Signed copy of the Hobbit sells for record at auction (06.06.15 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

A first edition copy of J.R.R. tolkien's The Hobbit, given by J.R.R. Tolkien to one of his former students Katherine Kilbride in 1937, was sold at Sotheby's auction house in London for £137,000 (about $210,000). This more than doubled the world record and makes this copy of The Hobbit the most expensive in the world. The record was held by a first edition The Hobbit dedicated to Elaine Griffiths, The Queen of Hobbits, which sold for £60,000 in March 2008. This copy, in almost perfect condition and mint jacket, can now be added to the list of most expensive copies of The Hobbit in the world.

Tolkien inscribed only a handful of presentation copies of The Hobbit on its publication, with CS Lewis also a recipient. This The Hobbit also includes an inscription by J.R.R. Tolkien in Old English, identified by John D Rateliff, author of The History of The Hobbit, as an extract from tolkien's The Lost Road (see J.R.R. Tolkien, The History of Middle Earth, Vol. 5 published in 1987). This time-travel story, in which the world of Númenor and Middle-earth were linked with the legends of many other times and peoples, was abandoned incomplete.
most expensive copy of the hobbit in the world

Within a set of page proofs of The Hobbit, Tolkien wrote a list of family members, colleagues, friends and students to whom he wished to present copies of the book (see Appendix V within John D. Rateliff's second edition of his The History of The Hobbit, published in 2011). Intended recipients were E.V. Gordon; C.S. Lewis; Elaine Griffiths; K.M. Kilbride; Marjorie Incledon; Mary Incledon; R.W. Chambers; Aileen and Elizabeth Jennings; Mabel Mitton ("Aunt Mabel"); Florence Hadley ("Aunt Florence"); C.L. Wrenn; Simone d'Ardenne; Helen Buckhurst; Jane Neave; "Rattenbury" (thought by Rateliff to be R.M. Rattenbury, a lecturer in Classics at the University of Leeds); "Livesleys" (possibly the couple who ran a guest house in Sidmouth); A.H. Smith; Jennie Grove; Stella Mills; W.R. Childe; George S. Gordon; and Hilary Tolkien. Rateliff notes that copies were also to go to the Oxford Magazine and the "Book Soc."

In the last decades many of these association copies of The Hobbit have been sold on auction and several were sold directly to collectors. They remain the most precious books any Tolkien lover or collector could desire. Prices have now risen so high that they have become accessible for the lucky few. Doubling the previous price record however indicates a very strong interest. Many had expected that with the release of The Hobbit movies many rare copies would have been brought to the auction block, however no such thing happened and prices remained stable (no such thing during The Lord of the Rings movies where prices skyrocketed). Now with all the movie hype calmed down it is time for the books to retake their place.

The Hobbit dedication by J.R.R. Tolkien to Katherine Kilbride
The recipient of this The Hobbit was Miss Katherine ("Kitty") Kilbride (1900-1966) who had been one of tolkien's first students at Leeds University in the 1920s. Kitty Kilbride was, recalled her nephew, " invalid all her life and was much cheered by his [tolkien's] chatty letters and cards. ...books were given to her as they were published".

Kilbride's letter of acknowledgement for the present volume is preserved in the Tolkien papers in the Bodleian Library (MS.Tolkien 21, f.66). She notes "what fun you must have had drawing out the maps".

Tom Shippey's study of tolkien's fiction, The Road to Middle-Earth, cites a similar poem and translates it as: There is many a thing in the West-regions unknown to me, marvels and strange beings, a land fair and lovely, the homeland of the Elves, and the bliss of the Gods ... ?. But this inscription diverges in the third line. According to Professor Susan Irvine at UCL, Tolkien followed eardgard elfa or the homeland of the elves with eorclanstanas / on dunscrafum digle scninath, which she translated as precious stones / shining secretly in mountain caves. So and the bliss of the Gods... was changed for precious stones shining secretly in mountain caves.

Kilbride's set of The Lord of the Rings (inscribed to "C.M. Kilbride") was sold by Sothebys on 19 July 1982, lot 315, and later sold once again by Sotheby's New York on 10-11 December 1993, lot 581. An autograph postcard to her, dated 24 December 1926, was sold at Bonham's on 12 June 2012, lot 150.

First Edition The Hobbit dustjacket in pristine condition

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