Monday, 8 November 2010

The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings illustrated box-set - 2000

For me, the Tolkien publishing history got particularly interesting when Harper Collins took over in 1991; not only does the introduction of Alan Lee's illustrative work add a sense of beauty, but the whole look is something I find quite satisfying. Indeed, the classic one volume LOTR illustrated by Lee, and the accompanying Hobbit, are two books I have liked for a long time. However, I vowed not to buy them as previous copies I owned suffered from leaning spines and crumpled dustwrappers (as much my own laziness in ownership as a 'fault' of the books themselves). Well, imagine my surprise and delight when I happened upon this little set on a boxed version of the editions! From that point on I was destined to own one, and little did anyone know in a recent ebay auction that I was willing to bid sky high to pick these up!

Released in 2000, this box-set is a bizarre release in that it simply took old editions of the book (1997 Hobbit and 1991 LOTR) and released them in this format. The reasoning behind this I don't know - did it have anything to do with the soon to be released Fellowship of the Ring film? Whatever the reason, it really is a lovely set.

First off the box: with full colour illustrations on front and back (taken from the covers of the books inside), and deep black on top, bottom and spine, the box looks majestic and luxurious - the gold lettering doing nothing to hinder this look too. The box is not particularly sturdy, as may be expected for something of this size, but it serves its purpose. It has a little cardboard insert inside to offset the much deeper Hobbit, thus making both seem the same size when placed within the box.

The Hobbit is the 1997 edition,7th impression, released to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the book. The dustwrapper was modified to match The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion illustrated editions. Most of the changes were to the text on the spine, but small changes were also made to the runic border.This one also features a price on the inner flap (£25) which is an indication that you own a later, modified edition. I much prefer this, as I once owned the older one and it just didn't seem to sit right next to the 1991 LOTR. These days, as a 'serious' collector, I would welcome the differences, but back then it just made no sense to me! With 22 full colour pictures, and a further 38 in pencil, it really is well illustrated by Alan Lee (more on that later).

The Lord of the Rings is the 1991 edition, 21st impression, produced to commemorate the centenerary of Tolkien's birth. The dustwrapper is distinctive to some others as it has the title in a black oval shape; a design introduced during the 11th impression. There are 50 full colour illustrations inside from Alan Lee, and you can't help but think how clearly his ideas impacted the soon to be released Peter Jackson movies. They truly are wonderful pictures, and much pleasure can be had through simply flicking through them from time to time. The full colour pictures are watercolours, and each one has clearly had much time and thought put into it.

Both books are printed on glossy, shiny paper. This makes them very easy to finger, but I can't help but think it also gives them the feel of a magazine or other somehow 'cheap' publication. At a published price of £75 for the set when released, it was never meant to be a particularly luxurious release, but I think the paper choice could have been better. It makes the illustrations look good, but the text filled pages a tad cheap in my view.

I paid £38 for my set on ebay, although I acquired a £10 refund due to the fact that the seller had imprinted my name and address onto the front of the box when he wrote it through the packing paper (the indentation is clear when it catches the light), so for £28 including delivery, I think this is a wonderful purchase. Because of its bulk I believe it would be hard to keep it from getting bumped or marked, and the glossy box does seem like it would be prone to highlighting any knock or scrape.Likewise the books are a tight fit into the box, so the tops and bottoms of the dustwrappers are a little crinkled. However, those pictures make the value alone, and it is certainly the best illustrated set I have yet seen. Not so much a standard reading set (for which I prefer the feel and thickness of paper on the folio sets), but certainly a great 'viewing' set to enjoy the pictures in.

No comments:

Post a Comment