Thursday, January 21, 2010

Verily, I scored!

OK, I'm going to get my book geek on here...

 What you see here is an almost-perfect slipcased 1965 third-printing of the first edition of the second revised American edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Confused? I'll explain later. Suffice it to say it's a nice find for me. The slipcase has a few little flaws, and there's a tiny tear in the dustjacket of Fellowship of the Ring. But aside from that the books are absolutely pristine, and I'm not sure they've ever been opened, much less read.

I very recently stumbled across this set and snapped it up for, well, not much money. It was just one of those serendipitous coincidences that don't happen to me very often. In truth, however, I have to give all the credit to my wife. She's the one that first spotted it and told me about it. If it hadn't been for her I'm quite sure that by now some grubby-handed little high school nerd would be soiling its lovely pages with half-masticated cafeteria food.

Instead, this grubby-handed middle-aged nerd is going to lovingly place it on his "good books" shelf, along with the other, pitifully few collectable and/or rare books he owns.

In terms of monetary value, it's hard to say what the set is worth. It's certainly no Tamerlane, but I'm guessing more than a hundred and probably less than a thousand.

But in terms of collectability this edition is pretty desirable, especially in this condition. Tolkien first published LOTR in the UK and the US in the mid-fifties, and if you want a first UK edition you better be ready to mortgage your house for it. There were several US editions published after that (including one unauthorized) but in 1965 Houghton Mifflin published this "revised second edition" with Tolkien's consent and a number of revisions from earlier editions.

The rest, as they say, is history. Before you knew it, LOTR became a cult phenomenon: people started scribbling "Frodo Lives" on bathroom stalls and Gollum got name-dropped in a Led Zeppelin song. There have been any number of editions published since then (many of them collectable as well) but this was the edition that really got the ball rolling (well, a generation of stoned and impressionable hippies helped its success as well...)

But wait! There's more. At the same time I also picked up this...

I don't really know much about this book. It was written in 1909 by a guy named Frederick William Unger, and from what I can gather so far it isn't a first-hand account of Roosevelt's famous African expedition, but rather a general overview of Roosevelt, his trip and Africa in general. It's in pretty bad shape so no real collector value - if it even had any to begin with - but it does contain a number of very cool plates and drawings.

No more birds, ducks or deer this year, but I'm happy to still be bagging a few nice books...


  1. Good catch Chadster.

    If I may butt in for a moment the expression is MIDDLE YOUTH
    and I'd thank you to remember that

  2. I used to carry around a list of titles I hoped to find. Not for their collectability, but just to read, have, or give away. At one point in the late 80's/early 90's, I found the used bookstore in Albuquerque that Steve Bodio sold too. That was both great and a constant drag on the student dollar- read the review in GSJ, then pick the book up a few months later at Rachel's Books. That store has been gone for a long time, now.

    Congrats on the find! My last good one was a decent hardcover copy (but not first edition) of Graves' "Farewell to a River".

  3. Mdmnm, that would be quite a find to get a copy of that book. It's funny that with the ultra-collectable books you get excited over even the later editions.