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The first printing of the Greek Silmarillion

26 Mar, 2023
2023-3-26 6:39:27 PM UTC

Among other things I collect first printings of the Silmarillion in different languages. Some of these are easy to find, some less so and some are very difficult to track down. Examples of the latter would be the first Hebrew Silmarillion (hardback) and the first Icelandic Silmarillion.

One that I have been having difficulties tracking down is the first printing of the Greek Silmarillion from 1996. What I usually do is use google translate to find the title in the language I am looking for. In the case of Greek this would then be ‘TO ΣIΛMAPIΛΛION’. This would be the title in the language and the alphabet that I used for searching along with keywords/key phrases like ‘first edition’, ‘first printing’, ‘aiolos 1996’ (publisher and year of first printing), ‘Evgenia Hatzithanasi-Kollia’ (the translator), ‘used book store’, ‘antique bookstore’. Using these search parameters in google I found a number of copies in used bookstores around Greece as well as local Greek variants of ‘ebay’. I also found a couple of sellers on amazon.

I am not sure how many sellers I have been going back and forth with to get pictures of the book and the copyright page as well as help with translating the copyright page, but there have been quite a few over the past couple of years. No one had the first printing, even sellers who believed this was what they had. Upon closer inspection they all had the second or later printings of the first Greek edition. This doesn’t mean the search was all in vain. On the contrary I’ve met helpful booklovers and had many great exchanges. My favourite would be the old owner of a bookstore on Rhodes that loved discussing all things Tolkien and not only told me about how reading the Silmarillion had changed how he looks at the Sea, but who was also the first to tell me about the Greek translator of the Silmarillion, Evgenia Kollia. An English teacher educated at the University of Athens School of Philosophy, Department of English Language and Literature. Kollia was introduced to Tolkien by a copy of the lord of the rings left by a tourist, and she contacted the Greek publisher herself offering to make a Greek translation. Meeting all the friendly, helpful people from all around the world that share our love of Tolkien and books really is the best part of our hobby for me.

The first Greek printing was nowhere to be found though. I was considering asking the brilliant Spiros Gelekas for help but first I made a desperate plea on the Facebook page of the Greek Tolkien society. The people there told me that the first printing is like later printings: the cover has John Howes ‘Ulmo rises from the Sea’, but that it’s pretty much impossible to find for sale. One member did however say that they had a good relationship with the Greek publisher Aiolos and that I might send a request to them. That is exactly what I did and my big stroke of luck was that I got in contact with someone at Aiolos who loves Tolkien and who thought my quest was fun to help out with. He could immediately tell me why the first Greek printing is ‘missing in action’: 1) the number of copies printed was very small because they were unsure of how much interest there would be for a Greek edition of The Silmarillion and 2) the Tolkien Estate got in contact with Aiolos and told them they had to change the cover. By some mistake they had used John Howes ‘Gandalf the grey’ on the cover and this was not ok for the Silmarillion! Needless to say I got very excited hearing this as all the pictures I had seen of the Greek first edition had had ‘Ulmo rises from the sea’ on the cover. I got my new friend at Aiolos to venture down into their archives to find a copy and photograph it. He not only brought back a picture of the book, but also the news that while they have a policy of a minimum of 2 archive copies, they had 3 copies of this book and he would ask if they could sell me the third copy. Long story short, they sold me their spare copy and now it has finally arrived in Norway. A Silmarillion with Gandalf the Grey on the cover. I know no other Silmarillion edition with Gandalf on the cover. Here is a picture of something of a rarity: the first printing of ‘TO ΣIΛMAPIΛΛION’, as published by Aiolos in 1996, translated by the eager Evgenia Hatzithanasi-Kollia.

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26 Mar, 2023
2023-3-26 6:49:58 PM UTC
Thats an amazing story Frode, and really thrilling to read !
Love it
Congratulations for this very rare find ! Amazing to see JH's Gandalf on a Silmarillion's cover!
26 Mar, 2023
2023-3-26 7:16:18 PM UTC
Brilliant quest, and enjoyable reading! Quite a strange cover!
Congrats, Frode!
26 Mar, 2023
2023-3-26 8:18:05 PM UTC
Great story northman, I guess the Greek publishers hadn't read the book?
27 Mar, 2023
2023-3-27 3:44:28 AM UTC
Wow. What a great story and an amazing acquisition. Congrats!
27 Mar, 2023
2023-3-27 6:43:54 AM UTC
Great story and being in Greece myself close to home
interesting and not surprised the Greek people so helpful ???
27 Mar, 2023
2023-3-27 8:09:30 AM UTC
An exciting quest, northman !
Thank you for this inspiring story
27 Mar, 2023
2023-3-27 1:55:12 PM UTC
Thank you for a really interesting tale and congratulations on finding such a rarity! That was some fine detective work
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