September 21, 2017

"The Hobbit" Turns 80

Today is a very special day. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien turns 80 years old.

As monumental as The Lord of the Rings was for fantasy; those volumes wouldn't have existed if it weren't for The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings initially began as a sequel to The Hobbit, but the tale grew in the telling, as Tolkien often said.

The Hobbit somewhat did, as well. It is slightly long - for a children's book. The Hobbit wasn't planned, or initially part, to be joined with Tolkien's mythology he was devoted most of his life to. It was in The Hobbit that he dropped hints, breadcrumbs, and planted seeds. These would grow and flourish in The Lord of the Rings (if you read them back-to-back, you'll see). It was intended to be fire-side reads for his children, as well some other fare, most of which can be found in Tales From the Perilous Realm.

Not only did Tolkien write one of the best stories ever, he also gave it life. Tolkien provided artwork, runes, and maps himself to accompany the text. There have been many editions since 1937, although the ones that feature Tolkien's material (namely, his artwork, on the book's cover and within the interior) is seen as the 'classic' edition.

As part of the celebration, I'm going to look at some notable Hobbit editions, and related books that truly stand out during those 80 years. What I've selected is a mix between quality, availability, and 

The Book Itself
I'm going to begin by showcasing notable editions of The Hobbit, as well follow that up with supplementary books. The following editions of The Hobbit may or may not match with other books by Tolkien. I'll indicate if they do with a " * ". See the legend at the very bottom of the post for details. 

Deluxe Edition *

This deluxe slipcased edition of The Hobbit, printed and bound using superior materials including a silk ribbon marker, features the definitive text, plus Tolkien's paintings and drawings in full colour, and a special fold-out version of Thror's Map./
ISBN: 9780007118359

Classic Hardback *

The definitive edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's most beloved book, sporting a facsimile of his original cover design and complete with colour plates of his own paintings, brand new reproductions of all his drawings, and colour versions of both maps./

Classic Paperback *

...this definitive paperback edition features nine illustrations and two maps drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien, and a preface by Christopher Tolkien./

Those three above I just listed above all contain the definitive text, and, depending on the format, extra goodies as well (the paperback is the most basic, the deluxe edition the most extravagant).

Illustrated Hardback Edition (by Jemima Catlin)

The first new illustrated edition of The Hobbit for more than 15 years contains 150 brand new colour illustrations. Artist Jemima Catlin's charming and lively interpretation brings Tolkien's beloved characters to life in a way that will entice and entertain a new generation of readers.

ISBN: 9780007497904
Deluxe Slipcased Edition ISBN:

This illustrated edition is just lovely. Most illustrated editions of The Hobbit are, but the artwork is charming and whimsical, much like the text itself.

Facsimile First Edition

The Hobbit was published on 21 September 1937, with a print run of 1,500 copies. With a beautiful cover design, nearly a dozen black & white illustrations and two black & red maps by the author himself, the book proved to be popular and was reprinted shortly afterwards. History was already being made.

The scarcity of the first edition has resulted in copies commanding huge prices, way beyond the reach of most Tolkien fans. In addition, subsequent changes to the text particularly those to chapter 5, when Tolkien decided in 1947 to revise the text to bring it better into accord with events as they were developing in its sequel’, The Lord of the Rings - mean that the opportunity to read the book in its original form and format has become quite difficult.

This special printing reprints the first edition, so that readers of all ages not just children between the ages of 5 and 9’, as Rayner Unwin famously declared in his report on the original submission can finally enjoy Tolkien’s story as it originally appeared.
ISBN: 9780007440832

Supplementary Books

Now, for some great companion books to The Hobbit, which go with what I've showcased above, or any other edition you may have.

The Annotated Hobbit (Revised and Expanded Edition)

The definitive edition of this beloved children?s classic, featuring a wealth of accompanying illustrations and notes which take the reader further into both the story, and the tale of how it was written.
Seldom has any book been so widely read and loved as J.R.R. Tolkien?s classic tale, The Hobbit. Since its first publication in 1937 it has remained in print to delight each new generation of readers all over the world, and its hero, Bilbo Baggins, has taken his place among the ranks of the immortals: Alice, Pooh, Toad.
As with all classics, repeated readings continue to bring new detail and perspectives to the reader?s mind, and Tolkien?s Middle-earth is a vast mine of treasures and knowledge, its lode being folklore, mythology and language. The Hobbit is, therefore, an ideal book for annotation: as well as offering a marvellous and entrancing story, it introduces the reader to the richly imagined world of Middle-earth, a world more fully and complexly realised in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.
ISBN: 9780007137275

I consider this book to go into the supplementary or reference listing, due to the annotations and extra material included within the book, despite the fact it contains the complete text.

History of The Hobbit (Revised Edition) **

For the first time in one volume, THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBITpresents the complete unpublished text of the original manuscript of J.R.R.Tolkien's THE HOBBIT, accompanied by John Rateliff's lively and informative account of how the book came to be written and published. As well as recording the numerous changes made to the story both before and after publication, it examines - chapter-by-chapter - why those changes were made and how they reflect Tolkien's ever-growing concept of Middle-earth.THE HOBBIT was first published on 21 September 1937. Like its successor, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, it is a story that "grew in the telling", and many characters and story threads in the published text are completely different from what Tolkien first wrote to read aloud to his young sons as part of their "fireside reads".As well as reproducing the original version of one of literature's most famous stories, both on its own merits and as the foundation for THE LORD OF THE RINGS, this new book includes many little-known illustrations and previously unpublished maps for THE HOBBIT by Tolkien himself. Also featured are extensive annotations and commentaries on the date of composition, how Tolkien's professional and early mythological writings influenced the story, the imaginary geography he created, and how Tolkien came to revise the book years after publication to accommodate events in THE LORD OF THE RINGS.Like Christopher Tolkien's THE HISTORY OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS before it, this is a thoughtful yet exhaustive examination of one of the most treasured stories in English literature. Long overdue for a classic book now celebrating 75 years in print, this companion edition offers fascinating new insights for those who have grown up with this enchanting tale, and will delight those who are about to enter Bilbo's round door for the first time./

The Art of The Hobbit ***

To celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit, a sumptuous full colour art book containing the complete collection of more than 100 Hobbit sketches, drawings, paintings and maps by J.R.R. Tolkien.When J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, he was already an accomplished amateur artist, and drew illustrations for his book while it was still in manuscript. The Hobbit as first printed had ten black and white pictures, two maps, and binding and dust-jacket designs by its author. Later, Tolkien also painted five scenes for colour plates which are some of his best work. His illustrations for The Hobbit add an extra dimension to that remarkable book, and have long influenced how readers imagine Bilbo Baggins and his world.To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit, the complete artwork created by the author for his story has been collected in The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Including related pictures, more than one hundred sketches, drawings, paintings, maps, and plans are presented here, preliminary and alternate versions and experimental designs as well as finished art. Some of these images are now published for the first time, and others for the first time in colour. Fresh digital scans from the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford and Marquette University in Wisconsin allow Tolkien's Hobbit pictures to be seen more vividly than ever before.The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien has been written and edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, two of the leading experts on Tolkien and authors of the acclaimed J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, and The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide.


This is a fantastic treasure trove of designs, sketches, drawings, paintings, maps...pretty much everything created by Tolkien for The Hobbit on an artistic and visual level. Pairs really well with any edition of The Hobbit, but most especially either the classic hardback, classic paperback, or deluxe editions mentioned above.

As you can see, there have been notable editions of the book, as well as material relating to it over the years. This is of course just a small sampling. Any and all of those titles I recommend (which is why I gave the ISBN's, so you can search by those and get the exact copy/edition/format). Ultimately, it does not matter which you have, or choose to get, as long as you enjoy the book, and raise a glass of whatever beverage you prefer, and celebrate 80 years and counting of The Hobbit.

As a bonus.....

Other Worthy Mentions

Illustrated Edition (by Alan Lee) ****

Hardback ISBN:
Alan Lee's illustrated edition perfect compliments his illustrated treatment of the three-volume Lord of the Rings. The art style, is of course, similar. Also, it pairs quite well with Tales From the Perilous Realm.


Another paperback edition I recommend. If I'm not mistaken, aside from the maps, does not feature Tolkien's art, but opening chapter sketches in pencil by another artist. 
I highly recommend this edition if you're gifting.

Collector's Edition 

This deluxe collector's edition of Tolkien's modern classic is boxed and bound in green leatherette with gold and red foil rune stamping on the spine and cover. The text pages are printed in black with green accents. It includes five full page illustrations in full color and many more in two color in addition to Thror's map -- all prepared by the author. 
ISBN: 9780395177112

This edition gives you a nice edition of the book at a decent price. I highly recommend this edition if you're gifting.


* = matches with other deluxe, hardback and paperback editions of other Tolkien books, in the same style

** = matches with The History of Middle-earth (12 volumes in 3 hardbacks, also part of a boxed set consisting of the 3 HoM-e books), both volumes of J.R.R. Tolkien Companion & Guide (Reader's Guide and Chronology) by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull.

*** = matches The Art of the Lord of the Rings

**** = matches the 3-volume illustrated hardback editions of The Lord of the Rings, also by Alan Lee, as well as the illustrated hardback edition of The Silmarillion by Ted Nasmith. 

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