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Lord of The Rings -
Lord of The Rings

By Jonathan Kearns (Adrian Harrington Rare Books Ltd.)
Collecting Tolkien is a bit like collecting snowflakes: you'll never be finished and there will always be something new on the way. Whether you are a comprehensive collector wishing to get their hands on every single work (try Songs for the Philologists, privately printed in 1936, 13 or so copies believed to exist; or the Leeds University Verse anthology from 1924 containing three poems by Tolkien), or you are simply trying to read everything he wrote, you are still in for a long haul.

"A whole new generation of people are eager to get their hands on as much preciousss Tolkien as possible."

Finding even a tatty copy of The Devil's Coach Horses (a discussion on a point of Anglo-Saxon translation) in the 1925 Review of English Studies Volume 1 Number 3 is going to be tricky simply due to the fragile nature of the object. Ideally, someone should really reprint it for us, but until then you're going to have to accumulate somewhere in the region of a thousand pounds before you can get hold of a copy.

Most people however, whilst admiring Tolkien's academic achievements, are primarily interested in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Over the last couple of years, Peter Jackson's films have managed to cast a very long shadow over the world of Men, resulting in a whole new generation of people who are eager to get their hands on as much preciousss Tolkien as possible. With the opening of The Return of the King on December 17th, the trilogy will be complete. Whilst collecting all the films is not likely to be that much of a challenge, collecting the print editions you want is likely to be a different story.

Lord of The Rings

To collect the First Editions (The Hobbit, Allen & Unwin, 1937; The Fellowship of The Ring, Allen & Unwin, 1954; The Two Towers, Allen & Unwin, 1954; The Return of The King, Allen & Unwin, 1955) in fine or near-fine condition, you are going to need a lot of money. For The Lord of The Rings, around £15,000-£20,000, and for a nice copy of The Hobbit, somewhere in the £30,000 mark.

For most of the sons and daughters of Men this is a little bit out of reach, but there is no reason to despair.

There's the first paperback edition of the trilogy in one volume (Allen & Unwin, 1968), also the First Deluxe India Paper Edition which came out a year later and can be picked up for around £1000 or less (make sure it is complete with slipcase). There's the first U.S. editions from Houghton Mifflin (1954-55), which will still be priced in the thousands but are a viable alternative to the UK editions. There are also curiosities like the first UK slipcased edition from 1961 (Allen & Unwin) which is quite attractive.
The ACE paperback edition is a three-volume pirate printing from 1965 (and is therefore the true US first paperback edition). They can be picked up separately for very little money and have splendidly garish 1960's covers.

The Houghton Mifflin Second Revised edition of The Lord of The Rings from 1965 is a beautiful set of books, bound in black cloth with striking dustwrappers. They are well-constructed books with some attractive details like the embossed eye on the rear board of each volume.

Lord of The Rings

There are also the numerous Folio Society editions, and Alan Lee's spectacularly illustrated 1992 edition from Harper Collins (some of Lee's paintings adorn the walls of Rivendell in the film of The Fellowship of the Ring).

Obviously this deals only with the highlights of the two most famous works. There is no time or space unfortunately for a comparison of the varied virtues of Farmer Giles of Ham or The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (who never made it into the movie but has long been on the list of Tolkien collectables). There is no mention of The Silmarillion or of Unfinished Tales or a legion of other works.

Most, if not all, of these can be found on Abebooks, or information can be requested from any reputable bookdealer (look for the A.B.A. and I.L.A.B. membership on their listings).

Lord of The Rings