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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Bonhams Sells First Edition of The Hobbit For World Record Breaking £60,000

A very rare 1937 first issue of the first edition of J R R Tolkien’s much-loved classic The Hobbit was sold today (18 March) by international fine art auctioneers Bonhams in London for a staggering £60,000 – twice its pre-sale estimate and a new world record price at auction for an inscribed copy of the book.

hobbit.jpgThe first edition, which was inscribed by the author to his friend Elaine Griffiths was bought on the telephone by a bidder who wishes to remain anonymous.

The Hobbit is Tolkien’s most successful book. It established his name as an author and is a prequel to the longer novel “The Lord of the Rings”.

It was written for Tolkien’s children but his friend Elain thought so highly of the typescript that she suggested it be read by Susan Dagnall at George Allen and Unwin, who then published the book for the first time. It is illustrated with many black and white drawings penned by Tolkien himself.

The story follows the hobbit Bilbo Baggins in his perilous quest to reclaim the treasures taken from him by the dragon Smaug. From the moment of publication the book was an instant success; the mere 1,500 copies of the first edition selling out within a couple of months. It has since sold over 100 million copies and has been voted the most significant children’s book of the century by the Library Association. There are also reports that a film of The Hobbit will be released in 2010.

Also included in the sale was the first foreign language edition of The Hobbit, translated into Swedish in 1947, which fetched £1,560. It had been expected to sell for £400-800. Again, this book was inscribed by Tolkien to Elaine Griffiths. The Hobbit has since been translated into nearly 50 different languages.

Another exceptional and poignant item in the sale was the last known photograph of Tolkien, taken by his grandson Michael on August 9th 1973. The photograph, expected to fetch £400-600 sold for £864. It shows the author in the Oxford Botanical Gardens leaning against his favourite tree, the Black Pine he named Laocoon. It was a gift to Elaine Griffiths from Tolkien’s daughter Priscilla, who wrote on the back “For Elaine with love from Priscilla”.