Tuesday 13 February 2018

The Trilogy

There was a time when I was a book hoarder. My shelves were crammed with every paperback I had ever read, regardless of the quality of the work. This all changed when I immigrated. Most of the books I owned weren't worth the trouble of transporting across an ocean. This gave me a different perspective on my book shelf. Today, I only keep books that I really believe I will read again or are important reference works.

In fact, of my entire book collection, there was only one work which I knew from the beginning would definitely be coming with me: The Lord of the Rings.  If you are reading this blog, I'm sure I don't need to go into why this work is important to me. Not only did I always want to keep this trilogy with me, I wanted to keep my specific copy. It's not rare, or valuable, but it is rather nice.

I bought it about twenty years ago when I was working in a rare and second-hand bookshop in Chapel Hill, NC. Although it has been carefully erased, if I look very closely, I can just see where the $30 price was written. While I'm sure I got my employee discount on that, it was still a descent chunk of money at a time when I was eating spaghetti every night (literarlly) and couldn't afford to replace my shoes. It's good to think that even then I had my priorities right!

There are a couple of interesting things about this collection. The books state that they are part of the 10th printing of the 1965 US edition, except for The Return of the King which claims to be part of the 9th printing. I'm not sure if this is because this book is original from a different set or just an oddity because this book was published later than the other two. Also, on the dust jackets of all three books it says 'Revised Edition', but on the inside it says 'Second Edition'.

All three books feature dust jackets similar to the front of the slipcase, and the tops of the pages of each is stained with a colour to match the dust jacket. My dust jackets are protected with clear acetate which I obtained from the store where I was working.

All three volumes feature pasted in maps (mostly black and white, though with spot red). The first two volumes contain the classic 'Middle-Earth map', while the third features a blow up of the region around Gondor and Mordor.

Under the dust jackets, each volume has a very attractive cloth cover featuring the Eye of Sauron and a ring - although, oddly, the ring has some kind of decoration or gemstone. This little design is also featured in small on the back of each dust jacket.

My father owns a similar collection of the trilogy, although his are displayed in the cloth as the dust jackets decayed after too many readings to his children (thanks, Dad!).

Should I ever move countries again, I feel sure that these books will accompany me still.


  1. I still have a very battered combined edition circa 1983 which stays with me at work for just in case days.

  2. I love my LOTR books as well. I tend to buy a lot of ebooks these days as having kids I really lack the storage space anymore. Though were possible I will borrow books from the public library as you can't beat holding the real thing!

  3. I've got an Alan Lee illustrated centennial edition that was my introduction to LotR. The binding is half gone, but it's still my reading copy.

    One thing you can do to check the edition is to look in chapter three, Three is Company, at the Elvish greeting Frodo gives Glorfindel- in the original hardback this was Elen sila lumenn' omentielmo, the Quenya simple plural form, which Tolkien later changed to omentileVO, the dual form (as Frodo is greeting one person). Ed Meskys, former Thain of the Tolkien Society was looking at proofs of the original Ballantine paperback, saw the revision, and assumed it was a mistake- Ballantine changed it to omentilmo, which is gibberish.

    Also, I'm not sure if you know this, but the designs on the cover are based on Tolkien's designs.

  4. Those Alan Lee illustrations are worth holding on to! I actually didn't know the cover design was based on Tolkien's illustrations. Huh, I wonder what that ring is supposed to be then. The ring of Barahir?

    1. No, it's actually one of the three rings- they took the others off, unfortunately. They formed an equidistant triangle around the One. Tolkien drew covers for all three volumes, which are well worth looking into (they are in Tolkien, Artist and Illustrator, as well as online). The first edition Hobbit was also designed and illustrated by him.
      Also, the second Ballantine covers (after the Barbara Remington fiasco) were painted by him, mostly, as I recall, from Hobbit art.

  5. I have the exact same edition that I got a few years ago (sans dust jackets) at an antique/oddities shop. One of the 'oddities' was an envelope that was inside the folded map that had pay stubs from someone that worked at Sears in the early '80s. Seeing their income and number of hours worked, they, too, apparently had their priorities right...