A 12-volume set of ‘The History of Middle-Earth’ books edited by their creator’s son, Christopher Tolkien, sold for £2400 in the Norfolk saleroom of TW Gaze (18% buyer’s premium) on February 28.
Published in 1983-96, they are works in which tales, songs, poems, maps, illustrations, genealogical tables and even primers for the languages devised by his philologist father, John Ronald Ruel Tolkien, are provided.
Individual titles include The Shaping of Middle-Earth, The Treason of Isengard, The War of the Ring and Sauron Defeated.
JRR Tolkien (1892-1973) once referred to his youngest son as his “chief critic and collaborator” and named him his literary executor in his will. As well as organising his father’s unpublished writings, some of them written on odd scraps of paper half a century earlier, Christopher (1924-2020) also drew the original maps for The Lord of the Rings, as well as producing an edition of The Silmarillion for publication in 1977.
Another of JRR’s three sons (he also had a daughter), John, featured when a signed copy of The Hobbit was sold at Potteries Auctions (20% buyer’s premium) on March 11.
Offered in Stoke-on-Trent with an estimate of £250-500 was a copy of the The Hobbit, Unwin Books, 14th impression, 1972.
The vendor stated: “My mother – Kath Taylor – came by the book and autograph during her employment as housekeeper to the Rev John Tolkien who was parish priest at Our Lady of Angels and St Peter in Chains RC Church in Hartshill, Stoke-on-Trent, who resided at Northcote House, Hartshill Road.”
John (1917-2003) was parish priest from 1966-87 and his father JRR visited him on many occasions, staying at Northcote House, which at the time was the Presbytery to the church. The vendor added: “When he came to Our Lady’s his live-in housekeeper was Miss K Restall, whose name can be seen at the top of the page.
“My mother came to work at the presbytery at first to assist Miss Restall but later took on the role of housekeeper when she retired. The book was given to my mother and signed by the author on one of his visits. The book was later given to me by my mother.”
Described as in used condition with splitting to spine and some loose pages, the book sold at £2900.
A different, non-family connection helped another copy of The Hobbit to go well beyond an estimate of £3000-5000 to sell at £14,000.
Offered at Lyon & Turnbull (26/25/20% buyer’s premium) in Edinburgh on February 8 was a copy of a George Allen & Unwin, 1966, third edition, second impression (16th impression overall) illustrated by the author.
It is inscribed ‘for Mr I Chambers, JRR Tolkien’ on the title-page, and bears the bookplate of the recipient, Ivan Chambers OBE (1902-98), on the front free endpaper.
Chambers was a noted bookseller who worked for the dealership WJ Bryce, which operated from premises on London’s Museum Street in a building owned by Stanley Unwin, Tolkien’s publisher.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: “The success of Tolkien’s writing, as well as his subsequent fanatical worldwide readership, was due in no small part to the author–publisher relationship that existed between Tolkien, Stanley Unwin, and later [Stanley’s son] Rayner Unwin.”
The book was consigned by descent from Ivan Chambers.