Here I will give an update on the two volume set: The History of The Hobbit, by John D. Rateliff.
History of the creation of the book
First I will try and show a history of events in the creation of this book, going from the initial beginning to the latest news. It is very difficult to trace back any information at all, but I expect all info to appear once the book is published, still here is what we already know.
It's my understanding the writing of this book was first delegated to Taum Santoski (an American who had ties to the Marquette collection where the manuscripts are). I know he was working on it way back in the 1980s. Important to know, the task was actually delegated to him by Christopher Tolkien, who decided not to do The Hobbit when he took up the History of Middle-earth.
Santoski died from cancer in 1991 (an early, tragic death), and the History of the Hobbit was then delegated to John Rateliff, who also had ties to Marquette. We see a first reference about the book in a paper given by John D. Rateliff given in 2004, published in 2006 where he makes reference to a chapter of the upcoming book. This was the only sign we had the project was still ongoing.
Here is Rateliff's description (from the interview above) of the contents of the History of the Hobbit:
“The big project, which I've been working on for years and will finally be sending to the publisher near the end of this year, is a book called The History of The Hobbit . It's rather along the lines of Christopher tolkien's editions that make up the History of Middle-Earth series (which I highly recommend if you haven't read them): an edition of the original manuscript of The Hobbit with extensive commentary on how Mr. Baggins' story fits into tolkien's legendarium. It's a big book filled with the entire text of tolkien's first draft, along with short essays about everything from rings of invisibility or tolkien's spiders to a detailed account of just when Tolkien wrote the book (which can actually be reconstructed from available evidence to within a month or two on either end). I hope people will like it when it finally sees the light of day.”
What makes this book especially interesting is that it has the personal blessing of Christopher Tolkien. Before the reading copy was sent to the publisher, it was submitted first to Christopher Tolkien to comment (May 4, 2006 blog entry).
This week, 13 October 2006, we also see the first time the title of volume two The History of the Hobbit: Return to bag-end. Both volumes are now available for pre-order and the dustjackets feature Tolkien’s unseen first attempts at designing his own book cover.
Also this week Harper Collins says the book is an essential resource book for the forthcoming movie adaptation of The Hobbit, what is a nice gesture for the fans (stick to the book ;) ). Marketing and Publicity for the History of The Hobbit will target the core Tolkien/fantasy fans. Activity includes online promotions through the newly redesigned Tolkien website www.tolkien.co.uk (but no changes can be seen there as so far), 3rd party initiatives with the main Tolkien fan groups / websites and partnerships with key ‘fantasy’ media channels.
This news tells me that there will be a lot going on in the field of Tolkien next year. For the celebration of 50 years The Lord of the Rings we mainly got some new editions, but it seems 70 years The Hobbit will indeed bring more then just new books. If anyone of Harper Collins reads this article i'm very happy to help out with the 3rd party initiatives!
The Contents of the book
The History of the Hobbit presents for the first time, in two volumes, the complete unpublished text of the original manuscript of J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Hobbit, his draft of the revision of the Gollum encounter for the second edition, and the fragment of what, if he'd completed it, would have been the third edition of 1960 (a very small amount of which he did use for the actual third edition of 1966), accompanied by John Rateliff's lively and informative account of how the book came to be written and published. As well as recording the numerous changes made to the story both before and after publication, it examines - chapter-by chapter - why those changes were made and how they reflect tolkien's ever growing concept of Middle-earth.
It provides extensive commentary on the appearance in THE HOBBIT of elements that had already appeared in his earlier 'Silmarillion' writings and the ways in which Bilbo's story draws from the already existing legendarium (and of course ultimately contributed greatly to it). This new book includes many little-known illustrations and previously unpublished maps for The Hobbit by Tolkien himself.
Like Christopher Tolkien’s The History of The Lord of the Rings before it, this is a
thoughtful yet exhaustive examination of one of the most treasured stories in
English literature. Long overdue for a classic book now celebrating 70 years in
print, this companion edition offers fascinating new insights for those who have
grown up with this enchanting tale, and will delight those who are about to enter
Bilbo's round door for the first time.
The book will be published in two volumes, probably first apart (with one month period in between) and probably later put together in a box (who knows a nice limited edition to celebrate 70 years The Hobbit).
THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT: Volume One: Mr Baggins
Includes the first part of the complete original unpublished manuscript version of ‘The Hobbit’ and previously unpublished and rarely-seen maps and illustrations by Tolkien. This volume is announced for 08 May 2007.
THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT: Volume Two: Return to bag-end
This second volume picks up Bilbo Baggins’ story half-way through his journey and
chronicles how, after much adversity, he must still face the mighty dragon, Smaug,
carry out the burglary for which he has been recruited, and return safely home to
bag-end. This volume is announced for 04 June 2007.
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