‘The Hobbit’ auction

First Edition of “The Hobbit” to Make £30,000

A feast of Tolkien delights will be on offer at Bonhams Printed Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Photographs sale in New Bond Street on 18th March 2008. The author J.R.R.Tolkien wrote the much-loved classics “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, books with cult-like status which has grown since the success of “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy.

The sale offers the ultimate prize to Tolkien fans: the 1937 first issue of the first edition of “The Hobbit”, valued at £20,000-30,000 and inscribed by Tolkien to his friend Elaine Griffiths. Tolkien had written “The Hobbit” for his children, but Elaine thought so highly of the typescript that she suggested it be read by Susan Dagnall at George Allen and Unwin, who then published the book for the first time. It is illustrated with many black and white drawings penned by Tolkien himself.

“The Hobbit” is Tolkien’s most successful book, which established his name as an author and is a prequel to the longer novel “The Lord of the Rings”. The story follows the hobbit Bilbo Baggins in his perilous quest to reclaim the treasures taken from him by the dragon Smaug. From the moment of publication the book was an instant success, the mere 1,500 copies of the first edition selling out within a couple of months. It has since sold over 100 million copies and has been voted the most significant children’s book of the century by the Library Association. There are also reports that a film of “The Hobbit” will be released in 2010.

Also included in the sale is the first foreign language edition of “The Hobbit”, translated into Swedish in 1947, which is expected to fetch £400-800 and is again inscribed by Tolkien to Elaine Griffiths. “The Hobbit” has since been translated into nearly 50 different languages.

Another exceptional and poignant item in the sale is the last known photograph of Tolkien, taken by his grandson Michael on August 9th 1973. The photograph, valued at £400-600, shows the author in the Oxford Botanical Gardens leaning against his favourite tree, the Black Pine he named Laocoon. It was a gift to Elaine Griffiths from Tolkien’s daughter Priscilla, who wrote on the back “For Elaine with love from Priscilla”.

Publication History of The Hobbit 

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