Collector Profile: Thomas Denys (Onónion)

I am 19 years old and study English and German Linguistics and Literature at the University of Ghent, Belgium (yes, my choice was influenced by Tolkien; he awoke my interest in the field). Most of the time I live in a student's room in Ghent, but in weekends and holidays I go home to Diksmuide, a town in West Flanders, most 'famous' for its World War I history.
My hobbies – next to 'Tolkien' – are playing guitar (I play in two bands, one in Ghent and one in Diksmuide), music, film, and hanging out with my friends and girlfriend.

How did you get started in collecting?

I have always been a collector: I collected stamps, Tintin comics and stuff, Pokémon cards, ... But none of those collections lasted as long as my Tolkien collection or was able to hold my interest.

I discovered Tolkien through Peter Jackson's film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, when I was about 11-12 years old. My grandparents owned a small newsagent's shop where they also sold some books and it was from them I got the three parts of The Lord of the Rings (Dutch version). I now had the books, tried to start reading them (I began in The Two Towers, chapter 'The Forbidden Pool' – I don't know why I started in the middle of the book...), but put them back on the shelves and decided to watch the films first. Perhaps that is the reason why I like the films – as opposed to most Tolkien collectors -, because I've seen the films first.

After having seen the films, I read the books...and was amazed. I did not find it hard to use my own imagination when reading the books; I see the films apart from the books and thus have no problem with any illustrative adaptation of Tolkien's work. I even look forward seeing The Hobbit, because I know it will not have any influence on the vision I have when reading the book.
From then on, I started visiting second-hand bookshops and soon acquired other basic works like The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and older copies of The Lord of the Rings (all in Dutch). The acquisition of the latter was the real beginning of my collection, because I now had two copies of the same book(s).

Another important moment in my collecting history was the discovery of eBay. I bought The Return of the Shadow – because it was 'Tolkien' and cheap - when I was about 15 years old and then, with the discovery of the ease of purchasing books online, everything went faster...

I also discovered sites like TolkienLibrary, Tolkien Collector's Guide and Tolkien fora, and won a membership to the Dutch Tolkien Society Unquendor.

What do you collect?

I collect everything 'Tolkien', but mostly books, of course. I also have some records (lp), calendars, a lot of game cards (Middle-earth CCG and LotR TCG), a couple of action figures from the films and some other Tolkienalia, but I do not really collect all of the latter, I don't search those things specifically but if I find something Tolkien-related somewhere for sale, at a good price, I will probably buy it.

In my collection there is no stress on a certain Tolkien field (Middle-earth, academic work,...), but I would however be prepared to pay more for some academic work than, for example, another edition of The Lord of the Rings. This is partly because I find his academic work quite interesting, as I study à peu près the same subject, and partly because I have a love for antique and rare books (which most of his academic works are). But do not understand me wrong: I find his fictional works as interesting as – if not more than – his academic work.

Apart from Tolkien, I also collect English Literature, Dutch Literature and classics in world literature, of all times. From Ovid and Vergil, over Arthurian literature, Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, to Stoker, Joyce, Wilde, Orwell, Eco,...

How big is your collection?

My Tolkien book collection is a bit separated: a small part, some 20 books, are in Ghent, the larger part, some 140 books, are at home.
And as I said before, I also have some records, calendars, game cards, action figures, swords, board games, tea, ...
(My non-Tolkien book collection is also separated: the largest part is in Ghent, some 100 books, and the smaller part, some 50 books, at home.)

What has been your greatest find so far?

Well, I haven't got any extreme rare or unique books or books signed by Tolkien, but nice and lucky finds were a first impression of Sir Gawain & The Green Knight (1925), though in quite poor condition, Essais de Philologie Moderne (1955, in mint condition, unopened, contains Middle English “Losenger”), Ancrene Wisse (1962) in mint condition, an affordable 4th impression of The Return of the King (1958, my first and only first edition of a The Lord of the Rings book), The Monsters & the Critics, and other essays (1983), The Peoples of Middle-earth (1996), the black deluxe edition of The Hobbit (2001) and two Linguaphone courses (of which I sold one, so I could buy other books).

Tell us about your Web site.

I don't have a website, and don't plan creating one in the near future.

What does collecting mean to you?

It's my outlet from a busy life. Away from study and worries, I can just be on my own, relax, enjoy collecting and enjoy my collection. It's the perfect hobby for me!
You know that feeling you get, when you're home from a busy day at work and you just plump down in your couch and you heave a sigh and feel relieved as hell? Well, that's the feeling I get from collecting!

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