantic literature and “Modern Mythology,” getting to know him better and finding her own life and faith enriched by the literature he loved and taught.

“Students tend to love what their professors and mentors love,” explains Marilee. “But in the case of Dr. Kilby’s vision for the Wade authors . . . he was at the cutting edge of studying these authors, and in turn, introducing others to a body of literature intrinsically important for spiritual formation as well as intellectual stimulation.”

As a senior, Marilee began visiting with the Kilbys at their home, and a friendship developed, only growing stronger after she graduated. During that time, Dr. Kilby continued to send her encouraging letters throughout her studies as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and later when she worked in various areas of the United States government in Washington, DC. Today Marilee remembers Dr. Kilby for some of his most characteristic traits and qualities: “His love of the subject matter, which in turn ignited an interest in and love of the material in his students; his cheerful, even cherubic countenance, and joyful heart, that spilled over in positive encouragement; his love of the particular, the real, which revealed his capacity for wisdom as well as his scholarship; and his stopping, literally and figuratively, to smell the roses.”

Marilee was Wheaton College’s vice president for alumni relations for nearly 18 years, and during her time in that position, she “heard many stories from alumni who, as students in trouble of some kind or another, found in Dr. Kilby’s wise and gracious response and help just what they needed.” “Wise and gracious” also characterized the welcome Dr. Kilby gave to students, visitors, and scholars to the Wade Center during his time as its director, and the words still describe the quality of attention and personal investment given to those who enter the Wade’s doors today.

Clyde and Martha with the Melvins, circa 1976.

Clyde and Martha with the Melvins, circa 1976.

Marilee’s friendship with the Kilbys, and her excitement over Dr. Kilby’s founding of what was originally called “The C.S. Lewis Collection,” helped introduce all eight of her siblings to Lewis’s world of Narnia. Marilee’s younger sister, Deborah Melvin Beisner, grew to know the Kilbys through becoming acquainted with them around her parents’ dining room table as the two families spent time together.

After graduating from Hillsdale College in Michigan, Deborah worked in the Wheaton area. She lived a few blocks from the Kilbys and regularly visited with them. She says, “I was fond of walking over to sit amongst his prized day lily collection, imagining eldil, or sharing a meal with Peter Kilby—the parakeet— sitting on the doctor’s thin hair, or listening to him talk in his upstairs back porch library/study. Oh, the magic!”

A visual artist who studied closely with the portrait painter John Howard Sanden, Deborah desired to paint Dr. Kilby and had a photography session with him seated in his porch library in a familiar housecoat, reading his favorite work by C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces.

“When I had chosen the final composition from the photographs taken that day, I stretched a canvas and penciled in the outlines,” she explains. “However, my painting career got interrupted with a little thing called marriage, and the unpainted canvas followed us around until my second child was born in September 1986. My baby daughter received a letter from Dr. Kilby . . . welcoming her to the world—the world he left just days later. Now I really wanted to finish the portrait. Our mutual friend, Leanne Payne, agreed to commission its completion, and my husband took time to watch our children while I painted in our laundry room.”

The completed portrait was graciously donated to the Wade Center by Leanne Payne, the founder and president of Pastoral Care Ministries (now Ministries of Pastoral Care). Today its colors shine brightly from the wall of the Wade’s upstairs seminar room, where Dr. Kilby’s own library and some of his personal memorabilia are displayed—an inviting space where gatherings take place under the kindly smile of Dr. Kilby, and where the “conversation” he began nearly half a century ago continues.

Deborah Melvin Beisner lives in Pembroke Pines, Florida, with her scholar/writer husband, E. Calvin Beisner, and is back at the easel now that her kids have grown. She and her husband have seven children and five grandchildren. You can see more of her paintings at

Learn more about the life and legacy of Clyde S. Kilby on the Wade Center’s website.

Upcoming Event: Book Launch of C.S. Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress: Wade Annotated Edition

The cover for C.S. Lewis’s THE PILGRIM'S REGRESS: WADE ANNOTATED EDITION (Eerdmans, 2014)

The cover for C.S. Lewis’s THE PILGRIM’S REGRESS: WADE ANNOTATED EDITION (Eerdmans, 2014)

On Friday, September 19th, at 7:00 in the evening, the Wade Center will welcome Dr. David Downing to its classroom for the book launch of C.S. Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress: Wade Annotated Edition (Eerdmans, 2014). All are welcome to this talk and book signing surrounding this new edition of a C.S. Lewis classic. First published in 1933, the book— modeled after John Bunyan’s classic morality tale, The Pilgrim’s Progress—marked several firsts for Lewis. It was the first book he wrote after his conversion to Christianity, the first book published under his real name, and his first published work of fiction.

The Pilgrim’s Regress can be difficult in places, which has perhaps kept it from becoming as well-known and well-loved as other spiritual classics by Lewis, such as Mere Christianity or The Screwtape Letters. Lewis was aware of some of the points of confusion and obscurity in this work, which is why he personally annotated a copy of the book for a student—Richard Thornton Hewitt—in 1937. That annotated copy was purchased by the Wade in 1987, and it was the starting point for the research Dr. Downing did for this new edition. Among the hundreds of notes in the annotated edition are all of the comments made by Lewis on Hewitt’s copy (unpublished until now) as well as Dr. Downing’s additional clarifications, explanations, and cross-references.

David C. Downing

Dr. David C. Downing

What follows is an interview with Dr. Downing, a Lewis scholar and the R. W. Schlosser Professor of English at Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He gave us a peek at what more is in the new edition, how he went about annotating C.S. Lewis, and what he’ll talk about during his evening at the Wade. A reception will follow the lecture, and copies of the Wade annotated edition of The Pilgrim’s Regress will be available for sale and signing by Dr. Downing.

The Wade Center: Please explain a little bit of the story and timeline behind the idea for and manifestation of this annotated edition. When did you begin the project? Did you start your work at the Wade?

David Downing: When my wife and I visited the Wade in the summer of 2012, I told [Associate Director] Marj Mead that I wanted to write an interpretive guide to Regress—translating foreign phrases, identifying allusions, and cross-referencing key characters and themes with Lewis’s other books. When Marj heard my idea, she got a twinkle in her eye and said, almost in a whisper, “There is something you ought to see.” I thought she was going to take me to the wardrobe and show me a trap door that actually leads to Narnia. But instead she handed me an early edition of Regress with several dozen notes in Lewis’s own handwriting—citing Bible verses, identifying the models for various characters, and giving hints about difficult passages. Lewis had apparently taken the time to add these notes for a student of his who must have felt he was missing a lot when he tried to read the story on his own. Marj said that she and Jon Pott at Eerdmans had talked about producing a new annotated edition of Pilgrim’s Regress, placing Lewis’s own notes beside the text and adding other interpretive aids. So I combined Lewis’s handwritten notes with some excellent print and online sources identifying all the book’s quotations and allusions, adding my own explanatory and interpretive remarks. The result is a new version of The Pilgrim’s Regress that I think most readers will find much more understandable—both more insightful and more delightful than earlier editions. (I haven’t had time yet to look for that trap door in the back of the wardrobe!)

WC: Can you explain what constitutes an “annotated edition” in this case? What can readers expect to find in this edition of The Pilgrim’s Regress?

DD: In this edition of The Pilgrim’s Regress, there are sidenotes in the margins explaining details that readers might not otherwise understand. There are about 75 notes penned by Lewis himself, plus more than 500 additional notes translating foreign phrases, identifying characters, defining unusual terms, and comparing elements of this story to Lewis’s other books. Readers who want to read the main text straight through can do so without distracting footnotes. But those who have questions can glance over to the margin for some extra help understanding the text.

WC: What resources did you use at and through the Wade Center to complete this project?

DD: The key resource I used in this project was a 1937 edition of The Pilgrim’s Regress owned by one of Lewis’s students, R.T. Hewitt. Lewis’s handwritten notes in Hewitt’s copy of the book helped illuminate several passages whose full meaning has eluded most readers, including Lewis scholars. I also found new insights by consulting a 62-page unpublished autobiography that Lewis wrote in late 1930 or early 1931, after he had become a Theist but before his conversion to Christianity. (This fragment has since been published as “Early Prose Joy” in the 2013 volume of the Wade Center’s journal, VII: An Anglo-American Review, where it was introduced and edited by Andrew Lazo.)

WC: What element of this project did you find particularly surprising or engaging?

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis, ca. 1940. Used by permission of The Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL.

DD: First and foremost, I couldn’t help but be astonished yet again by the brilliant and capacious mind of C.S. Lewis. He wrote The Pilgrim’s Regress in two weeks while on holiday in Ireland, apparently without access to his own library or to all the other resources available in Oxford. And yet he quotes from dozens of philosophers and literary figures, ancient and modern, sometimes in the original Greek, Latin, French or Italian, sometimes offering his own translations of passages he knew by heart. I filled an entire bookcase in my study with the resources that Lewis apparently carried around with him all the time in his head.

Secondly, I’ve always wondered why Lewis used such a narrow definition of “Romanticism” in the story, associating it almost exclusively with his experiences of Sweet Desire. I have also been puzzled why Lewis’s satire becomes so caustic in his portrayal of the Modernists and the Counter-Romantics. (Lewis himself apologized for the book’s “uncharitable temper.”) But in reading the books Lewis identified in his handwritten notes, I discovered a similarly narrow definition of Romanticism and a very disdainful tone, which I think evoked a similar note of disdain in Lewis’s allegorical rebuttal.

As for “Early Prose Joy,” I found that it shed new light on the characters called the “brown girls,” Lewis’s symbol for lust. Some readers have worried about racial overtones in passages in The Pilgrim’s Regress concerning the “brown girls.” But I think Lewis’s unfinished memoir offers a much clearer explanation of those chapters and their symbolism.

WC: What are your hopes for the publication of this annotated edition?

DD: Whenever I teach a class on Lewis or speak at an Inklings conference, I find that The Pilgrim’s Regress is the book most often mentioned as the one that Lewis fans have never read—or never finished. Too often readers feel enmired in the narrative or they get discouraged by the foreign phrases and technical philosophical terms. I am hoping that this edition will reveal all the insight and humor hidden in a somewhat difficult text. I would like to see a lot of Lewis fans move this book from the Unread shelf in their Lewis collection to the Favorites shelf.

WC: Can you give us a hint of what the theme of your talk will be here at the Wade?

DD: I plan to give a presentation called “Journey to Joy.” This will review the main storyline of The Pilgrim’s Regress, identifying the real-world models for several key characters, explaining some of the difficult passages, and showing all the parallels with Lewis’s later and better-known books, especially Surprised by Joy and the Chronicles of Narnia.

We are grateful to Dr. Downing for this interview and look forward to seeing many of you at the Wade Center at 7:00pm on Friday, September 19th for the book launch of The Pilgrim’s Regress! This event is free and open to the public. Questions? Contact the Wade at 630-517-8440 or

Flyer for the book launch. Please post and share with others.

Flyer for the book launch. Please post and share with others.