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The book Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, written by J. R. R. Tolkien and edited by his son Christopher, contains great bulks of texts printed (more or less) exactly as J. R. R. Tolkien left them, alongside numerous notes by his son Christopher.

I recall glimpsing at a copy of this book a few years ago and finding it somewhat difficult at times to differentiate between the notes by Christopher and the texts by his father. If you read carefully, you could tell them apart, but they were not immediately distinguishable at first glance.

Is there an edition of this book that uses two different fonts in order to distinguish the notes by Christopher from the texts written by his father?

I'd also be happy to know if this specific edition, with illustrations by Alan Lee, John Howe, and Ted Nasmith, does this (or in what way it distinguishes the two things if it doesn't).

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  • The two are generally distinguished by the size of the type and the indent of the margin. Which is which is not always obvious from first glance, but it is apparent from context. I imagine some mass market paperback editions might do away with the indents which might make it more difficult.
    – ibid
    Jul 4, 2021 at 2:05

1 Answer 1

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I don't have the 2020 edition you refer to, but the Note at the start of the 2012 edition (which also appeared at the start of the 1988 edition, according to the snippet view in Google books) says that the author's text (J.R.R.'s) is larger, and the editor's text (Christopher's) is smaller through most of the work. Specifically:

It has been necessary to distinguish author and editor in different ways in different parts of this book, since the incidence of commentary is very various. The author appears in larger type in the primary texts throughout; if the editor intrudes into one of these texts he is in smaller type indented from the margin (e.g. p. 380). In The History of Galadriel and Celeborn, however, where the editorial text is predominant, the reverse indentation is employed. In the Appendices (and also in The Further Course of the Narrative of 'Aldarion and Erendis', pp. 264 ff.) both author and editor are in the smaller type, with citations from the author indented (e.g. p. 198).

So there is a difference - at least in size and layout - between the text written by J.R.R. Tolkien and that contributed by the editor, Christopher Tolkien. I don't know if that's enough to qualify as a "different font" per your question.

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  • Thank you for the answer! I think it is possible that this was the edition I looked at, and that I found it difficult to tell the two apart. If you have the time to upload a picture it'd be a great help for me - but really, your answer already helped immensely :)
    – Wade
    Jul 2, 2021 at 18:07
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    Note that in the bronze ages of digital printing (where most of my knowledge dates from) a "font" was what we would consider today to be a single style and size of a "font." So a "font" would "New Century Schoolbook Italic 12pt" and "New Century Schoolbook Bold 16pt" would be a different "font."
    – DavidW
    Jul 2, 2021 at 18:15
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    Yap that's true (and I thought to remark so myself ;). So technically the answer to my question is "yes"... However, it's not a very convenient font variation - it's not immediately distinguishable, and the smaller font is a little hard to read. So in essence the answer to my question seems to be "no" (unless someone with a different edition will come along). In any case, your answer is very helpful.
    – Wade
    Jul 2, 2021 at 18:21

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