Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Hobbit - 1976 Deluxe Edition - 2nd impression

Here's a book which, just like the Lord of the Rings in the same series, I didn't bother going for a 1st/1st edition in. Whilst those go for £275 on Ebay from time to time, this second impression cost just £30 on Amazon, and was a birthday gift from my wife. Indeed, it's worth checking Amazon as they have many books selling at below-ebay prices.

In the same style as the 1974 issue of the Deluxe Lord of the Rings, this deluxe Hobbit comes packed in a black box with a white paper label on the front. Again, the box is surprisingly delicate and really has little chance of withstanding time or pressure very well, but what it holds inside is what I am really interested in.

The Hobbit has probably THE nicest front cover of any of my books so far - the coloured gilt dragon on the front comes from one of Tolkien's designs and is amazing at catching the light. As the pic shows, there are a couple of marks on the front cover which is a bit annoying (it was in the listing but I thought I would take a risk). The effect they have is like hot wax has been dripped on the front, but I am guessing it's water damage - please leave a comment if you have any tips on how to repair, although I am imagining it's irreparable as the buckram cloth has swollen with the water?

The book is bound in black buckram cloth which makes the gilt work - including the lovely detail on the spine, stand out brilliantly.

Inside there are illustrations by Tolkien, which give the book a nice personal feel as opposed to the artistically brilliant Alan Lee pics. Not saying the pics aren't nice, but they certainly aren't technically as impressive as Lee's, which makes the book feel special. In fact, the pics are by Tolkien but coloured by H.E.Riddett. The interesting thing is that these pics are by the man himself, so give us a fantastic idea of what Tolkien pictured when he was writing.

All in all a nice book - solid and sturdy, with some nice personal pics inside. It now sits inside a custom slip-case along with the Poems and Stories in the same collection, but more of that next time!

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Lord of the Rings - Deluxe Illustrated Edition- 1992

There are three Lord of the Rings sets that are on my ultimate wish-list, and today I can tick one of them off. Yes, after months of hard saving and lay-away payments to the tolkienbookshelf.com, I finally own the 1992 deluxe illustrated Lord of the Rings, which was published to celebrate the centenary of Tolkien's birth in 1892.

There were only 250 of these printed, which makes it far and away my ‘rarest’ and most treasured possession in the collection as yet. To think that these are still in their publisher's shrinkwrap must make them all the rarer, and I really do love the idea that there are (at most) only 249 other people out there with these books. In reality there are probably far less, as some dealers seem to have a few copies, and it may even be that some have been damaged and thrown away.

Originally published at £250, this was never a cheap set. £250 in 1992 is now around £400, so this set would outprice the current Hurin and Sigurd Super Deluxes, and rightly so in my opinion as it is far nicer.

First off, I am delighted in just how dark and rich the green leather is – the set on tolkienbooks.net looks dull and faded, which made me wonder if mine would be similar, but these books are dark and rich in colour. Green is an interesting choice too – it oozes quality and class, reminding me of lamps in American universities and posh stuffed leather chairs in rich old men’s country houses!

It is only 1/4 leather, leaving the rest to cloth. I have to say that I find cloth a difficult binding material, as it is so prone to dirtiness and dust marks. It also grazes easily, and as these are quite a tight fit in the box, I can see that they are likely to scrape each other a bit over time.

Each book is signed and numbered by Alan Lee (mine are no. 66). The writing is smaller than in other signed editions I own, and it would have been nice to see a bit more space allowed, but it's only a small point.

The pages have gold gilt edges, and have ribbon markers too. The gold edges look beautiful, particularly as the pages are thick. It is the 'goldest' of all my gold gilt edge sets!

The price I paid for this set was just over £600, purchased from David at tolkienbookshelf.com. This was a bargain price for which I am very grateful to David. Pretty much every time I have seen these for sale (whether on ebay or abebooks etc) they are ticketed at around £1000, so I am dead happy to have the set for this price. I took advantage of the lay-away scheme, whereby you pay over a number of months, and there was a real sense of satisfaction to earn before I received. It is worth noting at this point that I am paid off for all of my purchases, but something like the super deluxes I bought and paid off later, whereas this one had a real sense of longing to it as I paid a bit each month. I originally planned on a 12 month purchase period, but got there in the end in just about 5 as I took on a whole host of over-time and tutoring at school which allowed me to plough funds in at a faster than planned rate.

The illustrations are, again, the same 50 lovelies from the 1991 Alan Lee illustrated edition. As I hinted at in my last post, it's bizarre to think that the paperback set I won has the same text and pictures in as this one, but that I paid 200 times as much for this set as the last! It raises all sorts of interesting points about value, points which I will now try and address.

For me, this set is value. There are a number of factors which make it so. Its rarity is one, its condition another, the signature a third. However, those can also be mirrored in the single volume blue edition of the same year, but I wouldn't pay £600 for that one. I think what tips the balance for me is the feel of the set in the hand. In three separate editions there is no over-heavy feeling - the book can be handled with ease. This, along with the other three factors, makes it worth its money to me. Bizarre how I paid the same amount for this set as the car I currently drive! I guess it all relates to disposable cash - the £600 was a fisable medium term saving for me, wheras right now the 1964 deluxe, at at least £2000, is not. That isn't to say it's not value too, but for me it isn't worth entertaining the thought of at this moment in time.

All in all a stunning set, and one I am delighted to own.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Lord of the Rings - 1996 Illustrated PB Editions

When I began collecting a few months ago I told myself I wouldn’t be looking for paperbacks; not only are they less sturdy than their thicker cousins, but they are also often much shorter. On my bookshelf I want the books to all look good together, and a puny little short edition isn’t going to achieve that. However, this set piqued my interest, and now sits on my shelf.

This 1996 slipcased set is illustrated by Alan Lee and was published by Harper Collins. It contains the 50 colour illustrations by Lee which first appeared in the 1991 one volume edition. It’s bizarre how I now have a few different books with the same text and same illustrations, but presented so differently (not to mention costing so different a range of prices).

First impressions are good – the box is strong and sturdy, and the soft covers don’t make the books half as flimsy as I imagined they would. The white spines stand out against all of my other books, and the lavish illustrations which cover both sides of the slipcase are very ornamental. Being a three volume set makes it easy to handle, and the pages are shiny and high quality.

The set is 18.5cm high, which is the same as most of my hardback collection. I only know this as I asked the seller on ebay, and I have to say that I would not have picked it up if it was smaller. As it is, it now sits perfectly on book shelf.

Original retail price was £40, but I picked this up for just £3 on ebay (plus postage). This was (in my opinion) largely due to the fact that the picture didn’t make it clear that this was this set, but infact made it look like one of the cheaper, smaller and more common paperback sets out there.

All in all a nice set, and certainly one which doesn’t lose any quality through being paperback.