Now here is something you don't see everyday. These are the rare proof copies of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien to be sold by auction on Wednesday 24th October 2007 by Bloomsbury. These page proofs are extremely rare, probably only 35 copies of each ever made (1). And it gets even better; The Fellowship of the Rings proof belonged to Arthur Ransome and comes with a signed letter by Stanley Unwin. The auction house made an estimate of 15.000 USD, which I believe is way below the value of this set. The lucky person who has money enough to purchase these books will be able to obtain every Tolkien collectors dream.
In collecting JR.R. Tolkien first editions, "the earlier the better" is the rule. The first issue of a Tolkien book is always more desirable and more expensive than a later issue. So for fanatic Tolkien collectors the "best" copy, or state, of any given book would be Tolkiens own manuscript.
While most collectors will not have a chance to acquire the original manuscripts (since almost all are in Marquette University or in the Bodleian Library and others are really expensive), they do have now access to a preliminary state of the book that precedes the first published edition that of the "uncorrected proof" or "advance reading copy". Yet, sadly enough the prizes tend to be extremely high.
Here you can read an article that will tell a bit why arc's came out, tells the history of arc's, the pro's and contra's and gives some other examples of scarce and rare JR.R.Tolkien proofs.
The Lord of the Rings London: 1953 - 1954 - 1954.
3 volumes, 8vo. Original brown paper wrappers, volumes I and II in individual grey cloth four-fold chemise by R. Patron of Hollywood, California, the two volumes contained within a single purple morocco slipcase, also by Patron?, tooled in gilt and blind.
This is a very rare set of proofs: vols.i and ii page proofs, preceding the first edition, bound in wrappers and sent out by the publishers as early review copies. vol.iii dated a year earlier than the first edition. vol.i accompanied by a letter from the publisher to arthur ransome soliciting a review;
vol.ii comes with an unbound proof copy of the map.
The individual volumes are as follows:
The Fellowship of the Ring.
London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1953. 8vo (8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches; 218 x 140mm.).
Brown paper wrappers, white paper label applied to upper cover with typed title “The Fellowship of the Ring / by / J.R.R. Tolkien”, with manuscript note “Not less than 21/- / nor more than 25/-“ (small splits to joints). With a laid in TLS from the publisher Stanley Unwin to Arthur Ransome, dated 14 December 1953, “I am sending you a set of uncorrected proofs (minus runes and maps)” and asking for a review.
arthur ransome’s copy .
These page-proofs are in their earliest state, with the title page before the borders were added, and pp.16 and 21 incorrectly numbered, and p.319 was not printed at all. In addition, there are five spelling corrections in red ink (on pp.30; 56; 74; 263; 268), one spelling correction in pencil, on p.315, and there is one alternative textual reading in red ink: p.306 (“hobbits & other friends” for “men”).
The date of the covering letter makes this the earliest recorded copy of vol.I, other than the copy sent to Tolkien on 29 September 1953. Ransome (1884-1967) is now best known for his long-running series of “Swallows & Amazons” children's books, he also worked as a journalist for the Manchester Guardian .
The Two Towers.
London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1954. 8vo (8 1/2 x 5 51/2 inches; 222 x 142mm.).
1 folding proof map printed in brown/red and black laid in. Brown paper wrappers, white paper label applied to upper cover with typed title “The Two Towers / by / J.R.R. Tolkien”, with a second small applied paper label “anout [sic., i.e. about] 21s.“ Condition : small splits to joints.
proof pages in their earliest state with pp.9-10 blank but for the word “Synopsis” on both pages.
Copies of this first issue were printed in February 1954 (Tolkien received his copy on March 4), and the present example includes the rare proof map, folded but unbound, and has pencilled underlinings, each with a marginal note on pp.165 and 257; and pencilled spelling corrections on pp.190 and 307.
The Return of the King.
London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1954. 8vo (8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches; 215 x 138mm.).
Two paper stocks: browner cheaper paper make up pp.-256, cream wove paper used for pages 257-416. Oatmeal thick paper wrappers made up from three sheets of paper, one for each cover with a third wrapping around from the upper to the lower cover and forming the backstrip, wove free endpapers and pastedowns. Condition : brown spot affecting the outer edges of most pages.
Proof, dated the year before the official publication date , without the maps (not called for), but with early settings of pp.376 (with four pieces of type set upside down in the form so that they print as black bars) and 388, 393; 414 (each with one piece of type set upside down).
est. $15000 – $20000
(1) Neil Holford, Lord of the Rings Print Runs.
Spread the news about this J.R.R. Tolkien article: