The Ken and Jean Hansen Lectureship

Last November the Wade Center welcomed a new era of public programming and scholarship with the launch of the Ken and Jean Hansen Lectureship. The lectureship is an annual faculty lecture series named in honor of former Wheaton College Trustee Ken Hansen and his wife Jean, and endowed in their memory by Walter and Darlene Hansen. Each academic year three lectures will be presented by a Wheaton College faculty member on one or more of the Wade Center authors. The 2015-2016 lectureship series features Wheaton College President Philip G. Ryken and the topic: The Messiah Comes to Middle-earth: Images of Christ’s Threefold Office in The Lord of the Rings.

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At the inaugural lecture on November 12, 2015, Walter Hansen shared how some of the works of the Wade authors influenced the life of his family:

“While I was still in college, [my parents Ken and Jean] took an evening course on Lewis and Tolkien with Clyde Kilby. The class was limited to nine students so that they could meet in Dr. Kilby’s living room. Martha served tea and cookies. My parents were avid readers, collectors and promoters of the books of the Inklings. They hosted a book club in their living room led by Dr. Kilby to read and discuss the books of the Inklings. When they moved to Santa Barbara in 1977, they named their home Rivendell. … Our family treasures memories of our times at Rivendell, highlighted by storytelling. Our conversations were often laced with images and quotes from the stories of the Inklings. … The purpose of the Hansen Lectureship is to enjoy the great literature of the Seven so that we can escape from the prison of our self-centeredness, see with other eyes, feel with other hearts, and be equipped for practical and heroic deeds in real life.”

Walter & Darlene Hansen with Dr. Jennifer McNutt (faculty respondent) and President Philip G. Ryken on the night of the second Hansen lecture, February 4, 2016.

Walter & Darlene Hansen with Dr. Jennifer McNutt (faculty respondent) and President Philip G. Ryken on the night of the second Hansen lecture, February 4, 2016.

It is the hope of the Wade Center as well that these lectures will serve as a new way to connect others with the works of our seven authors. For those unable to attend in person, lecture content is available on the Wade Center’s YouTube channel, and each series will also be published in book form.

President Ryken’s three talks for the 2015-2016 lecture series are:

Through each lecture Ryken examines how the personhood and nature of Christ’s three offices (prophet, priest, and king) are manifested in the characters and storyline of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He commented on this approach in his second lecture:

281A8664“To see images of the Messiah in Middle-earth is one way to see the significance of The Lord of the Rings, and we can do this without mistakenly treating the novel as an allegory. … If Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn remind us in various ways of Jesus Christ, it is not because the novelist had this explicitly in mind. It is rather because the biblical worldview so thoroughly penetrated his imagination that inevitably it pervaded his literary art. So when, for example, Tolkien had a character bear a heavy burden for the sake of a kingdom, it was only natural for him to have that burden shared by a fellowship of love that reminds us of the priesthood of all believers.”

A look over the crowd at the February 4, 2016 lecture.

A look over the crowd at the February 4, 2016 lecture.

Following each lecture, a Wheaton College faculty respondent shares a brief reflection on the lecture and then, along with Dr. Ryken, facilitates a question and answer session with the audience. The faculty respondents for the first lecture series are:

Dr. Sandra Richter, President Ryken, and Walter Hansen following the November 12, 2015 Hansen Lecture.

Dr. Sandra Richter, President Ryken, and Walter Hansen following the November 12, 2015 Hansen Lecture.

These responses provide an opportunity for a conversational approach to the lecture material, often from a different field of expertise, and allow for additional points of dialogue and perspective. The first two lectures and faculty respondents have provided enjoyable and stimulating evenings with the Bakke Auditorium full of attenders; between 130 and 150 people were in attendance at each talk.

In the next few years, we look forward to the following Hansen lecture series with Wheaton College faculty:

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Dr. Timothy Larsen will present three lectures on George MacDonald for the 2016-2017 Hansen Lectureship.

  • 2016-2017: Dr. Timothy Larsen, Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College. Topic: “The Rose Fire: George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles”
  • 2017-2018: Dr. Christine Colón, Associate Professor of English, Wheaton College. Topic: Dorothy L. Sayers
  • 2018-2019: Dr. Jerry Root, Associate Professor; Director of Wheaton Evangelism Initiative, Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, Wheaton College. Topic: C.S. Lewis

If you would like to be notified of upcoming Hansen lectures, and other Wade Center events, you may sign up for email announcements on our contact page.

We hope you will join us for our last Hansen lecture by President Ryken on March 31 at 7pm: “The Coronation of Aragorn Son of Arathorn” with faculty respondent Dr. William Struthers, Professor of Psychology, Wheaton College.


Photos used in this post are courtesy of Maas Photography.

The Seven Literary Sages Christian History Issue: A closer look with Jennifer Woodruff Tait

ChristianHistory_2015The “Seven Literary Sages” Christian History issue 113 was released early in 2015 in honor of the Wade Center’s 50th anniversary, features the seven authors of the Wade Center, and highlights their continuing relevance to significant issues facing our world today. We have heard from many readers how much they enjoyed the issue, including  Dr. Leland Ryken, Professor of English Emeritus at Wheaton College, who comments: “This issue of Christian History is the best brief introduction to the Wade authors that exists. Its photographs are a feast to the eyes.  The accumulated information and insights are a treasure trove.”

Jennifer Woodruff Tait, managing editor of Christian History and Wade author enthusiast, graciously offers “Off the Shelf” readers some of her reflections on the “Seven Literary Sages” issue and its significance in her own life. Our thanks also go to Jennifer for the editorial expertise and creative work she contributed to make this issue such a success.


On November 22, 2013, C.S. Lewis was formally “installed” into Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey, gaining a memorial stone there along with such luminaries of British literature as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Byron, Dickens, Austen, the Brontë sisters, T.S. Eliot, and W.H. Auden. The service was dignified; the organ thundered; the choir sang. I was there. My husband, kids, and I spent the days before the service joining fellow Lewis enthusiasts at a meeting of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society, a tour of the Kilns (Lewis’s home, now a museum), and a symposium on Lewis’s works and worth.

On the way home, we visited Dublin, Ireland and attended the Sunday morning worship service at Trinity College. There I met a woman who became interested in our trip to the Lewis memorial. She obviously knew of Lewis’s status as a British author and had seen the movie Shadowlands. But she was puzzled by my being there on behalf of a Christian magazine. “Was Lewis particularly religious?” she asked.

And I wondered: Though Christians have valued his work for decades, how much did Lewis and his friends and mentors change the society around them? What legacy did they leave to the modern secular world?

That question was part of the reason I was in Oxford and London. I was covering the memorial celebration for issue 113 of Christian History magazine, which was dedicated to the seven authors whom the Wade Center collects. Released in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Wade Center, we called the magazine “Seven Literary Sages: Why We Still Need Their Wisdom Today.” It told the story of how those “Seven Sages” took on secularists, materialists, and modernizers with their weapon of choice: the pen.

With the assistance of the Wade we assembled a lineup of knowledgeable scholars: Suzanne Bray, Matthew Dickerson, Crystal and David Downing, Colin Duriez, Brian Horne, Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson, Alister McGrath, Michael Ward, Ralph Wood, and Edwin Woodruff Tait. They explained to our readers in fresh and entertaining ways how the Seven Sages expressed a vision for society in areas ranging from economics to education to the environment; a vision for Christian literature in their powerfully moving treatments of goodness and self-sacrifice; and a vision for discipleship in their pictures of love in community. They also emphasized how millions read their books and by those books were inspired, by the help of God’s grace, to create art, practice goodness, and seek the truth. (I am one of them: from Prince Caspian to Lord of the Rings to Gaudy Night to The Greater Trumps to Orthodoxy, the logical arguments and poetic visions of the Seven Sages have enriched my Christian discipleship for decades.) And we were able to illustrate the entire issue with a range of gorgeous photographs, many from the Wade’s own collection.

The magazine has turned out to be one of our runaway best-sellers since Christian History returned to publication by Christian History Institute in 2010. It’s by far our most popular issue judging by the number of online readers as well as requests for print copies. I’m personally thrilled to have been part of introducing so many new readers to authors who, in many cases, I have known and loved since childhood. But, not wanting to neglect others who have known and loved these authors for years as well, I commend the issue to you. Read, marvel, and enjoy!


TaitJennifer Woodruff Tait (Ph.D., Duke University) is managing editor of Christian History magazine, managing editor of the Patheos Faith and Work Channel, a candidate for ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, and author of The Poisoned Chalice and Histories of Us.  From 2004-2013 she was the recording secretary for the New York C.S. Lewis Society. She lives in Richmond, KY on an 8-acre farm with her husband (who proposed to her on the bridge in London where G.K. Chesterton proposed to Frances), her two daughters (both of whom love Narnia and Middle-earth), and her in-laws.

New books for your Summer Reading List

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Summer is here! As we did last year with our summer reading ideas, we put together a few suggestions of some exciting new books for your summer reading list. This year there are an exceptional amount of new and innovative titles covering the works and lives of the Wade authors and those who knew them. For each title below, we list a summary of the book, its expected publication date, and several published titles on related subjects. We hope you find these suggestions engaging, and learn something new. Happy summer (and fall and winter) reading!


Inklings-ZaleskiTitle: The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams
Authors: Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski
Release date and Publisher: June 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Summary: A look into the lives and writings of members of the literary discussion and writing group, The Inklings. An impressive research effort with the final product just over 650 pages, this book is a great read for the invested reader who wants to look deeper into the realm of Inklings scholarship.
Other related works:
The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter
The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer


Inklings-DuriezTitle: The Oxford Inklings: Their Lives, Writings, Ideas, and Influence
Author: Colin Duriez
Release date and Publisher: March 2015 by Lion Hudson
Summary: Another contribution this year to Inklings studies, this title by British scholar Colin Duriez. This volume is shorter than the Zaleski work (less than 300 pages), and has less biographical information, focusing on the group itself and accessible for the more casual reader.
Other related works:
The Inklings Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Lives, Thought, and Writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and their Friends by Colin Duriez and David Porter
The Inklings of Oxford : C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their Friends by Harry Lee Poe, photography by James Veneman


BedeviledTitle: Bedeviled: Lewis, Tolkien and the Shadow of Evil
Author: Colin Duriez
Release date and Publisher: April 2015 by InterVarsity Press
Summary: Duriez explores how C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and other Inklings identified modern warfare as a powerful image of the deeper battle between good and evil. He also considers the ways in which their own experiences in war shaped their writings.
Other related works:
Author talk of Duriez at the Wade Center from April 30, 2015
Tolkien and The Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth by John Garth
A Morning after War: C.S. Lewis and WWI by K.J. Gilchrist


CSL-poemsTitle: The Collected Poems of C. S. Lewis: A Critical Edition
Author: C.S. Lewis, ed. Don W. King
Release date and Publisher: January 2015 by Kent State University Press
Summary: A new collection of Lewis’s poetry, including many previously unpublished poems, together in a single volume. Includes indices of titles and first lines.
Other related works:
C. S. Lewis, Poet: The Legacy of His Poetic Impulse by Don W. King
– “‘Making the Poor Best of Dull Things’: C.S. Lewis as Poet”
by Don W. King in VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review Volume 12 (see also: volumes 22, 23, 29 for other articles by Don W. King)


a-naked-treeTitle: A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C.S. Lewis and Other Poems
Author: Joy Davidman, ed. Don W. King
Release date and Publisher: May 2015 by Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Summary: A collection of poetry by C.S. Lewis’s wife, Joy Davidman, published for the first time. These poems come from the Joy Davidman Papers archival collection at the Wade Center. The Wade also owns all of the books authored by Davidman.
Other related works:
Out of My Bone: The Letters of Joy Davidman ed. by Don W. King
– “Fire and Ice: C.S. Lewis and the Love Poetry of Joy Davidman and Ruth Pitter”
by Don W. King in VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review Volume 22 (see also: volumes 12, 23, 29 for other articles by Don W. King)


JoyTitle: Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis
Author: Abigail Santamaria
Release date and Publisher: August 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Summary: An in-depth, critical biography of the life of Joy Davidman Gresham Lewis. Santamaria has spent over a decade conducting comprehensive research on Joy, and this book will be a sizable contribution to the realms of both Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis scholarship.
Other related works:
A Love Observed: Joy Davidman’s Life & Marriage to C.S. Lewis by Lyle W. Dorsett


Lindop-editedTitle: Charles Williams: The Third Inkling
Author: Grevel Lindop
Release date and Publisher: December 2015 by Oxford University Press
Summary: Another in-depth biography, this one on the life of Charles Williams. Lindop has spent many years tracing biographical sources and this will be an indispensable volume for those wanting to understand the life of Charles Williams.
Other related works:
Charles Williams: An Exploration of His Life and Work by Alice Mary Hadfield
An Introduction to Charles Williams by Alice Mary Hadfield
To Michal from Serge: Letters from Charles Williams to His Wife, Florence, 1939-1945


PilgrimsRegressFinally, for another good summer read, if you haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the Wade Annotated Edition of C.S. Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Regress edited by David C. Downing, now is the perfect time!

March Artifact of the Month: Correspondence between Clyde Kilby, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

Today the Wade Center holds an abundance of resources, but the collection’s beginnings were modest and its future acquisitions rested on some key connections established by founder Clyde S. Kilby. Two of these relationships were with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The correspondence they shared with Kilby remains at the heart of the Wade Center’s materials and represents some of our earliest accessions. The March “Artifact of the Month” highlights these two letter collections, and continues the celebration of the Wade’s 50th Anniversary year with a look back at these remarkable documents and the relationships they illustrate.

KILBY AND LEWIS

Clyde S. Kilby first encountered the work of C.S. Lewis around 1943 in a book titled The Case for Christianity, which contained content from some of Lewis’s BBC Radio talks later brought together under the title Mere Christianity in 1952. Kilby reflects in his personal history of the Wade Center on that first reading: “I bought the book and read it right through feeling almost from the first sentence that something profound had touched my mind and heart.” After reading more books by Lewis and becoming greatly interested in them, Kilby decided to write to Lewis on December 17, 1952 asking if he could schedule a visit with him during his upcoming trip to England in the summer of 1953. Lewis accepted Kilby’s request, and they met at Lewis’s rooms in Magdalen College, Oxford on July 1, 1953.

Envelope from Lewis to Kilby, sent February 11, 1957.

The memorable visit with Lewis is recalled by Dr. Kilby in Wheaton College’s Kodon magazine (December 1953, Vol. VIII, pp. 11, 28, 30). They discussed sixteenth-century literature, the Renaissance, and the relation of Christianity and art, which was, in Kilby’s words: “one of the main questions I wished to ask Mr. Lewis.” When asked if Lewis had any plans to visit America, he said he had no intention of doing so until his retirement (Lewis never did visit the United States). Kilby summarizes his time with Lewis at the end of the article by saying: “in all his talk there is an incipient good humor and genuineness that makes a conversation with him a real pleasure.” (28, 30)

Kilby continued his conversation with Lewis through a series of letters between 1953 and 1962. These fourteen letters, and Kilby’s article, are available for viewing in the Wade Center Reading Room; they include a discussion, amongst other topics, of Lewis’s book Till We Have Faces; scripture; recommendations of reading material; and news of Joy’s health, Lewis’s wife who was battling cancer. One memorable quote from Lewis’s February 10, 1957 letter to Kilby begins:

Dear Professor Kilby — An author doesn’t necessarily understand the meaning of his own story better than anyone else, so I give you my account of TWHF [Till We Have Faces] simply “for what it’s worth.” …

Intrigued yet? Visit the Wade Center to read more, or find the letter in volume 3 of The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis edited by Walter Hooper.

Following Lewis’s death in 1963, Kilby maintained a lively correspondence and friendship with Warren H. Lewis, C.S. Lewis’s brother, which lasted until Warren’s death in 1973. Warren willed a variety of materials to the Wade Center, including his own personal diaries, excerpts from which were later edited and published by Clyde S. Kilby and Marjorie Lamp Mead in the book Brothers and Friends.

KILBY AND TOLKIEN

Clyde Kilby’s first visit with Tolkien was late in the afternoon of September 1, 1964, on one of his many trips to England from 1953 to 1979. Kilby had read, and duly admired, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and was keen to try and meet its author. After receiving encouragement from Dr. Robert E. Havard, Tolkien’s personal physician and fellow member of the Inklings, Kilby walked up to Tolkien’s front door and received a warm and cordial greeting. They shared two enjoyable visits in 1964 before Kilby’s return to the United States.

Envelope from Tolkien to Kilby, sent December 3, 1967.

After this first meeting, a correspondence between the two professors began, with the first letter from Tolkien written on November 11, 1964, and the last written on March 8, 1973. The Wade Center has fourteen letters from Tolkien to Kilby, only a few of which have been partially published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien.

The correspondence covers a wide range of topics, including notes on Tolkien’s work; comments on Tolkien’s The Smith of Wootton Major manuscript; discussion on the health of Edith Tolkien, Tolkien’s wife; and one of the most exciting events of Kilby’s friendship with Tolkien: a visit in the summer of 1966 to assist in the writing of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. Tolkien had worked for years on the content of what later became The Silmarillion, and Tolkien enthusiasts, including Kilby, eagerly anticipated its publication. The work required to get it into a publishable form was substantial, however, and Kilby knew of the difficulty of the task. In a letter dated November 19, 1965, Kilby wrote to Tolkien to offer him any assistance he could provide in helping to prepare The Silmarillion for publication. Among his applicable skills he states that he is “1) a good typist, 2) a bit of a literary critic … 3) an enthusiast for your writings.” Tolkien responds on December 18, 1965:

TOLKIEN AND THE SILMARILLION by Clyde S. Kilby. Wheaton, IL: Shaw, 1976.

TOLKIEN AND THE SILMARILLION by Clyde S. Kilby. Wheaton, IL: Shaw, 1976.

I was deeply touched by [your letter], indeed overwhelmed by your generosity in offering to sacrifice your precious time (and holiday) in helping me. … [Y]our offer under heads 2) and 3) are extremely attractive. … If I had the assistance of a scholar at once sympathetic and yet critical, such as yourself, I feel I might make some of it publishable.  It needs the actual presence of a friend and adviser at one’s side, which is just what you offer.

The experience with Tolkien over the summer of 1966 is recorded in Kilby’s book: Tolkien and the Silmarillion, which is available along with the Tolkien and Kilby letters in the Wade Center Reading Room. The Silmarillion was published in 1977 by Christopher Tolkien after his father’s death. The third chapter of Kilby’s book was removed before publication at Christopher’s request to avoid revealing too much of the subject matter from the then unpublished Silmarillion. Kilby had also made some factual errors in the chapter given that his source material was based on his memory of oral communication with Tolkien. The third chapter has since been published in its entirety in volume 19 (2002) of VII, the Wade Center’s journal.

These letter exchanges give a unique view into the early days of the Wade Center and the important personal connections established with the authors (and their family and friends) now collected, studied, and celebrated here. They are a wonderful reminder of the past as we look into the future. Come read and enjoy them yourself!

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.

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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:

DID YOU KNOW?
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).

My Career Started with Tolkien: Reflections of a Former Wade Student by guest writer Abigail Nye

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Abigail Nye, Wade Center student worker from 2004 to 2008.

Strange though it may sound, I owe my job to J.R.R. Tolkien. I picked up The Hobbit as a seven-year old and was swiftly drawn into Tolkien’s legendarium. I read my father’s paperback copy of The Lord of the Rings to pieces (I don’t think he’s quite forgiven me yet) and moved on to devour The Silmarillion. Unbeknownst to me, my love for Tolkien would lead me to the Marion E. Wade Center.

When I walked into the Wade Center as a prospective Wheaton student, I knew only that it contained more Tolkien and Lewis books than I had ever read. Standing in awe before Tolkien’s desk and the intricately carved Lewis Family wardrobe, I was convinced that I had stumbled upon a magical place. Not until I worked there as a Wheaton student did I realize that the resources on display in the Wade Center Museum and Reading Room were just the tip of the iceberg. From dissertations to fanzines, manuscripts to oral histories, first editions to unpublished letters, where else can you find such a wealth of resources from such an influential group of British authors?

During my four years working there, I transcribed selections from Lewis’s letters and oral histories on Sayers. I learned how to describe archival collections as I updated the Wade Center history records. When supervising the Reading Room on the weekends, I attempted to explain the vast array of collections to visitors, but even four years isn’t enough time to become an expert on everything the Wade Center holds.

I was drawn to the Wade Center because of my love for J.R.R. Tolkien, but my attention was soon captured by the ways in which the Wade Center and its staff present their resources to the world. Too often archives are thought to have—to borrow an image from Tolkien—Smaug-like archivists jealously guarding dusty collection hoards. Thankfully, the staff at the Wade Center are not dragon-like; on the contrary, they approach their work with the cheerful goodwill of hobbits—eager to share their treasure with all who come.

I learned that significant effort goes into preparing documents before a researcher ever arrives. The Wade Center is loved by scholars not just because of the fine collections, but because the archivists and student workers have invested many hours into preserving the original documents, organizing them, and describing the contents of collections. The work can sometimes be a daunting task, but that labor is rewarded when researchers make crucial discoveries because the preparation was done well.

Researchers in the Wade Center Reading Room.

Researchers in the Wade Center Reading Room.

When I first visited, I was daunted by the usage policies for Reading Room users, though I soon learned the purpose behind them. When, for example, researchers are asked to leave their food and drink outside the Reading Room, the reason for the request is to preserve materials and promote access for future generations of visitors. If a latté is spilled on an original Chesterton manuscript, that manuscript can’t be replaced; everyone loses the chance to see and enjoy it.

The beauty of the Wade Center is that it is accessible to everyone. Now, as an archivist myself, I know that in some countries, only serious researchers are allowed to use archives and often they are required to present a letter of introduction from an academic sponsor. Not so at the Wade Center; it is freely open to the public and offers something for everyone: young or old, casual fan or dedicated scholar.

What started in me as youthful enthusiasm for the beauty of fantasy turned into a passion for preserving history, for providing access to the unique voices captured in archival records, for promoting critical thinking through the study of primary sources. My experience at the Wade Center led me to the conclusion that I, too, needed to become an archivist. I now work at a university archives, teaching students to think critically as they explore the raw materials of history. In many ways, I owe my work to the Wade Center for sparking that passion, and to Tolkien for leading me to the Wade in the first place.

About the author: Abigail Nye is the Reference and Instruction Archivist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She holds a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies from Wheaton College and an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She worked at the Wade Center as a student worker from 2004 to 2008.

Need Summer Reading Ideas?

Reading in the Wade’s English garden.

Visitors to the Wade Center often ask: “Where do I start if I want to read books by the Wade authors?” This post will hopefully help in beginning to answer that question, and also give you some ideas to add to your summer reading list. Our seven authors wrote in a variety of genres, but the focus of this list will be on works of fiction. If you want to see lists of other books our authors wrote, the names below link to bibliographies available via the Wade’s website, so check those out too.

OB-SilverTrumpet

THE SILVER TRUMPET by Owen Barfield

Owen Barfield: The Silver Trumpet

A fairy tale for children enjoyed by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Tolkien’s own children. Lewis recounts in a letter to Barfield dated June 28, 1936 that the Tolkien children liked the story so much they were reluctant to return the book to Mr. Lewis, who had lent it to them. The story rests on the fate of the Silver Trumpet, the symbol of hope and the vibrancy of life for a kingdom and its inhabitants.

 

Father Brown: The Essential Tales by G.K. Chesterton

FATHER BROWN: THE ESSENTIAL TALES by G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton: The Father Brown Stories

Chesterton’s detection short stories featuring sleuth (and Catholic priest) Father Brown are hailed as classics in detective fiction, and have been adapted into several television productions over the years. They appeared in five original volumes, the first of which is The Innocence of Father Brown, and are available today in various editions. Father Brown: The Essential Tales is a good overview volume to start with to get a taste of the tales. If you are a reader of mystery stories (or even if you are not!), you need to meet Father Brown.

 

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

TILL WE HAVE FACES by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis: Till We Have Faces

Did you know Lewis wrote other works of fiction besides The Chronicles of Narnia? Lewis considered this novel one of his finest books, and wrote it in collaboration with his wife, Joy Davidman. It is a dramatic re-telling of the Greek myth “Cupid and Psyche,” and explores the nature of love in human relationships. If you are looking for a thought-provoking and rewarding read, this is your book.

 

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN by George MacDonald

George MacDonald: The Princess and the Goblin

George MacDonald wrote many fairy tales for children, and this is one of his most well-known and loved. This novel-length tale features Princess Irene, Curdie the miner’s son, and their fight to protect the kingdom from some wicked goblins. The book was a particular favorite of G.K. Chesterton and stands as a classic in the fairy tale tradition.

 

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

GAUDY NIGHT by Dorothy L. Sayers

Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night

Sayers is one of two Wade authors who wrote detective fiction (the other being G.K. Chesterton), and she also made a name for herself in the craft with twelve detection novels featuring her aristocratic detective, Lord Peter Wimsey. In Gaudy Night (book 11 of the Wimsey books, and book 3 of the 4 books featuring Harriet Vane), Harriet returns to her Oxford college to help solve a series of unfortunate events. This book has love, crime, and academia all in one volume.

Want more detective fiction resources? Audio recordings from an earlier detection book group at the Wade Center are available on our website.

 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit

Tolkien’s classic tale for children and adults alike, and a wonderful introduction to his world of Middle-earth. The prelude to The Lord of the Rings in which Bilbo the hobbit, a band of dwarves, and Gandalf the wizard set off to recapture stolen treasure from Smaug the dragon. Even if you have read this book before, why not get a refresher read in before the third and final Hobbit film comes out in December 2014?

 

The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams

THE PLACE OF THE LION by Charles Williams

Charles Williams: The Place of the Lion

One of Williams’s seven novels described as “supernatural thrillers” by T.S. Eliot. In this story archetypes are embodied as gigantic animals roaming the earth, such as the Lion of Strength and the Butterfly of Beauty. Their interactions in the world cause havoc, but also produce engaging insights into the hearts of the humans they encounter. This book was highly admired by C.S. Lewis when he first read it in February 1936, and helped start the friendship between Lewis and Williams.

Remember, these books (and all the others the Wade authors wrote) are available for reading at the Wade Center in the beautiful surroundings of the Kilby Reading Room. Is there a particular edition you are looking for? There is a good chance we have it. Let us know, and we will be happy to pull it for you. Stop by and visit us this summer, either in person or via our online resources.

Happy reading!