With Volume 4, the hard-working editorial troika of Drout, Anderson, and Flieger have done it again, producing another must-have issue of Tolkien Studies. This new volume is simply brimming over with fascinating material, but allow me to highlight a few special favorites:
Carl Hostetter's mammoth (almost 50pp.) survey of "Tolkienian Linguistics: The First Fifty Years" is an exhaustive, almost overwhelming, summary of its subject. It also concludes with a checkpoint of where we are now and where the work is headed for the future. The article, as well as the bibliography Hostetter provides, should be required reading for would be Tolkienian linguists (and even some who already identify themselves as such).
Another monster (and I mean that affectionately) is Michael Drout's 65pp. essay on "J.R.R. Tolkien's Medieval Scholarship and its Significance". The piece addresses an area of Tolkien studies too often ignored nowadays: just what impact did Tolkien have in his professional milieu, and why should we care? Drout's lengthy treatment is, in some ways, an update to Tom Shippey's 1989 essay, "Tolkien's Academic Reputation Now". Note that Shippey's essay has been recently reprinted (in "Roots and Branches", Walking Tree, 2007), for those would would compare the conclusions of their authors.
Other essays deserving special note are the contributions by Verlyn Flieger, Dimitra Fimi, and Thomas Honegger. In addition, many readers will be especially interested in Kelley Wickham-Crowley's review of The J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment (edited by Drout) and John Garth's review of The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (edited by Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond).
And last but certainly not least, the issue reprints Tolkien's own essay, "The Name 'Nodens'", which has long been difficult to find. It's a very short, and very abstruse piece, one that will not necessarily interest all readers; however, it's great to have it in print again. Prior to this issue, the only way to get it was with the help of antiquarian book search, deep pockets, and a lot of luck.