ON AUCTION HERE is a neat dust jacketed US edition of The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien. Illustrated by the Author. Published by the Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, and printed at the Riverside Press, Cambridge. 8x5 inches. This copy is notable for its incredibly good dust jacket. 315 pages, bound in green cloth, maps on the endpapers and pastedowns.
Great if you only want to slap the jacket on a first edition. This one is identified as the 19th printing, though it lacks a date. We'd estimate 1940s. A British first edition could cost you as much as $50,000. It had the same jacket as this one.
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, better known by its abbreviated title The Hobbit, is a fantasy novel and children's book by J. R. R. Tolkien. It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic in children's literature.
A two-part live-action film version is planned to be co-produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and New Line Cinema, produced and directed by Peter Jackson. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again are scheduled to be released on 14 December 2012 and 13 December 2013, respectively. Martin Freeman will be portraying Bilbo.
Set in a time "Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men", The Hobbit follows the quest of home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug. Bilbo's journey takes him from light-hearted, rural surroundings into more sinister territory. The story is told in the form of an episodic quest, and most chapters introduce a specific creature, or type of creature, of Tolkien's Wilderland. By accepting the disreputable, romantic, fey and adventurous side of his nature and applying his wits and common sense, Bilbo gains a new level of maturity, competence and wisdom. The story reaches its climax in the Battle of Five Armies, where many of the characters and creatures from earlier chapters re-emerge to engage in conflict.
Personal growth and forms of heroism are central themes of the story. Along with motifs of warfare, these themes have led critics to cite Tolkien's own experiences during World War I as instrumental in shaping the story. The author's scholarly knowledge of Anglo-Saxon literature and interest in fairy tales are also often noted as influences.
Encouraged by the book's critical and financial success, the publisher requested a sequel. As Tolkien's work on the successor The Lord of the Rings progressed, he made retrospective accommodations for it in The Hobbit. These few but significant changes were integrated into the second edition. Further editions followed with minor emendations, including those reflecting Tolkien's changing concept of the world into which Bilbo stumbled. The work has never been out of print. Its ongoing legacy encompasses many adaptations for stage, screen, radio, board games and video games. Several of these adaptations have received critical recognition on their own merits.
In the early 1930s Tolkien was pursuing an academic career at Oxford as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, with a fellowship at Pembroke College. He had had two poems published in small collections: Goblin Feet and The Cat and the Fiddle: A Nursery Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked, a reworking of the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle. His creative endeavours at this time also included letters from Father Christmas to his children—illustrated manuscripts that featured warring gnomes and goblins, and a helpful polar bear—alongside the creation of elven languages and an attendant mythology, which he had been creating since 1917. These works all saw posthumous publication.
In a 1955 letter to W. H. Auden, Tolkien recollects that he began work on The Hobbit one day early in the 1930s, when he was marking School Certificate papers. He found a blank page. Suddenly inspired, he wrote the words, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." By late 1932 he had finished the story and then lent the manuscript to several friends, including C. S. Lewis and a student of Tolkien's named Elaine Griffiths. In 1936, when Griffiths was visited in Oxford by Susan Dagnall, a staff member of the publisher George Allen & Unwin, she is reported to have either lent Dagnall the book or suggested she borrow it from Tolkien. In any event, Miss Dagnall was impressed by it, and showed the book to Stanley Unwin, who then asked his 10-year-old son Rayner to review it. Rayner's favourable comments settled Allen & Unwin's decision to publish Tolkien's book.
George Allen & Unwin Ltd. of London published the first edition of The Hobbit on 21 September 1937 with a print run of 1,500 copies, which sold out by December because of enthusiastic reviews. This first printing was illustrated in black and white by Tolkien, who designed the dust jacket as well. Houghton Mifflin of Boston and New York reset type for an American edition, to be released early in 1938, in which four of the illustrations would be colour plates. Allen & Unwin decided to incorporate the colour illustrations into their second printing, released at the end of 1937. Despite the book's popularity, paper rationing brought on by wartime conditions and not ending until 1949 meant that the book was often unavailable during this period.
Subsequent editions in English were published in 1951, 1966, 1978 and 1995. The novel has been reprinted frequently by many publishers. In addition, The Hobbit has been translated into over forty languages, with more than one published version for some languages.
In December 1937, The Hobbit's publisher, Stanley Unwin, asked Tolkien for a sequel. In response Tolkien provided drafts for The Silmarillion, but the editors rejected them, believing that the public wanted "more about hobbits". Tolkien subsequently began work on The New Hobbit, which would eventually become The Lord of the Rings, a course that would not only change the context of the original story, but lead to substantial changes to the character of Gollum.
In the first edition of The Hobbit, Gollum willingly bets his magic ring on the outcome of the riddle-game, and he and Bilbo part amicably. In the second edition edits, to reflect the new concept of the ring and its corrupting abilities, Tolkien made Gollum more aggressive towards Bilbo and distraught at losing the ring. The encounter ends with Gollum's curse, "Thief! Thief, Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!" This presages Gollum's portrayal in The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien sent this revised version of the chapter "Riddles in the Dark" to Unwin as an example of the kinds of changes needed to bring the book into conformity with The Lord of the Rings, but he heard nothing back for years. When he was sent galley proofs of a new edition, Tolkien was surprised to find the sample text had been incorporated. In The Lord of the Rings, the original version of the riddle game is explained as a "lie" made up by Bilbo under the harmful influence of the Ring, whereas the revised version contains the "true" account. The revised text became the second edition, published in 1951 in both the UK and the US.
Tolkien began a new version in 1960, attempting to adjust the tone of The Hobbit to its sequel. He abandoned the new revision at chapter three after he received criticism that it "just wasn't The Hobbit", implying it had lost much of its light-hearted tone and quick pace.
After an unauthorized paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings appeared from Ace Books in 1965, Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine asked Tolkien to refresh the text of The Hobbit to renew the US copyright. This text became the 1966 third edition. Tolkien took the opportunity to align the narrative even more closely to The Lord of the Rings and to cosmological developments from his still unpublished Quenta Silmarillion as it stood at that time.
Tolkien's correspondence and publisher's records show that he was involved in the design and illustration of the entire book. All elements were the subject of considerable correspondence and fussing over by Tolkien. Rayner Unwin, in his publishing memoir, comments: "In 1937 alone Tolkien wrote 26 letters to George Allen & Unwin... detailed, fluent, often pungent, but infinitely polite and exasperatingly precise... I doubt any author today, however famous, would get such scrupulous attention."
Originally Allen & Unwin planned to illustrate the book only with the endpaper maps, but Tolkien's first tendered sketches so charmed the publisher's staff that they opted to include them without raising the book's price despite the extra cost. Thus encouraged, Tolkien supplied a second batch of illustrations. The publisher accepted all of these as well, giving the first edition ten black-and-white illustrations plus the two endpaper maps. The illustrated scenes were: The Hill: Hobbiton across the Water, The Trolls, The Mountain Path, The Misty Mountains looking West from the Eyrie towards Goblin Gate, Beorn's Hall, Mirkwood, The Elvenking's Gate, Lake Town, and the Front Gate. All but one of the illustrations were a full page, and one, the Mirkwood illustration, required a separate plate.
Satisfied with his skills, the publishers asked Tolkien to design a dust jacket. This project, too, became the subject of many iterations and much correspondence, with Tolkien always writing disparagingly of his own ability to draw. The runic inscription around the edges of the illustration are a phonetic transliteration of English, giving the title of the book and details of the author and publisher. The original jacket design contained several shades of various colours, but Tolkien redrew it several times using fewer colours each time. His final design consisted of four colours. The publishers, mindful of the cost, removed the red from the sun to end up with only black, blue, and green ink on white stock.
The Hobbit takes cues from narrative models of children's literature, as shown by its omniscient narrator and characters that young children can relate to, such as the small, food-obsessed, and morally ambiguous Bilbo. The text emphasizes the relationship between time and narrative progress and it openly distinguishes "safe" from "dangerous" in its geography. Both are key elements of works intended for children, as is the "home-away-home" (or there and back again) plot structure typical of the Bildungsroman. While Tolkien later claimed to dislike the aspect of the narrative voice addressing the reader directly, the narrative voice contributes significantly to the success of the novel. Emer O'Sullivan, in her Comparative Children's Literature, notes The Hobbit as one of a handful of children's books that has been accepted into mainstream literature, alongside Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World (1991) and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series (1997–2007).
Tolkien intended The Hobbit as a fairy story and wrote it in a tone suited to addressing children although he said later that the book was not specifically written for children but had rather been created out of his interest in mythologies and epic legends. Many of the initial reviews refer to the work as a fairy story. However, according to Jack Zipes writing in "The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales", Bilbo is an atypical character for a fairy tale. The work is much longer than Tolkien's ideal proposed in his essay On Fairy Stories. Many fairy tale motifs, such as the repetition of similar events seen in the dwarves' arrival at Bilbo's and Beorn's homes, and folklore themes, such as trolls turning to stone, are to be found in the story. The Hobbit conforms to Vladimir Propp's 31-motif model of folktales presented in his 1928 work Morphology of the Folk Tale, based on a structuralist analysis of Russian folklore.
The book is popularly called (and often marketed as) a fantasy novel, but like Peter Pan and Wendy by J. M. Barrie and The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, both of which influenced Tolkien and contain fantasy elements, it is primarily identified as being children's literature.
On first publication in October 1937, The Hobbit was met with almost unanimously favourable reviews from publications both in the UK and the US, including The Times, Catholic World and The New York Post. C. S. Lewis, friend of Tolkien (and later author of The Chronicles of Narnia between 1949–1964), writing in The Times reports:
The truth is that in this book a number of good things, never before united, have come together: a fund of humour, an understanding of children, and a happy fusion of the scholar's with the poet's grasp of mythology... The professor has the air of inventing nothing. He has studied trolls and dragons at first hand and describes them with that fidelity that is worth oceans of glib "originality."
Lewis compares the book to Alice in Wonderland in that both children and adults may find different things to enjoy in it, and places it alongside Flatland, Phantastes, and The Wind in the Willows.] W. H. Auden, in his review of the sequel The Fellowship of the Ring calls The Hobbit "one of the best children's stories of this century".
Auden was later to correspond with Tolkien, and they became friends. The Hobbit was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction of the year (1938). More recently, the book has been recognized as "Most Important 20th-Century Novel (for Older Readers)" in the Children's Books of the Century poll in Books for Keeps.
Publication of the sequel The Lord of the Rings altered many critics' reception of the work. Instead of approaching The Hobbit as a children's book in its own right, critics such as Randell Helms picked up on the idea of The Hobbit as being a "prelude", relegating the story to a dry-run for the later work. Countering a presentist interpretation are those who say this approach misses out on much of the original's value as a children's book and as a work of high fantasy in its own right, and that it disregards the book's influence on these genres. The first motion picture adaptation of The Hobbit, a 12-minute film of cartoon stills, was commissioned from Gene Deitch by William L. Snyder in 1966, as related by Deitch himself. This film was publicly screened in New York City. In 1969 (over 30 years after first publication), Tolkien sold the film and merchandising rights to The Hobbit to United Artists under an agreement stipulating a lump sum payment of £10,000 plus a 7.5% royalty after costs, payable to Allen & Unwin and the author.
In 1976 (three years after the author's death) United Artists sold the rights to Saul Zaentz Company, who trade as Tolkien Enterprises. Since then all "authorized" adaptations have been signed-off by Tolkien Enterprises. In 1997 Tolkien Enterprises licensed the film rights to Miramax, which assigned them in 1998 to New Line Cinema. The heirs of Tolkien, including his son Christopher Tolkien, filed suit against New Line Cinema in February 2008 seeking payment of profits and to be "entitled to cancel... all future rights of New Line... to produce, distribute, and/or exploit future films based upon the Trilogy and/or the Films... and/or... films based on The Hobbit."
The Hobbit, an animated version of the story produced by Rankin/Bass, debuted as a television movie in the United States in 1977. In 1978, Romeo Muller won a Peabody Award for his teleplay for The Hobbit. The film was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, but lost to Star Wars. The adaptation has been called "execrable" and confusing for those not already familiar with the plot.
A three-part comic-book adaptation with script by Chuck Dixon and Sean Deming and illustrated by David Wenzel was published by Eclipse Comics in 1989. In 1990 a one-volume edition was released by Unwin Paperbacks. The cover was artwork by the original illustrator David Wenzel. A reprint collected in one volume was released by Del Rey Books in 2001. Its cover, illustrated by Donato Giancola, was awarded the Association of Science Fiction Artists Award for Best Cover Illustration in 2002.
ME Games Ltd (formerly Middle-earth Play-by-Mail), which has won several Origin Awards, uses the Battle of Five Armies as an introductory scenario to the full game and includes characters and armies from the book.
Several computer and video games, both licensed and unlicensed, have been based on the story. One of the most successful was The Hobbit, an award-winning computer game published in 1982 by Beam Software and published by Melbourne House with compatibility for most computers available at the time. A copy of the novel was included in each game package. The game does not retell the story, but rather sits alongside it, using the book's narrative to both structure and motivate gameplay. The game won the Golden Joystick Award for Strategy Game of the Year in 1983 and was responsible for popularizing the phrase, "Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold."
While reliable figures are difficult to obtain, estimated global sales of The Hobbit run between 35 and 100 million copies since 1937. In the UK The Hobbit has not retreated from the top 5,000 books of Nielsen BookScan since 1995, when the index began, achieving a three-year sales peak rising from 33,084 (2000) to 142,541 (2001), 126,771 (2002) and 61,229 (2003), ranking it at the 3rd position in Nielsens' "Evergreen" book list. The enduring popularity of The Hobbit makes early printings of the book attractive collectors' items. The first printing of the first English-language edition can sell for between £6,000 and £20,000 at auction, although the price for a signed first edition has reached over £60,000.