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28 March 2019

Modern First Editions

Lot 70

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, first editions [London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1954-1955]

Estimate £10000 - £15000 + fees

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, first editions [London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1954-1955]

the complete set of 3 novels, comprising: The Fellowship of the Ring (1954, endpapers very slightly browned, bookseller's label to upper pastedown: Blackwells Oxford England), The Two Towers (1954, small nick to spine of cloth) The Return of the King (1955, very faint spotting to front free endpaper), each with a large folding map after Christopher Tolkien, all in original red cloth, spines lettered in gilt, top edges stained red, original publisher's red, black and gilt dust-jackets, spines and outer edges very slightly discoloured, minor restoration to extremities but overall a fine and crisp set of this trilogy, preserved in modern morocco-backed drop-box, 8vo

This is perhaps the singlemost important work of fantasy literature of the twentieth century. Its conception began before that of The Hobbit, which was published nearly twenty years earlier, and it took fourteen years of writing to take shape, earning it the accolade in a Telegraph piece on Tolkiens work printed in 1968 of the slowest-developing bestseller in modern publishing history. When offered to Stanley Unwin in 1954, it is recorded that they considered it an enormous risk as it was so large that it would have to be published in three volumes, retailing at a guinea each, but they pressed ahead convinced its a work of genius.

It success was immediate, and it has remained relevant for every generation of readers since its release. Since publication it has appeared in many print editions, four separate radio versions, and despite its authors reservations two film versions (Tolkien famously saying that It would be easier to film The Odyssey. Much less happens in it. Only a few storms), culminating in Peter Jacksons epic film trilogy of 2001-2003. Most recently the global rights to it were purchased by Amazon for a reported $250 million, with the intention of releasing the most expensive television series ever produced.