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Early Editions of The Hobbit

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XV  LotR - A Bibliography of Slipcases

The History of Middle-earth series

A Guide to the Contents

II  Prices on Dustwrappers

III  Original Retail Prices

IV  Print Run Sizes

The Guild Publishing Editions

VI  Shaping of Middle-earth Wrapper

VII  Peoples of Middle-earth Pulped?

The Hobbit. First Edition 1937Introduction
First Edition
Second Edition
Summary
References

Introduction
Hobbit collectors may be interested in details of print run sizes for the First and Second Editions of The Hobbit.  These are included in the relevant bibliography entries but are also summarized here for convenience.

The details of print run sizes are taken from correspondence between the American publisher Houghton Mifflin and its British counterpart George Allen & Unwin, and from Allen & Unwin publishing ledgers and associated correspondence.  They are generally in agreement with those given in Wayne Hammond's Tolkien bibliography, with one notable exception - the Fifth Impression of 1951.

This impression marked the start of a period where both the British and American Editions were printed in England.  Wayne gives a figure of 3,500 for the number of Allen & Unwin copies printed.  This appears to be an error - 3,500 was the TOTAL quantity printed (A&U plus Houghton Mifflin).  The sets of Houghton Mifflin sheets referred to below were generally despatched to the United States in a part-bound state - folded and collated with the endpapers tipped on.  In some cases (but not all) they were also sewn before being exported.

Readers may notice small differences between the total printed and the sum of the A&U and Houghton Mifflin copies.  This is one of the many problems encountered when working with the A&U records.  The differences are due, in the main, to the printer compensating for spoilage during binding by printing more sets of sheets than were ordered. Key & Whiting bound copies of The Hobbit for Allen & Unwin from 1937 until at least 1962.

First Edition
First Impression 1937
May 1937 - 1,500 copies printed by Unwin Brothers.  Jackets printed separately by FGS
July 1937 - 28 Travellers' Samples*
July 1937 - 11 folded and collated sets of sheets supplied by the printers to A&U.  They may have been subsequently bound
July 1937 - 15 copies bound in paper covers**
August 1937 - 6 copies bound in paper covers**
A total of 1,488 copies were bound in the Allen & Unwin trade binding:
August 1937 - 131 copies bound
September 1937 - 438 copies bound
October 1937 - 31 copies bound
October 1937 - 300 copies bound
November 1937 - 100 copies bound
November 1937 - 260 copies bound
December 1937 - 228 copies bound
* These samples usually consist of the first two signatures of the book bound up for use by the publisher's sales representatives.
** These copies are likely to have been supplied as review copies.

Second Impression 1937
December 1937 - 2,300 copies printed by Unwin Brothers.  Jackets printed separately by FGS
A total of 1,900 copies were bound in the Allen & Unwin binding:
December 1937 - 500 copies bound
March 1938 - 60 copies bound
April 1938 - 120 copies bound
May 1938 - 110 copies bound
June 1938 - 60 copies bound
June 1938 - 150 copies bound
October 1938 - 40 copies bound
November 1938 - 52 copies bound
December 1938 - 60 copies bound
February 1939 - 40 copies bound
March 1939 - 40 copies bound
?March 1939 - 268 copies bound
June 1940 - 35 copies bound
?June 1940 - 365 copies bound
November 1940 - The remaining 423 unbound copies were destroyed in a warehouse fire caused by German bombing

The Hobbit. Children's Book Club Edition 1942Third Impression 1942
November 1942 - 4,500 copies printed by Unwin Brothers
November 1942 - 3,000 sets of sheets sold to Foyles, the bookseller*
March 1943 - A&U jackets printed separately by J. Howell
A total of 1,509 copies were bound in the Allen & Unwin trade binding:
March 1943 - 501 copies bound
April 1943 - 1,006 copies bound
December 1943 - 2 copies bound
* The 3,000 sets of sheets sold to Foyles were issued under their Children's Book Club imprint.

Fourth Impression 1946
July 1946 - 4,000 copies printed by Unwin Brothers. Jackets printed by J. Howell
December 1947 - 4,032 copies bound*
* The binding of 4,032 copies appears to have been charged by Key & Whiting in December 1947.  The cause of the delay in binding is unknown.  Binding over 4,000 copies at one time appears to have been unusual judging by other printings of The Hobbit.

Second Edition
Fifth Impression 1951
November 1950 - 3,500 copies printed by Unwin Brothers.  Jackets printed by Howell
January 1951 - 1,000 Allen & Unwin copies bound
January 1951 - 1,000 Houghton Mifflin copies bound
September 1952 - 800 Allen & Unwin copies bound
March 1953 - 726 Houghton Mifflin copies bound*
* Wayne Hammond gives a figure of 3,500 for the number of Allen & Unwin copies printed.  This appears to be an error - 3,500 was the total quantity printed (2,500 A&U imprint plus 1,000 Houghton Mifflin imprint).  In March 1953, the remaining A&U copies were bound for sale by Houghton Mifflin.  The books produced had the Houghton Mifflin imprint on the spine of the binding and the A&U imprint on the title page and dust jacket.

Sixth Impression 1954
August 1954 - 3,500 copies printed by Unwin Brothers.  Jackets printed by J. Howell
August 1954 - 1,000 Allen & Unwin copies bound
August 1954 - 1,000 Houghton Mifflin copies folded, collated and sewn with endpapers tipped on
December 1954 - 1,500 Allen & Unwin copies bound

Seventh Impression 1955
June 1955 - 3,500 copies printed by Unwin Brothers.  Jackets printed by J. Howell*
June 1955 - 1,000 Houghton Mifflin copies folded, collated and sewn with endpapers tipped on
August 1955
- 1,500 Allen & Unwin copies bound
January 1956 - 1,002 Allen & Unwin copies bound**
* 2,860 Allen & Unwin jackets were printed. The Houghton Mifflin jackets were printed late in August as they were not ordered with the folded and collated copies.  Over 2,000 were printed, with half being held over for the next impression of the book.
** In January 1956, Allen & Unwin instructed the binders to cut away the 9s.6d price printed on the remaining 1,260 jackets and overprint with the new price of 12s.6d.  This work on the jackets was not invoiced until March.
Also in January 1956, A&U instructed the binders that all future copies of the book were to be issued in a green textured paper called Linson rather than the green cloth used previously, but this instruction does not appear to have taken effect until the 9th Impression was bound in 1957.

Eighth Impression 1956
March 1956 - 4,000 copies printed by Unwin Brothers.  Jackets printed by J. Howell*
March 1956 - 1,000 Houghton Mifflin copies folded, collated and sewn with endpapers tipped on
A total of 3,055 copies were bound in the Allen & Unwin trade binding:
March 1956
- 1,992 Allen & Unwin copies bound
December 1956 - 296 Allen & Unwin copies bound
January 1957 - 200 Allen & Unwin copies bound
February 1957 - 240 Allen & Unwin copies bound
March 1957 - 327 Allen & Unwin copies bound
* The jackets for the Houghton Mifflin copies were printed in 1955 along with those for the 7th Impression.  3,150 A&U jackets were printed in January 1956.  These were probably overprinted with a new price in March 1956, but were not invoiced until October 1956. The price had changed from 9s.6d to 12s.6d.

The Hobbit. Second Edition 1951Ninth Impression 1957
March 1957 - 4,900 copies printed by Unwin Brothers.  Jackets printed by J. Howell*
April 1957 - 2,986 Allen & Unwin copies bound
June 1957 - 1,941 Houghton Mifflin copies folded and collated with endpapers tipped on but not sewn**
* 5,100 A&U jackets printed but only 3,000 used on this impression.  The remainder were used on the 10th Impression.
** There were some complications with the printing of this impression.  Assuming that Houghton Mifflin would place an order for 1,000 sets of sheets, Allen & Unwin commenced the printing of the HM copies before they had received a formal order. Unaware of this, and after receiving a quotation in February 1957, Houghton Mifflin decided that it would be more economical to print in the United States.  Allen & Unwin were therefore left with 1,000 sets of sheets with Houghton Mifflin title pages.  Unwin Brothers, the printer, produced 1,000 cancel titles and these were incorporated into the folded sheets sent to Key & Whiting, the binder, in March 1957.  Lovell Thompson, head of Houghton Mifflin's trade department, visited London in April 1957, and the question of The Hobbit must have arisen when he met Charles Furth of Allen & Unwin.  Further negotiations took place and these led to an order for 2,000 copies being placed. Just over 1,900 sets of sheets remained from the impression, so these were 'converted' to Houghton Mifflin copies by use of another cancel title supplied by Unwin Brothers.  The change to supplying unsewn sheets was in part a cost cutting measure, but was also due to ongoing problems with the quality of the stitching.

Tenth Impression 1958
March 1958 - Printed by Unwin Brothers - 7,000 copies planned
March 1958 - 4,500 Allen & Unwin copies?
March 1958 - 2,500 Houghton Mifflin copies folded and collated with endpapers tipped on but not sewn
Approximately 2,000 A&U dust jackets were left over from the production of the Ninth Impression.  These were used on the Allen & Unwin's copies of the 10th Impression.

Eleventh Impression 1959
May 1959 - Printed by Unwin Brothers - Number of copies unknown
May 1959 - 2,500 Houghton Mifflin copies folded and collated with endpapers tipped on but not sewn
June 1959
- Number of Allen & Unwin copies unknown

Twelfth Impression 1961
November 1960 - Printed by Waterlow & Sons - Number of copies unknown
November 1960 - 2,500 Houghton Mifflin copies folded and collated with endpapers tipped on but not sewn
December 1960
- Number of Allen & Unwin copies unknown
Although dated 1961, this impression was actually printed in late Autumn 1960.  Printing seems to have been subcontracted by Unwin Brothers to Waterlow & Sons of London.  Four blank pages were added at the end of the book without authorisation from Allen & Unwin. They were also included in later impressions, and in the 15th Impression were used to advertise other books by J.R.R. Tolkien.

First Paperback Edition 1961
October 1961 - 35,000 copies printed by Cox & Wyman
Penguin Books were granted permission to issue a paperback edition of The Hobbit under their Puffin Books imprint.
The text was completely reset, and in the process the printers made numerous changes to Tolkien's spellings - e.g. dwarves > dwarfs and elvish > elfish. Tolkien did not discover the changes until after publication, when he objected strenuously!

The Hobbit. Puffin Books Edition 1961Thirteenth Impression 1961
October 1961 - Printed by Unwin Brothers - Number of copies unknown
November 1961 - Number of Allen & Unwin copies unknown
November 1961 - 2,500 Houghton Mifflin copies folded and collated with endpapers tipped on but not sewn
240 Houghton Mifflin copies (folded, collated and sewn with endpapers tipped on) of this impression were discovered at Key & Whiting in January 1963.  It is unclear if these were extra to the 2,500 sets of folded and collated sheets sold to Houghton Mifflin in 1961, but they were probably held back because they should not have been sewn.  It is not known if they were shipped to the United States in 1963.

Fourteenth Impression 1963
March 1963 - Printed by Unwin Brothers - Number of copies unknown
March 1963 - Number of Allen & Unwin copies unknown
March 1963 - 4,000 Houghton Mifflin copies folded and collated with endpapers tipped on but not sewn

Demand for The Hobbit continued to grow in the United States.  Before the year was out, Houghton Mifflin took the decision to pay an offset fee to Allen & Unwin.  This allowed them to print the book in the USA using A&U's setting of the text rather than import sheets from England.

Fifteenth Impression 1965
Printed by C. Tinling & Co. - Number of copies unknown
All copies of the Tinling printing were issued with the Allen & Unwin imprint.
A separate impression numbering system was used in the United States after Houghton Mifflin ceased to import sheets.  The latest research suggests that one unnumbered/undated impression was issued before numbering commenced with the 18th Impression.  For further information see The Tolkien Collector Issue 30

Summary
Impression/Year Total Printed Allen & Unwin Copies Houghton Mifflin Copies Exported
Travellers' Samples 1937
 
28 July 1937 - 28 bound None
Folded Sheets 1937
 
11 July 1937 - 11 collated None
Paper Covers 1937 15
6
July 1937 - 15 bound
August 1937 - 6 bound
None
1st Impression 1937 1,500 August 1937 - 131 bound
September 1937 - 438 bound
October 1937 - 31 bound
October 1937 - 300 bound
November 1937 - 100 bound
November 1937 - 260 bound
December 1937 - 228 bound
None
2nd Impression 1937 2,300 December 1937 - 500 bound
March 1938 - 60 bound
April 1938 - 120 bound
May 1938 - 110 bound
June 1938 - 60 bound
June 1938 - 150 bound
October 1938 - 40 bound
November 1938 - 52 bound
December 1938 - 60 bound
February 1939 - 40 bound
March 1939 - 40 bound
?March 1939 - 268 bound
June 1940 - 35 bound
?June 1940 - 365 bound
November 1940 - 423 destroyed
None
3rd Impression 1942 4,500 November 1942 - 3,000 to Foyles
March 1943 - 501 bound
April 1943 - 1,006 bound
December 1943 - 2 bound
None
4th Impression 1946
 
4,000 December 1947 - 4,032 bound None
5th Impression 1951 3,500 January 1951 - 1,000 bound
September 1952 - 800 bound
 
January 1951 - 1,000 copies
 
March 1953 - 726 copies
6th Impression 1954 3,500 August 1954 - 1,000 bound
December 1954 - 1,500 bound
August 1954 - 1,000 copies
7th Impression 1955 3,500  
August 1955 - 1,500 bound
January 1956 - 1,002 bound
June 1955 - 1,000 copies
8th Impression 1956 4,000 March 1956 - 1,992 bound
December 1956 - 296 bound
January 1957 - 200 bound
February 1957 - 240 bound
March 1957 - 327 bound
March 1956 - 1,000 copies
9th Impression 1957 4,900 April 1957 - 2,986 bound
 
 
June 1957 - 1,941 copies
10th Impression 1958
 
7,000 March 1958 - 4,500 bound? March 1958 - 2,500 copies
11th Impression 1959 Unknown  
June 1959 - No. of copies unknown
May 1959 - 2,500 copies
12th Impression 1961 Unknown  
December 1960 - No. of copies unknown
November 1960 - 2,500 copies
1st Paperback Edition 1961
 
35,000 35,000 copies issued by Puffin Books None
13th Impression 1961
 
Unknown November 1961 - No. of copies unknown November 1961 - 2,500 copies
14th Impression 1963
 
Unknown March 1963 - No. of copies unknown March 1963 - 4,000 copies
15th Impression 1965
 
Unknown Date unknown - No. of copies unknown None

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References
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography
Wayne G. Hammond with the assistance of Douglas A. Anderson. 1993.
St. Paul’s Bibliographies, Winchester. ISBN 1873040113.
Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, Delaware. ISBN 0938768425.

The Tolkien Collector
Edited by Christina Scull. Issue 30, October 2009. Williamstown, MA.
See pp.16-32, 'Identifying First and Second Edition Printings of the Houghton Mifflin Hobbit' by Steven M. Frisby.

Early American Editions of The Hobbit - Wikipedia

Allen & Unwin Archive
RUL MS 3282 - Item 105 on Handlist. Publishing Ledger ca. 1935-57. H-O.
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 574/15 (Letters to/from Unwin Brothers 1952)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 596/11 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1953)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 617/8 (Letters to/from Unwin Brothers 1953)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 638/3 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin Jan-Jun 1954)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 638/4 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin Jul-Dec 1954)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 641/4 (Letters to/from Key & Whiting 1954)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 680/5 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1955)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 682/22 (Letters to/from Key & Whiting 1955)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 721/2 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1956)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 723/16 (Letters to/from Key & Whiting 1956)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 761/22 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1957)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 764/8 (Letters to/from Key & Whiting 1957)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 799/17 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1958)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 836/3 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1959)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 836/7 (Letters to/from Key & Whiting 1959)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 854/5 (Letters to/from Unwin Brothers 1959)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 872/17 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1960)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 875/2 (Letters to/from Key & Whiting 1960)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 890/14 (Letters to/from Unwin Brothers 1960)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 909/14 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1961)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 947/21 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1962)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 987/2 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1963)

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