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Tolkien’s translation of Jonah to be published

Tolkien’s original translation of the Book of Jonah is to be published, together with commentary from Brendan Wolfe, in the Journal of Inklings Studies this October.

Tolkien was a collaborator on the Jerusalem Bible, the first authoritative Roman Catholic edition of the Bible translated into English, first published in 1966. Although listed as a principal collaborator of the project, Tolkien described this as an ‘undeserved courtesy’ (Letter 294) for his only substantial contribution was his translation of Jonah.

The translation was previously due to be published back in 2009, but for unknown reasons The Book of Jonah was withdrawn. Its editor, Dr Judith Wolfe, announced yesterday that the translation, along with Brendan Wolfe’s commentary, will now be published in the Journal of Inklings Studies, vol. 4, no. 2 (2014).

According to Wolfe, this marks the first publication of Tolkien’s original, unedited translation:

Tolkien’s translation of Jonah as it appears in the Jerusalem Bible is a collaborative effort, drafted by Tolkien but edited by a style editor employed to standardize the grammar and vocabulary of the various translators contributing to the Jerusalem Bible. With kind permission, we are able to make available Tolkien’s original translation from Bodleian Manuscript. A research article by Brendan Wolfe on the history and features of the translation will accompany the text.

To find out more about Tolkien’s translation of Jonah, albeit in the context of the aborted 2009 publication, have a look at this article on the Tolkien Library.

About the Author: Daniel Helen
Daniel is an Officer without Portfolio and Trustee of The Tolkien Society. Elected in 2014, he is mainly responsible for the Society's digital operations, including this website.