Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI) purchased numerous original Tolkien manuscripts in 1957 for 1,500 pounds (less than US $5,000). The Marquette University Libraries now hold most likely the world's largest collection of items relating to J.R.R. Tolkien (including more than 11,000 original manuscripts and multiple working drafts of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as well as books, periodicals, and other material by and about Tolkien). William Fliss is the Marquette University Archivist who maintains the collection. Matt Blessing was previously in charge of maintaining the collection (1999-2012).
History of the collection
In late December 1956 or early January 1957 William Ready, the Director of Libraries at Marquette University, was compiling the University's research-related collections and he asked Bertram Rota, a well-known London bookseller if she could approach J.R.R. Tolkien to see if he was willing to sell the original manuscripts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Rota wrote to Tolkien and prior to January 10th Tolkien replied.
On January 10th, Bertram Rota responded to William Ready at Marquette. Tolkien was willing to consider selling his manuscripts but asked what amount the University was willing to offer. He sent a list of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings material he considered selling. Rota suggested to Ready a minimum offer of £1,000, however she would have liked to examine the documents personally before the final decision was made.
Tolkien wished to visit the University but was held back every time, mainly due to family emergencies.
- The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, Chronology, pg. 498, 499.