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 with "First published in 1937" on the copyright page and all 16 misprints called-for in the Hammond and Anderson bibliography. 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 green cloth with dark blue decorative stamping and titles designed by the author. First state dust jacket with "Dodgson" misspelled as "Dodgeson" on the back flap (the "e" has been blacked out by the publisher).

    Spine only slightly cocked. Two stray faint pencil or pen marks to front board, the larger of which is not quite an inch long. Mild staining to the board edges. Corners lightly bumped, but only worn lightly rubbed. Small Oxford bookstore sticker to bottom of front pastedown, overlapping onto the cloth with thin strip of discoloration to sticker and evidence that there has been an attempt to remove it at the corner. A few spots to the top textblock edge, including a 1.25 x .25 inch grayish stain; three tiny spots to bottom edge. Dust jacket ever so slightly dust-soiled. Top and bottom of jacket lightly chipped, especially at the spine ends and the flap folds. Substantial splits and paper loss along both flap folds, possibly affected by vermin at some point. Mild abrading to a few spots on the front panel. Spine somewhat darkened. Inked name to top of front flap. Otherwise, a very good copy with clean and bright pages in the striking and vibrantly colored original and unrestored dust jacket.

    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.

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


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