Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Lord of the Rings - 50th Anniversary Deluxe UK Edition - 2004

Since the date of its initial publication in 1954, there has never been an edition of The Lord of the Rings printed exactly as JRR Tolkien wrote it. From the arrogant editors who 'corrected' dwarves to dwarfs, to the issues surrounding which words should be capitalised, Tolkien was duly frustrated to see his original, intended text become so corrupted. Luckily for him, the book sold and sold and sold, prompting further and further editions to be printed. For many of these editions, Tolkien was able to submit corrections to improve the text, but even then these corrections promoted more errors.

This 2004 editions celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original publication, and contains a further 400 corrections, some of which date back to the first edition. A lot of the work was undertaken by Hammond and Scull, now regarded as the world's leading experts on the work of Tolkien, and it is clear that months, if not years of effort has gone into the completion of this edition. What you won't read in the blurb, but can't help but feel, is that there are surely STILL a whole bunch of errors in this release, but it's nice to know you have the most definitive edition on the market*.

Onto the book itself - I've had my eye on this one ever since its 2004 release, particularly since it is hailed as the most luxurious edition there is available. I'm not going to go into a detailed description of the book, but what I will do is echo those before me who have stated that this is a solid, clean edition which will stand years of reading. In truth it is not as luxurious or lavish as, say, the US Deluxe Edition, but it certainly excels at everything it aims to achieve.

This edition includes two fold out maps in red and black, although these are significantly smaller than those in the US Deluxe edition. However, it beats the US edition in its full colour plate fold out of three pages from the Book of Mazarbul: a nice opportunity to see something Tolkien himself created in all its artistic vigour. For the first time in print there are two Hobbit family trees too.

A big, solid, well constructed text, this edition is being rightly thought of by many as the most likely to endure a good many years of reading and still look good. It has a somewhat sparse feel to it, and is certainly not as lavish or over the top as the US edition, but where it bests it's trans-atlantic counterpart is in it's feel of strength and solidity.

Original RRP for this edition was £100, although this was immediately discounted to around £70 from Amazon and other sellers. Current (summer 2010) prices are around £54 at best, although many sellers charge up to £100. Worthy of note is the fact that first impressions of this edition are no longer in print, and my own is a third impression. Harper Collins list the print run as follows: 1st Impression - 3,000 copies, 2nd Impression - 750 copies, 3rd Impression - 1,500 copies.

For me, this isn't a book that I feel will appreciate much in value over time, so I am more than happy to have a later impression. This is also why I was more than happy to open the shrink-wrap; my current thinking is that the newer deluxe editions, whilst lovely and well worth owning and looking after, are not 'collectible' in the sense that they will be worth much more in the future.

All in all this is a great book to begin my collection with, and if (as I know it will be) the rest of the deluxe editions are as nice, I am in for a nice collection!

* It has been brought to my attention that Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull have an online Addenda and Corrigenda to the 50th anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings (2004–5)detailing changes to this edition, some of which were corrected in the 2005 printings. This website can be visited here:

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