Description

    "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

    J. R. R. Tolkien. The Hobbit or There and Back Again. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., [1937].

    First edition, first printing, with "First published in 1937" on the copyright page and all 16 misprints called-for in the Hammond and Anderson bibliography. One of only 1,500 copies printed. Octavo. 310 pages plus two-page Overleaf/advertisement, the latter of which lists two Capek titles and one by Huxley. Jacket illustration, both endpapers, frontispiece, and internal illustrations by the author.

    Publisher's light green cloth with dark blue decorative stamping and titles designed by the author. Illustrated map endpapers. Top edge stained green. Original first state dust jacket with "Dodgson" misspelled as "Dodgeson" on the back flap (the "e" has been blacked out by the publisher). Spine slightly cocked. Scattered foxing to preliminaries, fore-edge, and bottom edge. Unrestored jacket exceptionally beautiful and bright, with only a few minute chips to spine and two minor unobtrusive closed tears. A beautiful copy in near fine condition, housed in a custom gilt-stamped quarter green morocco book-backed clamshell case.

    Like A. A. Milne before him and many authors before and since, Tolkien began his famous story of Bilbo Baggins and his wizard friend Gandalf as a storytime tale for the children he loved. His eldest sons remember elements of the story being told to them in the family's Oxford study as far back as 1929, a fact the author seems to confirm in a 1955 letter to W. H. Auden: "All I can remember about the start of The Hobbit is sitting correcting School Certificate papers in the everlasting weariness of that annual task forced on impecunious academics with children. On a blank leaf [of one of the student papers] I scrawled: 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' I did not and do not know why. I did nothing about it, for a long time, and for some years I got no further than the production of Thror's Map. But it became The Hobbit in the early 1930s...."

    "Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who lived in his hobbit-hole and never went for adventures, at last Gandalf the wizard and his dwarves perswaded [sic] him to go. He had a very exiting [sic] time fighting goblins and wargs. At last they got to the lonley [sic] mountain; Smaug, the dragon who gawreds [sic] it is killed and after a terrific battle with the goblins he returned home - rich! This book, with the help of maps, does not need any illustrations it is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9." Rayner Unwin, age 10, son of publisher Stanley Unwin, in a reader's report to his father dated October 30, 1936. Partially upon the basis of this report, Allen & Unwin became publishers of The Hobbit, as Stanley Unwin believed "the best judges of children's books were children." A rich and culturally significant relationship thus began between author and publisher that would continue through The Lord of the Rings and for years beyond.

    Humphrey Carpenter: J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography (2000 edition), p. 184. Wayne G. Hammond and Douglas A. Anderson: J. R. R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography, A3a.


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    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    8th-9th Tuesday-Wednesday
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