Collecting The Silmarillion (09.02.05 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

When collecting Tolkien books most people stop when The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings is on the shelves. Yet there is another treasure to explore. For most in the beginning a hard read, but maybe the most valuable literature treasure for others. I'll try to tell more on this book, The Silmarillion, it's origin and all on collecting this marvellous work, ranging from limited to translated editions.

The Silmarillion is actually tolkien's first book and also his last. In origin it precedes even The Hobbit, and is the story of the First Age of tolkien's Middle Earth. It shows us the ancient history to which characters in The Lord of the Rings look back, talk, rhyme and sing about. Tolkien worked on it, changed it, and enlarged it throughout his entire life. It was edited and published posthumously by his son Christopher Tolkien, with the assistance of fantasy fiction writer Guy Gavriel Kay to reconstruct some major parts.

Inside the book

The Silmarillion combines five parts:
1. The Ainulindalë - the creation of Eä, tolkien's universe.
2. The Valaquenta - a description of the Valar and Maiar
3. The Quenta Silmarillion - the history of the events before and during the First Age
4. The Akallabêth - the history of the Second Age
5. Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
These five parts, in origin separate works, were put together as this is how J.R.R.Tolkien would hav liked it.
Cchapters in the book that i like a lot:
- "Of Beren and Lúthien"
- "The Narn i Chîn Húrin" - The Tale of the Children of Húrin
- "The Fall of Gondolin" - which is my all time favourite

Development of the text

The earliest drafts of The Silmarillion stories date back to as early as 1917, when Tolkien, a British officer stationed in France during World War I was laid up in a military field hospital with trench fever. At the time, he called his collection of nascent stories The Book of Lost Tales. After the war, he tried to publish some of his stories, however many editors rejected him, regarding his work as "fairy tale" unsuitable for adult readership. He tried once more, having already published The Hobbit in 1937; however that time too, The Silmarillion was deemed too complicated. Tolkien was asked to write a sequel to The Hobbit which would become his significant novel The Lord of the Rings.
But Tolkien never abandoned his book. He regarded The Silmarillion as the most important of his work, seeing in its tales not only the genesis of Middle-earth and later events as told in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but the entire core of his legendarium. He continued to work on them over the next several decades, revising and reworking his ideas, right up until his death in 1973.

After tolkien's death

For several years after his father's death, Christopher Tolkien worked through the mass of papers written by his father creating a coherent, consistent and chronologically accurate whole. On some of the later parts of the "Quenta Silmarillion" which were in the roughest state, he worked with fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay to construct a narrative practically from nothing. The final result, which included genealogies, maps, an index and the first-ever published Elvish word list was published in 1977.

Collecting "The Silmarillion"

Since its publication The Silmarillion is available in several states. There for it is possible to start collecting every single impression of The Silmarillion. Although already it is becoming a huge job, it is still much easier to succeed then trying to collect every single Hobbit out there. Another kind of collectors, like a friend of mine, try and collect all translations of The Silmarillion. An other interesting track to follow. Not only because of the languages, but mainly because of the strangest illustrations you will encounter. Next to that it promises a lot of new friendships. It is hard to start this kind of collection without making new friends at all. Of course there are many hardback and many more interesting paperback from The Silmarillion, yet few are really scarce. Most of them are easy to find and rather cheap to buy. There are at the other hand some real treasures which are harder to find, like limited, deluxe and signed The Silmarillion's. I'll give a short list down here to show some nice copies.  I know i will not be showing the first American The Silmarillion, maybe just because it is i guess the most common The Silmarillion on the market, and of no particular collectable value. Yet it is my own reading copy!

Different editions of "the Silmarillion"

This is the first edition of The Silmarillion published in 1977 by George Allen & Unwin. It appeared as a hardback with dustwrapper.
Before publication there circulated a dummy copy of the book. It was distributed to booksellers to solicit orders. Once in a while a dummy comes on the market. Two variants have been seen - one with pages printed up to page 32, other with pages printed up to page 35. The rest of the papers and the map inserted at rear are blank. I have seen a dummy being sold for 250$ but also for 950$. Now days most of these are stuck in Tolkien collections making them quit rare. Because the demand for the Silmarillion increased during the printing process there were different printers involved. The fun part is to collect all 1st editions from the different printers Billing & Sons, Clowes & Sons, University Press, Unwin Brothers and a Book Club Associates edition (BCA) also by Clawes and Sons. Next to all these books who look the same, yet have all minor differences, there exists also an export edition. This one differs because it lacks the price. Also here two different versions have been seen. I hope some day someone manages to point out all minor differences and make a final list of impressions. Untill then, happy collecting! The quest is on.
What you do not see quit often is this box, called "The Tolkien Library" by George Allen & Unwin. Only the name (hey this site carries that name!) is already fun, but it has also become very scarce. Inside are all hardbacks The slipcase shows illustration by J.R.R.Tolkien and the renowned last photograph of Tolkien by Billett Potter.
In the slipcase are a 4th Edition of The Hobbit and a 1st Edition, 4th Impression of The Silmarillion next to a 2nd Edition, of The Lord of the Rings.
While the box was made in 1978 i have seen boxes with dates from 1978 to 1981.
The Guild Edition Silmarillion from 1981 by Guild Publishing is a nice The Silmarillion. Especially in combination to the other Middle Earth books in the same style. I always take this edition to read aloud for my children. It looks magical to them. It is quit common and was reprinted in 1985 and 1989. I was thinking not to add it in the list, yet have been asked about it so many times i listed it any way.
Very collectable is the Limited Edition The Silmarillion made in 1982 by George Allen & Unwin. Clowes & Sons had kept the first 1000 copies of the first edition off the press in 1977 to create this limited edition, 100 of which were signed by Christopher Tolkien.

They were rebound in red leather and got a matching slipcase. Making it even more interesting is that it is believed not all of the 1000 copies were bound and issued.
Two variants of the limitation plate have been seen - one on an integral leaf and the other pasted onto the front end paper. When this books pops up on the market be ready to pay big bicks, mostly over 1000$. Yet you might get luck and pay little less then that.
This is a nice book for translations collectors. The Polish edition of the Silmarillion published in 1985 by Czytelnik. It is a hardcover with green cloth boards. The collectable value lays in the very strange illustrations. Ever seen a chicken and an egg on the cover of a Silmarillion?
In 1998 Harper Collins published The Silmarillion. A deluxe edition illustrated by Ted Nasmith. There were only 500 copies made and all were signed by Ted Nasmith and Christopher Tolkien. This is a book that comes on the market still quit often, but will soon dissapear in most Tolkien collections. How many times can you get a Christopher Tolkien signed book. The opportunities are very seldom. For those interested there is a copy up for sale right here.
The Silmarillion in another nice deluxe edition  was made in 2002 by Harper Collins. A hardback, issued in a leather covered slipcase and limited to 1000 copies, matching in size and design the Harper Collings Limited Editions of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The History of Middle Earth Series. It has the large Silmarillion design gilt stamped on front boards. Housed in orignal publishers slipcase with the same design gilt stamped to the exterior, matching the gilt design on the book and features gilded edges.  It includes part of a letter to Milton Waldman. For those interested there is a copy up for sale right here.
Once again not so collectable yet very interesting is The Silmarillion 2nd Illustrated Edition made in 2004 by Harper Collins, illustrated by Ted Nasmith. It is a little bit thicker then other The Simarillion's since it includes no more then 48 full-color paintings by Ted Nasmith. I'm so happy to see this second editions featuring Nasmith's art... nowdays with the movies it was only Alan Lee they talked about. I always liked Nasmith's work and i saw some of the paintings that will be included... it will be a wonderfull edition!

I know i missed some other collectable editions of The Silmarillion, yet i covered a nice selcetion. Whenever you feel to add something or want to write a review, please send it to me!


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