There are many days where it can be difficult to find a single stamp in my collection to match an anniversary of an event, a birth, or occasionally a death on a particular date. When this occurs, I usually pick a “random stamp” portraying something not usually associated with a date such as an animal, fruit or place. However, there are days when I need to choose which subject to feature out of several possibilities. Today is one of those days as I own nice stamps in each of five different topics matching events that occurred on January3. I’ve decided to feature J.R.R. Tolkien today (one of only two fantasy writers whose books I enjoy, the other being George R. R. Martin). Before I profile the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, amongst many other works, I would like to summarize the “runners up”. They may all receive an entire A Stamp A Day article of their own at some point in the future.
January 3, 106 BC: The birth of Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero was born on January 3, 106 BC in Arpinum, a hill town 62 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of Rome. He belonged to the tribus Cornelia and was to become a Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher, who served as consul in the year 63 BC. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and is considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists.
Cicero’s influence on the Latin language was so immense that the subsequent history of prose, not only in Latin but in European languages up to the 19th century, was said to be either a reaction against or a return to his style. He introduced the Romans to the chief schools of Greek philosophy and created a Latin philosophical vocabulary (with neologisms such as evidentia, humanitas, qualitas, quantitas, and essentia) distinguishing himself as a translator and philosopher.
Though he was an accomplished orator and successful lawyer, Cicero believed his political career was his most important achievement. It was during his consulship that the second Catilinarian conspiracy attempted to overthrow the government through an attack on the city by outside forces, and Cicero suppressed the revolt by summarily and controversially executing five conspirators. During the chaotic latter half of the 1st century BC marked by civil wars and the dictatorship of Gaius Julius Caesar, Cicero championed a return to the traditional republican government. Following Julius Caesar’s death, Cicero became an enemy of Mark Antony in the ensuing power struggle, attacking him in a series of speeches. He was proscribed as an enemy of the state by the Second Triumvirate and consequently executed by soldiers operating on their behalf in 43 BC after having been intercepted during an attempted flight from the Italian peninsula. His severed hands and head were then, as a final revenge of Mark Antony, displayed in the Roman Forum.
Petrarch’s rediscovery of Cicero’s letters is often credited for initiating the 14th-century Renaissance in public affairs, humanism, and classical Roman culture. According to Polish historian Tadeusz Zieliński, “the Renaissance was above all things a revival of Cicero, and only after him and through him of the rest of Classical antiquity.” The peak of Cicero’s authority and prestige came during the 18th-century Enlightenment, and his impact on leading Enlightenment thinkers and political theorists such as John Locke, David Hume, Montesquieu and Edmund Burke was substantial. His works rank among the most influential in European culture, and today still constitute one of the most important bodies of primary material for the writing and revision of Roman history, especially the last days of the Roman Republic.
January 3, 1777: Battle of Princeton
The Battle of Princeton was fought near Princeton, New Jersey on January 3, 1777. General Lord Cornwallis had left 1,400 British troops under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood in Princeton. Following a surprise attack at Trenton early in the morning of December 26, 1776, General George Washington of the Continental Army decided to attack the British in New Jersey before entering winter quarters. On December 30, he crossed the Delaware River back into New Jersey. His troops followed on January 3, 1777. Washington advanced to Princeton by a back road, where he pushed back a smaller British force but had to retreat before Cornwallis arrived with reinforcements. The battles of Trenton and Princeton were a boost to the morale of the patriot cause, leading many recruits to join the Continental Army in the spring.
On January 3, Brigadier General Hugh Mercer of the Continental Army clashed with two regiments under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Mawhood. Mercer and his troops were overrun, and Mercer was mortally wounded. Washington sent a brigade of militia under Brigadier General John Cadwalader to help them. The militia, on seeing the flight of Mercer’s men, also began to flee. Washington rode up with reinforcements and rallied the fleeing militia. He then led the attack on Mawhood’s troops, driving them back. Mawhood gave the order to retreat and most of the troops tried to flee to Cornwallis in Trenton.
In Princeton itself, Brigadier General John Sullivan encouraged some British troops who had taken refuge in Nassau Hall to surrender, ending the battle. After the battle, Washington moved his army to Morristown, and with their third defeat in 10 days, the British evacuated southern New Jersey. With the victory at Princeton, morale rose in the American ranks and more men began to enlist in the army. The battle (while considered minor by British standards) was the last major action of Washington’s winter New Jersey campaign.
One of my favorite topicals is stamps commemorating the American Revolutionary War and I have many in my collection. I’m especially fond of those stamps that portray the paintings produced shortly after the war by such great American artists as John Trumbull and Charles Willson Peale. The latter’s George Washington at the Battle of Princeton originally painted in 1779 is a particular favorite; the 1781 copy held by the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, was used on Scott #1704 issued by the United States on January 3, 1977. The “Bicentennial era” (late 1974 to 1977) was the period when I first began collecting stamps as a young boy in north-central Tennessee, moving to northeast Kansas in August of 1977.
January 3, 1877: Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge begins
Ground was broken for the Brooklyn tower foundation on January 3, 1870. The bridge’s two towers were built by floating two caissons, giant upside-down boxes made of southern yellow pine, in the span of the East River, and then beginning to build the stone towers on top of them until they sank to the bottom of the river. Compressed air was pumped into the caissons, and workers entered the space to dig the sediment, until the caissons sank to the bedrock. Once the caissons had reached the desired depth, the caissons were filled in with brick piers and concrete. The whole weight of the bridge still rests upon these constructions.
The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge in New York City. It connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, spanning the East River. The Brooklyn Bridge has a main span of 1,595.5 feet (486.3 meters) and a height of 276.5 feet (84.3 meters) above mean high water. It is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States and was the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge, as well as the first fixed crossing across the East River.
The bridge was originally called the New York and Brooklyn Bridge and the East River Bridge, but it was later dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge, a name coming from an earlier January 25, 1867, letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and formally so named by the city government in 1915. Over the years, the Brooklyn Bridge has undergone several reconfigurations; it formerly carried horse-drawn vehicles and elevated railway lines, but now carries vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic. Commercial vehicles are banned from the bridge.
The New York and Brooklyn Bridge was opened for use on May 24, 1883. Since opening, the bridge has become an icon of New York City, ranking among the city’s most popular tourist attractions. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972. The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge is detailed in The Great Bridge, a book by David McCullough published in 1972, and in Brooklyn Bridge (1981), the first PBS documentary film by Ken Burns. Burns drew heavily on McCullough’s book for the film and used him as narrator. It is also described in Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, a BBC docudrama series with an accompanying book, as well as the book Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge (2017).
January 3, 1926: George Martin born
Sir George Henry Martin, CBE was born on January 3, 1926, in Highbury, London. He would become a record producer, arranger, composer, conductor, audio engineer, and musician. He was often referred to as the “Fifth Beatle”, even by Paul McCartney, in reference to his extensive involvement on each of the Beatles’ original albums. Martin produced 30 number-one hit singles in the United Kingdom and 23 number-one hits in the United States.
Martin produced comedy and novelty records in the early 1950s, working with Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, and Bernard Cribbins, among others. His career spanned more than six decades of work in music, film, television and live performance. He held a number of senior executive roles at media companies and contributed to a wide range of charitable causes, including his work for The Prince’s Trust and the Caribbean island of Montserrat. In recognition of his services to the music industry and popular culture, he was made a Knight Bachelor in 1996.
Martin died in his sleep on the night of March 8. 2016, at his home in Wiltshire, England, at the age of 90. His death was announced by Ringo Starr on his Twitter account. Despite my love of music, I have yet to add many music-related stamps to my collection. I have one Beatles stamp, picturing the iconic cover of the Abbey Road album. I also have two stamps picturing AIR Studios on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. Associated Independent Recording (AIR) was founded in London in 1965 by George Martin and his partner John Burgess after their departure from EMI. The company built the Montserrat recording studio in the mid-1970s.
Jimmy Buffett recorded Volcano at the Montserrat studio in May 1979, naming the album and its title song for the then dormant Soufrière Hills volcano on the island. Elton John recorded three albums at the studio in the 1980s. Dire Straits recorded their successful Brothers in Arms album there between 1984 and 1985. Other artists including Paul McCartney, Rush, The Police (Ghost in the Machine and Synchronicity), and The Rolling Stones have also recorded albums there. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo devastated the island and the Montserrat facility was severely damaged and thus forced to close.
According to George Martin,
“Before we came to Montserrat there was no western music to speak of on the island. Building AIR meant that many leading recording artists came to stay. It cast its spell on them as they mingled with the local people. It was and still is a unique place… After ten great years of recording there the music business had changed. The moguls running the business no longer wanted their artists miles away, outside their control. That coincided with the devastation caused by the hurricane and sadly the studios had to close. The people of Montserrat are still very proud of the work that was done at AIR Studios/”
January 3, 1892: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Birthday
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State (now Free State Province in South Africa) to Arthur Reuel Tolkien and his wife Mabel, née Suffield. The couple had left England when Arthur was promoted to head the Bloemfontein office of the British bank for which he worked. Tolkien had one sibling, his younger brother, Hilary Arthur Reuel Tolkien, who was born on February 17, 1894. Tolkien believed his surname derived from the German word tollkühn, meaning “foolhardy”, and jokingly inserted himself as a “cameo” into The Notion Club Papers under the literally translated name Rashbold. However, this origin of the name has not been proven.
As a child, Tolkien was bitten by a large baboon spider in the garden, an event some think later echoed in his stories, although he admitted no actual memory of the event and no special hatred of spiders as an adult. In another incident, a young family servant, who thought Tolkien a beautiful child, took the baby to his kraal to show him off, returning him the next morning.
J.R.R. Tolkien would go on to become an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor who is best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. He served as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, from 1925 to 1945 and Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, from 1945 to 1959. Tolkien was at one time a close friend of C. S. Lewis — they were both members of the informal literary discussion group known as the Inklings. Tolkien was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on March 28, 1972.
After Tolkien’s death, his son Christopher published a series of works based on his father’s extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion. These, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about a fantasy world called Arda and Middle-earth within it. Between 1951 and 1955, Tolkien applied the term legendarium to the larger part of these writings.
Tolkien never expected his stories to become popular, but by sheer accident a book called The Hobbit, which he had written some years before for his own children, came in 1936 to the attention of Susan Dagnall, an employee of the London publishing firm George Allen & Unwin, who persuaded Tolkien to submit it for publication. When it was published a year later, the book attracted adult readers as well as children, and it became popular enough for the publishers to ask Tolkien to produce a sequel.
The request for a sequel prompted Tolkien to begin what would become his most famous work: the epic novel The Lord of the Rings (originally published in three volumes 1954–1955). Tolkien spent more than ten years writing the primary narrative and appendices for The Lord of the Rings, during which time he received the constant support of the Inklings, in particular his closest friend C. S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia. Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are set against the background of The Silmarillion, but in a time long after it.
Tolkien at first intended The Lord of the Rings to be a children’s tale in the style of The Hobbit, but it quickly grew darker and more serious in the writing. Though a direct sequel to The Hobbit, it addressed an older audience, drawing on the immense backstory of Beleriand that Tolkien had constructed in previous years, and which eventually saw posthumous publication in The Silmarillion and other volumes. Tolkien’s influence weighs heavily on the fantasy genre that grew up after the success of The Lord of the Rings.
The Lord of the Rings became immensely popular in the 1960s and has remained so ever since, ranking as one of the most popular works of fiction of the 20th century, judged by both sales and reader surveys. In the 2003 “Big Read” survey conducted by the BBC, The Lord of the Rings was found to be the UK’s “Best-loved Novel”. Australians voted The Lord of the Rings “My Favourite Book” in a 2004 survey conducted by the Australian ABC. In a 1999 poll of Amazon.com customers, The Lord of the Rings was judged to be their favorite “book of the millennium”. In 2002, Tolkien was voted the 92nd “greatest Briton” in a poll conducted by the BBC, and in 2004 he was voted 35th in the SABC3’s Great South Africans, the only person to appear in both lists. His popularity is not limited to the English-speaking world: in a 2004 poll inspired by the UK’s “Big Read” survey, about 250,000 Germans found The Lord of the Rings to be their favorite work of literature.
While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien, the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings led directly to a popular resurgence of the genre. This has caused Tolkien to be popularly identified as the “father” of modern fantasy literature — or, more precisely, of high fantasy. In 2008, The Times ranked him sixth on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. Forbes ranked him the 5th top-earning “dead celebrity” in 2009.
Parallel to Tolkien’s professional work as a philologist, and sometimes overshadowing this work, to the effect that his academic output remained rather thin, was his affection for constructing languages. The most developed of these are Quenya and Sindarin, the etymological connection between which formed the core of much of Tolkien’s legendarium. Language and grammar for Tolkien was a matter of esthetics and euphony, and Quenya in particular was designed from “phonaesthetic” considerations; it was intended as an “Elvenlatin”, and was phonologically based on Latin, with ingredients from Finnish, Welsh, English, and Greek. A notable addition came in late 1945 with Adûnaic or Númenórean, a language of a “faintly Semitic flavour”, connected with Tolkien’s Atlantis legend, which by The Notion Club Papers ties directly into his ideas about the inability of language to be inherited, and via the “Second Age” and the story of Eärendil was grounded in the legendarium, thereby providing a link of Tolkien’s 20th-century “real primary world” with the legendary past of his Middle-earth.
Tolkien considered languages inseparable from the mythology associated with them, and he consequently took a dim view of auxiliary languages: in 1930 a congress of Esperantists were told as much by him, in his lecture A Secret Vice, “Your language construction will breed a mythology”, but by 1956 he had concluded that “Volapük, Esperanto, Ido, Novial, &c, &c, are dead, far deader than ancient unused languages, because their authors never invented any Esperanto legends”.
The popularity of Tolkien’s books has had a small but lasting effect on the use of language in fantasy literature in particular, and even on mainstream dictionaries, which today commonly accept Tolkien’s idiosyncratic spellings dwarves and dwarvish (alongside dwarfs and dwarfish), which had been little used since the mid-19th century and earlier. In fact, according to Tolkien, had the Old English plural survived, it would have been dwarrows or dwerrows. He also coined the term eucatastrophe, though it remains mainly used in connection with his own work.
Tolkien scholar James Dunning coined the word Tollywood, a portmanteau derived from “Tolkien Hollywood”, to describe attempts to create a cinematographic adaptation of the stories in Tolkien’s legendarium aimed at generating good box office results, rather than at fidelity to the idea of the original. On receiving a screenplay for a proposed film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings by Morton Grady Zimmerman, Tolkien wrote:
“I would ask them to make an effort of imagination sufficient to understand the irritation (and on occasion the resentment) of an author, who finds, increasingly as he proceeds, his work treated as it would seem carelessly in general, in places recklessly, and with no evident signs of any appreciation of what it is all about.“
Tolkien went on to criticize the script scene by scene (“yet one more scene of screams and rather meaningless slashings”). He was not implacably opposed to the idea of a dramatic adaptation, however, and sold the film, stage and merchandise rights of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to United Artists in 1968. United Artists never made a film, although director John Boorman was planning a live-action film in the early 1970s. In 1976, the rights were sold to Tolkien Enterprises, a division of the Saul Zaentz Company, and the first film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings was released in 1978 as an animated rotoscoping film directed by Ralph Bakshi with screenplay by the fantasy writer Peter S. Beagle. It covered only the first half of the story of The Lord of the Rings. In 1977, an animated musical television film of The Hobbit was made by Rankin-Bass, and in 1980, they produced the animated musical television film The Return of the King, which covered some of the portions of The Lord of the Rings that Bakshi was unable to complete.
From 2001 to 2003, New Line Cinema released The Lord of the Rings as a trilogy of live-action films that were filmed in New Zealand and directed by Peter Jackson. The series was successful, performing extremely well commercially and winning numerous Oscars and other awards. From 2012 to 2014, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema released The Hobbit, a series of three films based on the book, with Peter Jackson serving as executive producer, director, and co-writer. The first installment, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was released in December 2012; the second, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, in December 2013; and the last installment, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, in December 2014.
Tolkien and the characters and places from his works have become the namesake of various things around the world including street names, mountains, companies, species of animals and plants as well as other notable objects.
By convention, certain classes of features on Saturn’s moon Titan are named after elements from Middle-earth. Colles (small hills or knobs) are named for characters, while montes (mountains) are named for mountains of Middle-earth. There are also asteroids named for Bilbo Baggins and Tolkien himself. Three mountains in the Cadwallader Range of British Columbia, Canada, have been named after Tolkien’s characters. These are Mount Shadowfax, Mount Gandalf and Mount Aragorn. On December 1, 2012, it was announced in the New Zealand press that a bid was launched for the New Zealand Geographic Board to name a mountain peak near Milford Sound after Tolkien for historical and literary reasons and to mark Tolkien’s 121st birthday.
In the Silicon Valley towns of Saratoga and San Jose in California, there are two housing developments with street names drawn from Tolkien’s works. About a dozen Tolkien-derived street names also appear scattered throughout the town of Lake Forest, California. The Columbia, Maryland, neighborhood of Hobbit’s Glen and its street names (including Rivendell Lane, Tooks Way, and Oakenshield Circle) come from Tolkien’s works.
In the field of taxonomy, over 80 taxa (genera and species) have been given scientific names honoring, or deriving from, characters or other fictional elements from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and other works set in Middle-earth. Several taxa have been named after the character Gollum (also known as Sméagol), as well as for various hobbits, the small humanlike creatures such as Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Various elves, dwarves, and other creatures that appear in his writings as well as Tolkien himself have been honored in the names of several species, including the amphipod Leucothoe tolkieni, and the wasp Shireplitis tolkieni. In 2004, the extinct hominid Homo floresiensis was described, and quickly earned the nickname “hobbit” due to its small size. In 1978, Paleontologist Leigh Van Valen named over 20 taxa of extinct mammals after Tolkien lore in a single paper. In 1999, entomologist Lauri Kaila described 48 new species of Elachista moths and named 37 of them after Tolkien mythology. It has been noted that “Tolkien has been accorded formal taxonomic commemoration like no other author.”
Since 2003 The Tolkien Society has organized Tolkien Reading Day, which takes place on March 25 in schools around the world.
Unlike other authors of the genre, Tolkien never favored signing his works. Owing to his popularity, handsigned copies of his letters or of the first editions of his individual writings have however achieved high values at auctions, and forged autographs may occur on the market. In particular, a signed first hardback edition of The Hobbit from 1937 has reportedly been offered for $85,000. Collectibles also include non-fiction books with hand-written annotations from Tolkien’s private library.
There have been numerous stamps released honoring Tolkien and his works especially by Great Britain and New Zealand (with the latter focusing on the movies due to the nation’s role as the primary filming location). I chose, however, a stamp from the landlocked and mountainous Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan (Кыргызстан in Kyrgyz:) because it’s the only one I own to portray Tolkien himself. Listed in the German-language Michel catalogue as #EX 89 and numbered under the Universal Postal Union’s WNS system as #KG072.17, the stamp was released as part of a five-stamp set titled “Anniversaries of Great Personalities” on December 31, 2017. It is denominated at 100 som, printed by Printing House Nova Imprim in Chisinau, Moldova, using offset lithography in miniature sheets of four, and perforated 14 x 14½. Other stamps in the set portray Arthur C. Clarke, Jonathan Swift, Marie Curie, and Gioachino Rossini.