Hidden Photos at Rowling Websites: Digital Clues and Detective Work #4

The is the fourth in a HogwartsProfessor series of close-up looks at pictures displayed at JKrowling.com and Robert-Galbraith.com. The first three entries in the series can be found here, here, and here.

Today, perhaps the ultimate in visible literary allusion, we have a stack of five books we are supposed to assume (?) can be found within easy reference reach on Rowling’s writing desk.

What the picture’s url calls a ‘book stack’ includes, top to bottom, a Roget’s thesaurus, A. D. Mills’ Dictionary of English Place NamesRice’s Architectural Primer, Keaney & Wilson’s Dictionary of English Surnames, and the Oxford World Classics edition of Four Revenge Tragedies. I had a Roget’s (if not this edition) and the OWC Four Revenge Tragedies before Evan Willis showed me how to open up these partially obscured photos on Rowling’s site. I have since acquired the three other books in the stack.

The copy of Four Revenge Tragedies, I have to think dates the photo to the time Galbraith was writing or updating The Silkworm. All four of the tragedies therein are used as sources for chapter epigraphs in what Rowling has said was the first Strike mystery she wrote, although the second one to be published.

The Dictionary of English Surnames has already proven a gold mine for Serious Strikers and Potter Pundits. Beatrice Groves used it to explain Rowling’s choice of ‘Galbraith’ as her pseudonym; Keaney & Wilson define this surname (p 182) as meaning “stranger-Briton” in Old Gaelic, “a name given to Britons settled among Gaels,” an apt description of Rowling-Murray in Edinburgh. I used Groves’ clue about ‘Burkes’ in another of her HogwartsProfessor posts, to find the ‘Borgin’ of the Knockturn Alley shop; in Keaney & Wilson, ‘Burgoin’ is the surname listed immediately before ‘Burk’ and an alternative of ‘Burgin’ is listed there (p. 74). I suspect this Dictionary will be a go-to item for all future Cratylic name searches.

The Roget’s Thesaurus is a gentle reminder that the author is a wordsmith, who beyond not wanting to use the same word repeatedly is wont to find just the right word with the appropriate nuance and shading necessary. Nabokov always wrote with a copy of Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language, second edition, at hand. (yes, I own a copy and it is huge). Same thing, sort of.

I have leafed through the Architectural Primer and Dictionary of Place Names but not with a specific task in mind, and, not too surprisingly in consequence, without any finds worth noting. Feel free to click on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the blogpost title and share any questions you might have, place names to look up, ideas for the Primer as reference; I’ll do my best to pull the reference book ion question and get right back to you!


  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Worth noting that one of the Revenge Tragedies in Katharine Eisaman Maus’s edition, here in the Oxford World Classics, originally (if Amazon’s got this right) published 30 March 1995 in the Oxford Dram Library, is The Revenger’s Tragedy (about which see comments in #3 of this series).

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Bad Proofreading: Drama! (A ‘Dram’ library is an interesting idea – apparent books housing whisky (etc.) miniatures?)

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