02 December 2008

The Hobbit. Or There and Back Again.

J.R.R. Tolkien. THE HOBBIT. Allen & Unwin, London 1937.

Current Selling Prices
$25000+ /£16000+

The most loved and wanted fantasy classic of all (apart from Alice.) The ultimate backpacker book - admired by Auden, Isherwood, C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling and many others from nine to ninety .It started life in the 1920s as a story that JRR told to his children to get them off to sleep. 1500 printed off the first. 60 million sold so far. Often top of polls for best ever book in the history of the world etc.,

VALUE? Not especially scarce even as a first edition but seldom cheap unless in despicable condition. There were rumours of a nice unsigned copy in jacket having changed hands at over $100K back in 2003 at a US bookfair and a signed copy on line in a very nice unrestored d/w at $150,000 appears to have sold--possibly with a deep discount. Ebay has brought a lot of firsts out and there is a voracious market in reprints esp the second edition which is the first with colour illustrations ($10K + for sweet copies). The true first almost always has an ink correction on the rear of the jacket (Dodgeson has been changed to Dodgson.) This was done by the publisher although it is sometimes claimed it was done by Tolkien himself. Jacketed and incsribed copies have twice made about $75K in the last 3 years at Sotheby/ Christie auctions and in 2002 a signed copy with a 4 line caligraphic note by JRR in Elvish made nigh on $90K. Healthy market in fancy leather bound first eds sometimes with elaborate tooling and even illustrated characters Frodo, Strider, Bilbo etc., Restored jackets are around , almost always declared as such. Caveat emptor.

Postcript. In June this year, before the deluge as it were, a copy described thus - 'In d/j with restoration to folds & spine ends' made $40K + premium at Bloomsbury, New York. World class dealer Peter Harrington has a restored copy currently at £12,500. Meanwhile our own copy of the first in an exquisite full leather binding languishes at £4500, a price that is becoming quite affordable for American buyers.

OUTLOOK? Book seems to be passably buoyant in murky financial waters. A copy sold recently at £60000 inscribed to Elaine Griffiths who suggested that Tolkien take the typescript to Susan Dagnall at George Allen & Unwin. This was bought by a dealer who now describes it as 'THE MOST IMPORTANT COPY IN THE WORLD.' Hyperbole or what? Price on application but one assumes that it will be about the price of a new full size Bentley. Interestingly a copy is listed at ABE asking for offers over £75000 - 'This copy is linked far more closely with JRR Tolkien (than the Griffiths copy). Serious enquiries only. Offers over £75000 will be put to the owner.' Odd to see offers for books sought on ABE who will presumably receive nothing when it sells. Who can this presentee be? C.S. Lewis? Neville Coghill? Auden? Possibly a very young J.K. Rowling or someone unlikely like Aleister Crowley, Mark Bolan or his fellow inkling Dorothy Sayers. Intriguing.


Anonymous said...

"his fellow inkling Dorothy Sayers"


Anonymous said...

This was her claim as a mate of Williams and Lewis.

Anonymous said...

GTC AG announces the acquisition of the second most expensive Tolkien book ever sold; a signed Hobbit bought for £53,000, which will become highlight in the largest Tolkien Exhibition.

More info here:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this book review. Its look very interesting.