The Queen of Hobbits on auction at Bonhams (10.02.08 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

First Impression of the Hobbit signed by Tolkien dedicated to Elaine Griffiths
A signed first impression of the Hobbit and the last known photograph by Tolkien will be sold at Bonhams Printed Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Photographs sale in New Bond Street on 18th March 2008.

In general a signed edition of the Hobbit is something most Tolkien collectors dream about, but this particular copy however can be called the pearl of all signed Hobbits; this is because it is dedicated and belonged to a pupil of Tolkien called Elaine Griffiths. If not for Elaine Griffiths we would not have known The Hobbit today. 

Tolkien called her ‘queen of Hobbits’ (1) and this was probably not only referring to her small stature. Tolkien had written "The Hobbit" for his children, but it was Elaine Griffiths, who had read a typescript of the book, who suggested it to be published.

Elaine Griffiths in the Tolkien Family Album page 69
Elaine Griffiths once recalled (2):

“When I was a young graduate, Professor Tolkien lent me his = not manuscript, but beautifully typed copy of The Hobbit. He had a fascinating typewriter with an italic script, and I thought it was wonderful and read it with enormous pleasure. And quite a time afterwards, somebody I had known when she was an undergraduate who was working for Allen & Unwin, came to me and wanted something, I’ve forgotten what, and I said, “Oh Susan, I don’t know it or can’t get it, but I’ll tell you something, go along to Professor Tolkien and see if you can get out of him a work called The Hobbit, as I think it’s frightfully good.”

The person from Allen & Unwin was Susan Dagnall (1910–1952), who sometime in the late spring or early summer of 1936 visited Oxford to discuss with Griffiths the revision of a translation of Beowulf. Elaine Griffiths work wasn’t ready and she sent Susan Dagnall to Tolkien to borrow the Hobbit typescript, so that her trip from Oxford to London wasn’t a total waste.

While in the end Elaine Griffiths never completed her work on Beowulf (3) it did give us the Hobbit, because Susan Dagnall went to Tolkien, did borrow the manuscript of The Hobbit. After reading it Dagnall encouraged Tolkien to finish The Hobbit so that Allen & Unwin could consider it for publication. And the rest is now history!

The signed and dedicated first edition of the Hobbit, from the library of Elaine Griffiths, will be sold on the 18th of March by Bonhams and has been valued at £20,000-30,000.

Also included in the sale is the first foreign language edition of "The Hobbit", translated into Swedish in 1947 called Hompen, which is expected to fetch £400-800 and is again inscribed by Tolkien to Elaine Griffiths. "The Hobbit" has since been translated into nearly 50 different languages.

Another exceptional and poignant item in the sale is the last known photograph of Tolkien, taken by his grandson Michael on August 9th 1973. The photograph, valued at £400-600, shows the author in the Oxford Botanical Gardens leaning against one of his favorite trees, the Black Pine (Pinus Nigra), he nicknamed Laocoon. It was a gift to Elaine Griffiths from tolkien's daughter Priscilla, who wrote on the back "For Elaine with love from Priscilla".

For further information and images, please contact Anna Brady on +44 (0)207 2468 8206 or email:

(1) The Lord of the Rings signed on every volumed, with presentation inscription in the Fellowship "Elainen tárin Periandion ar meldenya anyáran" (To Elaine, queen of Hobbits and my very old friend); sold by Bonhams, Printed Books & Maps, 24 February 2004, lot 601 sold for £31,070.
(2) Anderson, Douglas A., ed.The Annotated Hobbit. Revised Edition. Harper Collins. London, 2003. ISBN 0-00-713726-3.
(3) The task was completed by Tolkien’s colleague C. L. Wrenn, and Allen & Unwin published it in 1940 as Beowulf and the Finnesburgh Fragment, with prefatory remarks by Tolkien.

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