I Think I've Got A Hobbit...
(A Collector's Tale)
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"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole and that means comfort."
These are the words that started off my Tolkien collecting habit. I first encountered Tolkien at the age of 10, back in 1981, when The Hobbit was read aloud to us at school. Soon after I got a paperback copy as a present for my birthday and then bought my first copy of The Lord of the Rings the following month. As you can probably see from the scans they have been read many times.
Opposite the title page in both books was a list of other books by Tolkien and at the back there were advertisements for even more. I was fascinated by Middle-earth, so to begin with I focused mostly on finding those books, but gradually started reading Tolkien's other writings as well. By this time I was hooked and the Tolkien collection started to grow.
I have always had a propensity for collecting and making lists, so it was not long before I had built up a list of books by and about Tolkien and was on the look out for copies of them all. My favourite bookshop at this time was Hudsons in Birmingham - notable to me because it was the only shop I knew that had a dedicated Tolkien display.
Unfortunately in those days my book budget was somewhat limited so I missed out on some books that are now very difficult to find or cost serious money. I have some vague memories of books dating from this period so that now, when I am browsing through books, I will come across a book and think ...Aha! So it does exist! Sadly Hudsons was absorbed by the faceless conglomerates and is no more...
After some thought I have decided that my collecting habit is all my mother's fault...! She suggested that I should buy 'good quality' copies of books that would stand up to being re-read many times. Little did she know what she had started. A copy of the Michael Hague illustrated Hobbit was quickly followed by first edition copies of The History of Middle-earth series as they were released and the three volume The Lord of the Rings with Tolkien illustrated dust wrappers. After a few years the collection included several copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and a few others.
I really caught the collecting bug after meeting Angie and Steve Gardner of Daeron's Books. At the time their 'shop' consisted of half and dozen shelves in the corner of the lounge - the books were always looking at you - calling out to be bought! In 1998 they sold me a copy of Wayne G. Hammond's book, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography, and from then on I was truly hooked. This is the ultimate list for Tolkien book collectors - details of virtually all Tolkien's published writings!
At around that time I realised that I needed to set some limits on my collection - I didn't have the funds or the room to collect everything. I decided to concentrate on British editions of books by, or with contributions from J.R.R. Tolkien. I have managed to stick to this to some extent, but the scope has slowly expanded to include letters and extracts from Tolkien's manuscripts.
I mostly collect books, but the collection also includes magazines and fanzines, posters, calendars, games and jigsaws, promotional materials, cuttings and other ephemera. I try to keep to British editions, but sometimes I see something a little different and just have to have it!
Now the collection has grown into a bit of a monster. I have tracked down copies of most editions of Tolkien's major works, and am now trying to find academic pieces, early poetry and published letters.
The hunt goes on...
An Illustrated Tolkien Bibliography started out as a book in 2001. I wanted to produce an illustrated guide to my book collection, but didn't get very far with the project until late in 2002 when I started playing around with some website building software and decided to try to build a website that would be an online supplement to Wayne Hammond's Descriptive Bibliography. The basic aim of the site was (and still is) to list and illustrate all British editions of the published writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.
The site was launched in January 2003 and has been slowly growing ever since - there are now over 1,100 pages of information. The main Bibliography is arranged in chronological order and gives details of every edition, reprint and variant of every book by, or with contributions from Tolkien. A separate Articles section gives additional information on books described in brief in the main Bibliography and includes The Early Publishing History of The Lord of the Rings - a series of essays that will trace the publishing history of The Lord of the Rings from Tolkien's early attempts to find a publisher through to the publication of the Revised Edition in 1966.
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