So, my first attempt to listen to the Tolkien dialogues on the Linguaphone records has ended in failure. The new turntable I bought would neither play the records (it kept cutting out every thirty seconds or so) nor allow me to turn them into mp3 files I could play on a laptop or ipod. It's now been returned to the store from whence it came, and we've started in on Plan 2, the first stage of which (thanks to Janice's computer-fu) has met with success as of tonight. Now on the stage two; more about this later.
In the meantime, I've now done a little more research about the Linguaphone Institute, and found the preliminary results interesting. Originally Wayne Hammond dated these records as "[circa 1940]" in the Hammond-Anderson DESCRIPTIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY . By the time of the Hammond-Scull COMPANION & GUIDE (Chronology p. 153; Guide p. 822) this had shifted back to "June 1930", with a referent to a piece by Rene van Rossenberg in THE TOLKIEN COLLECTOR as their authority. Accordingly, I dug out my copy of that issue of THE TOLKIEN COLLECTOR (#5, Nov. 1993, p.18-20) to compare what Rene had to say with the box of records before me.
And this is where things get interesting. For the set of records Rene saw differs in minor but notable ways from the set I got. Mostly these are insignificant variants -- for example, the case mine came in is tan/brown, not black. Mine included the full set of fifteen records but lacked the sixteen record (the pronunciation guide) he mentions, although the accompanying text for it is included in the back of the booklet. Mine came with only one book, not the four he saw; I assume there was at least one extra book with mine at some point that either fell apart or was lost (the remaining hardcover clearly having seen much use over the years) -- cf. Andrew's comment to my previous Linguaphone post about his own set having two booklets.
The remaining book itself differs in several ways from Rene's description. For one thing, the book he saw "contains a preface and an introduction in Dutch" (RvR p.19). He specifically notes that this preface is dated "June 1930". Whereas my book is entirely in English, and its Preface is undated. And while both his and mine had blue covers, his front cover had "a gold five-pointed star" on it, and the address of the Linguaphone Institute at the bottom, both of which mine lack*
So, it seems that each such set once had the fifteen (or sixteen) records, the case, the hardcover booklet, and probably at least one booklet in the language of whatever country the set was being adapted to. I don't know how many languages this set was available in, but the last page of the booklet gives the street (mailing) addresses of the various offices of the Linguaphone Institute in twenty-three other countries besides the home office in England. Some of these, of course, spoke the same language, more or less (e.g. Canada, South Africa, and the United States, or the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies). It's strange to think of a set of these records being listened to in Turkey, or Batavia -- though no stranger, I suppose, than that they should one day wind up Seattle.
More to come on Tolkien's actual contribution to these. The most surprising detail so far as actual contents go I'd say is the casual mention of television, by that name, in the final piece on "Wireless" (radio). I hadn't realized the extent to which people knew about, and were ready for, tv, years before it actually became available.
*i.e., my cover simply reads
[towards the bottom]