Nov 22, 2010

Most Expensive Books of the World - Part I: FIRST FOLIO

In a world that is becoming increasingly digitised, (what with the advent of kindle and ipad) the printed word has taken on a special value – especially if it happens to be enshrined in a rare, beautifully designed and historically significant book. People are willing to pay incredible sums of money just to own and hold a copy of one of these rare, antiquated gems.

From the first book ever to be printed, to comic books... limited editions seem to be extremely popular in the collector's market.



The first edition of Shakespeare’s plays, is widely considered to be one of the most important books in the world. Printed in folio format and containing 36 plays, it was prepared by Shakespeare's colleagues John Heminges and Henry Condell and published in 1623, about seven years after Shakespeare's death.

The Stationers Company who published the book were the booksellers Edward Blount and the father/son team of William and Isaac Jaggard.

The first folio, published in 1623 (now virtually unobtainable), is the first complete collection of Shakespeare's plays; without it, the English-speaking world would have little or no record of many of the greatest and most influential works in the Western world. Three seventeeth-century folio editions followed: The Second Folio, 1632; The Third Folio, 1663-64; The Fourth Folio, 1685.

Harold M. Otness, in his 1990 census of Shakespeare folios, explains: "The number of copies of each edition printed is lost, but speculation puts the press runs at several hundred copies each... American institutions hold at least 561 copies of the four editions combined, which may constitute as many as half of the extant copies worldwide."

The thirty-six plays of the First Folio occur in the order given below; plays that had never been published before 1623 are marked with an asterix*.

- The Tempest*
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona*
- The Merry Wives of Windsor
- Measure for Measure*
- The Comedy of Errors*
- Much Ado About Nothing
- Loves Labour Lost
- A Midsummer Nights Dream
- The Merchant of Venice
- As you Like It*
- The Taming of the Shrew*
- Alls Well That Ends Well*
- Twelfth Night*
- The Winters Tale*

- King John*
- Richard II
- Henry IV, Part 1
- Henry IV, Part 2
- Henry V
- Henry VI, Part 1*
- Henry VI, Part 2
- Henry VI, Part 3
- Richard III
- Henry VIII*

- Troilus and Cressida
- Coriolanus*
- Titus Andronicus
- Romeo and Juliet
- Timon of Athens*
- Julius Ceasar*
- Macbeth*
- Hamlet
- King Lear
- Othello
- Anthony and Cleopatra*
- Cymbeline

Performing Shakespeare using the First Folio:
Some Shakespeare directors, and theatre companies producing Shakespeare, believe that modern editions of Shakespeare's plays, which are heavily edited and changed to be more readable, remove possible actor cues in the Folio, such as capitalization, different punctuation and even the changing or removal of whole words. Today, many theatre companies and festivals producing the works of Shakespeare use the First Folio as the basis for their theatrical productions and training programs, including London's Original Shakespeare Company (founded and led by Patrick Tucker) - a theatre company which works exclusively from cue scripts drawn from the First Folio.

Modern Sales and Evaluation:

On 13 July 2006, a complete copy of the First Folio owned by Dr Williams's Library was auctioned at Sotheby's auction house. The book, which was in its original 17th century binding, sold for £2.5 million hammer price, less than Sotheby's top estimate of £3.5 million. This copy is one of only about 40 remaining complete copies (most of the existing copies are incomplete); only one other copy of the book remains in private ownership.

While, the First Folio's original price was 1 pound, the equivalent of about £95-£110 or US$190 to $220 in todays times, at present the book's value is estimated at $22.5 million.


Nov 18, 2010

The Philosophical Etymology of HOBBIT

An Overview:
On one hand it is said that many authors have foolishly and regrettably argued over the etymology of the word "HOBBIT" as originating from the variation of the two words, rabbits and hobby.

Now on the other hand there is one other man (Stan McDaniel) who argues in a serious way the case of JRR Tolkien as a very intense author who was a genius in philology (the study of language forms, relationships and transformations).

In recent decades, a number of scholars have begun to delve more seriously into the relationships between the sounds of words and the meanings of words. "Sound symbolism" or relations among sounds and meanings of certain clusters of words is something that suggests a common "symbol" or image about which the nomenclature revolves.

Anthropologist Dell H. Hymes, for example, in an article "Phonological Aspects of Style: Some English Sonnets," states

"Insistence on the arbitrary nature of the connection between sound and meaning simply cuts off inquiry into a very real aspect of speech and language."

Tolkien was familiar with how meanings and their related sounds flow in and out of one another according to subtle forces by which languages have shaped our perception of the world. It is out of these depths of understanding that the delight and wonder of his stories have evolved. As he says in one place, "Deep roots are not reached by the frost." Were The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings not so deeply rooted, they would not last as they have and as they will as long as there are books to read, eyes to read them, and hearts to beat to their songs.


The Unconscious Origin of Hobbit:
Tolkien once said of his stories that they grow "like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of the mind," adding that his own personal "compost-heap" was made "largely of linguistic matter." The word hobbit came out of that inner ferment in rare moments of spontaneous intuition.

He was busy grading examination papers when the word popped into his mind, not alone but as part of a whole sentence:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

Tolkien trusted his philological intuition. When a name occurred to him in this manner, he usually gave it a second look. And this case was unusual in that an entire sentence was involved, not just a single name. So, even though he had formed no idea of a story or of any of its characters, he said of the occasion, "Eventually I thought I'd better find out what hobbits were like." He would subject such names to a "severe philological scrutiny."

Tolkien's philological scrutiny of In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit turned out to be uncommonly productive. The way in which he eventually based a complex, rich, yet accessible story upon an etymological ground may be something unique in literature. Yet there are no published remarks by Tolkien about the research he must have undertaken and its relation to the story of the hobbit.


Fictional Hobbit History:
Fictionally, Tolkien characterizes himself not as author, but as translator of ancient manuscripts dating back to the Elder Days. In those manuscripts (the story goes) the word used by hobbits to refer to themselves is not hobbit at all, but kuduk, an odd-sounding expression supposed to derive from a yet older term originating in the land of Rohan and used to apply to hobbit-kind: kud-dukan, meaning "hole dweller."

Tolkien needed "English" words to translate kud-dukan and kuduk. Wishing to preserve the sense that kuduk is a "worn-down" form of kud-dukan, Tolkien first made up an "Old English" sounding word, holbytla (for hole-builder), as his "translation" of kud-dukan. Then he invented hobbit to represent a "worn-down" or modern English version of holbytla

But this is the fictional account. In order to understand just how hobbit is related to kuduk, and how Tolkien's story about hobbits is connected to philology, it is necessary to refer to a property of language which Stan McDaniel calls the eidophonetic property, or the relation between idea and sound. - Source

Read more about Eidophonetic properties and its connection to the philosophical etymology of HOBBIT, here


Wise Words for the Day: Nov 18, 2010.
"Tolkien's hobbit-stories may constitute a pivotal point in the history of science fiction and fantasy, by establishing for them more firmly than ever a base in the symbol-forming activity of human consciousness. If so, Tolkien has indeed written super science fiction. And we are only beginning to discover how super it really is. "
Stan McDaniel, from "Hobbit, The Philosophical and Literary Result."