DescriptionJ. R. R. Tolkien. The Hobbit. Or There and Back Again. London: George Allen and Unwin, . First edition, with "First published in 1937" on the copyright page and all sixteen misprints as called for by Hammond and Anderson. Octavo. 310, [2, ads] pages; illustrated by the author; one illustration, "Norwood," is inserted. Publisher's green cloth, decoratively stamped in dark blue, front board and spine lettered in black; top edge stained green; map endpapers. In restored original first-state dust jacket, illustrated by the author, with "Dodgson" misspelled as "Dodgeson" on the back flap with the "e" blacked out by the publisher. Spine gently leaning; backstrip dulled; boards just slightly bowed; edges lightly rubbed with some light discoloration; small ding to the lower edge of the rear board; corners softly bumped; some occasional minor soiling with very faint sporadic foxing. Topstain lightly faded with a small, light stain; page edges foxed; occasional minor over-opening. Dust jacket skillfully restored at spine ends and fold edges; spine panel faintly dulled. A very good copy in a nicely restored jacket. Housed in a custom morocco clamshell case. Hammond and Anderson A3a. From a Private Collection in St. Charles, IL.
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.
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