The Special Collections Research Center’s rare and specialized books collections contain many treasures. The SCRC is excited to share some of their unique print materials in anticipation of the release of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” this week: a set of first edition printings of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy! Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings in three volumes over the course of a year from 1954 to 1955, as a sequel to his children's fantasy novel The Hobbit, published in 1937. All three books are bound in red cloth with gold stamping on the spines, and grey dust jackets printed in red, black and gold. Each volume contains a foldout map of Tolkien’s rendition of Middle Earth. Part one, The Fellowship of the Rings, also contains a handwritten note from Tolkien to E. Rasdall, Esq., dated March 21, 1956, tucked into the dust jacket! It reads:
“I am so sorry! Your parcel arrived safely, but it arrived at a crowded time, and I was also unwell. In fact, I had to go away to recuperate, and only returned yesterday. It was on my conscience that I had gone off without either returning your books or letting you know. I will send them off, I hope on Friday. Why not at once? Well, because tomorrow my wife and I celebrate our 40th or ruby wedding anniversary, and are preparing for the gathering of our children and children-in-law, which has not occurred complete for many years. I fear it will be a ceremony by Shire standards ‘brief, moderate, simple, and jejune’ but there may be a speech!
J. R. R. Tolkien
P.S. I have just had a letter from a real Sam Gamgee (of Tooting)!”