Friday, 10 September 2010

The Silmarillion - Harper Collins Deluxe Edition 2002

The Silmarillion is not a read for the faint-hearted. To me it is very much the Bible of Middle Earth, complete with a Genesis-esque opening which describes the creation of the world. It is a rich and often complex fantasy book that doesn’t read particularly fluently or fluidly, but once you’ve read a hundred pages or so it really does have you hooked. By the end of reading, I had more respect for it than any of Tolkien's other works, as it was a much more mature read, and one which required almost studious attention to complete.

This edition is the 2002 Harper Collins Deluxe. One of the things I really like about it is that only one impression was ever printed, so you know you’ve got the first edition first impression if you’ve got any copy of this one! Rumours are that the book was limited to 1000 copies, but this doesn’t seem to be officially confirmed.

When I bought this book it was still shrink-wrapped eight years after its release. However, this week I made a decision to commit to a very costly Tolkien purchase, and at this point I decided I would open my sealed editions. Why? Because it is dawning on me that an important, if not the key point of collecting is to enjoy the books. I will endeavour to keep them in mint condition, but will have a look through them every now and again. So it was with mixed feelings that I took the knife to this one (actually a little bit of plastic) and opened her up! This means, of course, that in time I will open up my other books and ammend my entries on this blog to include details on opened books, but for now let's focus on this one. I have left the slipcase in shrinkwrap for the moment, but I dare say this may soon change too!

The book was released in the same range as the 1999 Hobbit, 1997 LotR and 2000/2001 HOME set. As is often explained when reading about this set, the books are of varying heights, and I can cofirm that even LotR (which looked in pictures to be a very similar height) has a noticeable difference to the Silmarillion. Quite how this happened is ridiculous, especially considering these were £100 each upon release – no small fee. You would think Harper Collins would have refused any editions that were not the same size as the rest of the set, but clearly not. A read of the fascinating article on the 1963 deluxe slipcased LOTR ( be aware that there can be a myriad of issues surrounding slipcase production, but one would have thought it would have become a little easier in 40 years! The most annoying thing about the difference in heights is that the set becomes less desirable than the separate books which, on their own, look like very fancy one offs. Indeed, most collectors do not seem to place the books next to eachother, opting rather for a height based order rather than edition based.

Quater bound in black leather with a black leather slipcase, the gold gilt work looks stunning. As with the rest of the set, the spine has the Tolkien monogram, title and Harper Collins logo on it. The front of the slipcase, as well as the front cover, has the Silmarillion picture in gold gilt – a lovely touch. Gilded edges make the book stand out further too. When opened for the first time in 8 years, the gilded pages crack and rustle, then swell out like the plume of a pea-cock, which reminds me of the 50th anniversary LOTR US edition which is similar. However, the book fits perfectly back into and out of the slipcase, so those pages behave themselves.

The slipcase itself is strong and sturdier than I imagined it would be, which is a comforting fact. The cloth boards are coarse to the touch, and have that worrying look of boards which would easily get dirtied with dusty fingers. However, they seem strong enough that you could also give them a wipe too with a damp cloth.

The maps, in black and red, look just as good as any, although I half hoped for fold out maps like in the folio edition of this title, which to me are a bit more impressive (especially if still in good condition).

It took me by surprise at first, but in fact is not that bizarre at all, that the pages of this book are not bible paper like the LotR of the series. On normal paper, the Silmarillion (a much shorter book) retains the same sort of size as its big brother (or little brother if you like). This is a clever touch for sure, and partly makes up for the different heights problem.

I paid £75 for this book, an offer which brought it down from £90. It has since popped up and sold in an opened state for around £80 on ebay, so the fact that it was sealed seems a bit of a bargain to me, but admittedly there wasn’t much money saved.

All in all a nice book, and one that I am pleased to have.

1 comment:

  1. I also had the luck to get a sealed edition for a reasonable price.

    Are the gilded edges marking off a little bit of the gold paint if you touch them with your finger too?

    Best reagrds,