It’s time for another Tolkien Tuesday post! This one will be a bit longer than last week’s, and for good reason: it’s The Lord of the Rings.
My current edition is the 60th anniversary box set. Funny thing about that, is nowhere in the books included does it say “60th Anniversary”. Except for maybe the Reader's Companion....? Yes, it does, OK, but it's not super obvious or as advertised as much the 50th was. However, if one checks the publication date and subtracts “60” off that, then hey, there you go. Instead, there’s a part of The Fellowship of the Ring that refers to itself / this edition as “Revised Edition” ("Foreword to the Revised Edition" in the table of contents) so that’s what I’ll call it. Hey, it’s what the book does, and it works, as there are well over 400 corrections to the main text of The Lord of the Rings.
OK, now on to the contents of my set.
There are four volumes included: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, and the Reader’s Companion. They are housed in a black slipcase, with the name of the books on both sides, Tolkien’s ‘Ring and Eye’ design embossed in gold (which looks quite sharp when light hits it, if I do say so myself. In fact, I have that side of the box facing out.) Opposite that, is where the books slide into the case. It’s a nice box, SLIGHTLY on the thin side, but not too much so. One would expect it to be a LITTLE thicker considering it holds 4 books, but it’s good enough. Not in a bad way. Just take care, that’s all. So now for the books.
First up, is The Fellowship of the Ring. Like The Hobbit, the dustjacket has a paper-y, matte type feeling to it. Actually, I’m going to briefly sidetrack for a moment. If you buy any books that have a ‘paper’ dustjacket that has a sticker on it – leave it on. With the more glossy type of jacket, getting stickers off is easy (or easier) but with the matte type material, you risk making a mess of the dust jacket. So it’s a gamble: “do I attempt to take the sticker off, or leave it on to save grief?” I attempted to remove one once, and I heard a ripping / tear sound, so I left it on. “oops, sorry!”. Anyway, just some advice. So, the artwork features Tolkien’s ‘Ring and Eye’ on the front, and the back is praise from various sources.
The books themselves with the jackets removed (like the rest of the volumes contained in this box set) are black, with the copper / brass embossment on the spine, featuring Tolkien’s logo and book title. Inside, as per usual with Tolkien books, has the table of contents. The text has been completely corrected and reset, with about 400 errors or what not fixed and corrected. This was overseen by Christopher Tolkien, as well as two acclaimed Tolkien scholars, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull.
There is the use of red ink at certain points within the text: the inscription of the Ring, namely. Also included on ‘plasticized’ fold out paper are Tolkien’s drawings from the Book of Mazarbul during the Moria sequence. Finally, at the end of the volume is a fold-out map of Middle-earth, in red and black ink. The one of the shire at the beginning is also black and red, though it has its own page. I believe that’s it for Fellowship…..
Next, is The Two Towers. This volume (like the rest in this box set, so I won’t mention it further) features matte /paper dustjacket. The artwork, again by Tolkien, shows two towers, with a Fell Beast between them, and ‘some sort of Elvish’ which translates into part of the ring-verse: “In the Land of Mordor where the shadow(s?) lie.” Aside from the text progressing and being corrected, there aren’t any ‘special features’ in this volume. The map at the back appears again as a fold-out sheet of Middle-earth. Nothing 'special'; but consistent with the rest of The Lord of the Rings, as well as the box set.
On to The Return of the King. The dustjacket matches in feel, design and style. The image is quite lovely, like the rest. It’s hard to pick out a favourite of the bunch, but the image is quite striking. The corrected text continues, and we get two fold out maps this time: the standard map of Middle-earth at the end of the volume, as well as the Mordor / Gondor one, found near the start of the of the volume [some editions of The Lord of the Rings, or The Return of the King, have it at the end near the map of Middle-earth at the back, but not in this set - the Gondor / Mordor map is located near the start of the volume.] There are a few additions to the Indexes / Appendices section. I believe another family tree or two, and a new Appendix, and expanded / revised index, both are compliments of Wayne and Christina for its inclusion. They are mentioned in the 'new' Appendix.
Finally, there is the Reader’s Companion. The cover is again by Tolkien. In fact, it was one of his early designs for The Fellowship of the Ring. There is a great quote / write up on the rear of the dustjacket by Tolkien himself. On to the inside of the book. There is a facsimile frontispiece of Tolkien’s Hobbiton / Hill image, with notes on the reverse. I’ve yet to read to read this entire book, though, so I can’t provide that much detail. However, these Tolkien scholars are definitely esteemed if they are able to contribute to the main text of The Lord of the Rings, as well as having this book included within the set, alongside Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. From the looks of things, I definitely recommend the Reader's Companion as a 'further interest' book. It goes volume by volume of The Lord of the Rings, and chapter by chapter and documents, elaborates and provides notes on the evolution of the text.
And that, I believe, is everything.
Why did I get this edition: these editions are quite lovely, they’re hardback, and feature the fully updated and corrected text. They have the fold-out maps, and match other Tolkien books quite well. The box is quite nice. I didn’t get it for the Reader’s Companion, but am not complaining about its inclusion. If you only buy the 3 volumes of The Lord of the Rings you won't get the box (you could also get the Reader's Companion separately.)
Who Would I recommend this edition to: anyone wishing to ‘continue’ their Tolkien books following The Hobbit hardback edition I own. Also, anyone wanting to get a great edition of The Lord of the Rings in hardback.
“Should I wait for a better one?”: like The Hobbit, I’m not sure how, or when a ‘better’ one could come along. 70th? 75th? So, the short answer? No. This is one of the best, if not, the best editions you can get. Plus the text is the most accurate.
Overall: the hardback editions of Tolkien’s books by Harper Collins are quite lovely, this edition of The Lord of the Rings in particular. It’s great to own a ‘matching set’, though it’s unfortunate that all the main Middle-earth Tolkien books don’t always get a matching format from Harper Collins, (I'm referring to The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, namely) as well as other publishers. It's a bit of pain to see some really lovely editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, only to see there is no matching Silmarillion. I could not be happier with this edition, as well my other volumes.
Here are the ISBNs, as you can get the books separately, as well as the box set:
Box set: 9780007581146
The Fellowship of the Ring: 9780007203543
The Two Towers: 9780007203550
The Return of the King: 9780007203567
Reader’s Companion: 9780007556908
[another great book to compliment this box set is The Art of the Lord of the Rings]
Another great, lower cost alternative to my box set, is the single-volume edition of The Lord of the Rings. This is one hardback, featuring all 3 volumes in one physical book. The design style closely matches the other Tolkien books. the ISBN for the single-volume is 9780261103207.
One of my planned entries will be titled "Ultimate Tolkien Editions for a Tight Budget" and will focus on the paperback equals to my hardback editions. I may also do a 'for collectors' or 'if money isn't a factor' and showcase the deluxe editions. Those will come later though....