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Identifying the impression number of ROTK HMCO 1st

2 Feb, 2023
2023-2-2 3:14:01 PM UTC

Hi all,

I'm looking for some guidance...I've just got hold of a 1st edition ROTK published by HMCO, and it is entirely lacking any date information (title page and copyright page).

Going by the very helpful detail on, it looks like this means I have either a 4th or a 5th impression. So my question is - is there an easy way to determine which it is?

And by easy I guess I mean other than getting hold of the Steven Frisby article from The Tolkien Collector

2 Feb, 2023 (edited)
2023-2-2 3:54:27 PM UTC
Very difficult to tell these apart as they are almost identical in every way. There are some subtle hints, that I have seen through trial and error and are by no means definitive. The '58 corresponds directly with the GA&U 4th Print which HMCO imported 1000 sheets, in December 1958, these copies were converted to Houghton Mifflin copies by use of a cancel fold. The '59 corresponds to the GA&U 5th print which again HMCO imported 1000 sheets, and In February 1960, these copies were converted to Houghton Mifflin copies by use what was probably? (not sure) a 4-page cancel fold.

I have included two auctions with images of what is believed to be 4th and 5th prints, notice the bindings are slightly different textured. You could compare yours with these and that might solve your puzzle. At least would be a start Without the Tolkien Collector Vol. 22, it's a lot of guesswork. 4th print (most likely) 5th print (most likely)

Hope this helps.
2 Feb, 2023
2023-2-2 8:33:49 PM UTC
Thank you! The binding on mine looks more like the (probable) fourth.

I'm looking at some scans of pages of known fourth and fifth impressions by GA&U, which I've been able to find from other auctions. I need to do some more work but there might be some nicks or splodges in the text that I can cross-reference ?
3 Feb, 2023
2023-2-3 12:34:58 PM UTC
...and not that it has anything to do with the impression number, but I couldn't help noticing that this HMCO ROTK seemed quite heavy. In fact it's c. 110 grams heavier (c. 18%!) than my 1st/2nd GA&U ROTK - no idea if that's down to the weight of the paper, or the boards, or a combination.

The only other comparison I can run is between a HMCO TT 1st/3rd and a GA&U TT 1st/2nd, and there the difference is negligible (only a few grams).
30 Mar, 2023
2023-3-30 4:30:55 AM UTC
So I completely missed this before, but just noticed that this ROTK HMCO 1st states on the title verso that it was printed in the USA (indicating an 11th impression or later) even though it lacks any statement of impression or year (indicating a 4th or 5th impression).

I would strongly suppose that the fact of the statement about US printing is more telling - but the above conflict seems like something of an anonaly. Does anyone have any insight into which impression this might actually be?

5570_642510917b688.jpg 4000X3000 px
30 Mar, 2023
2023-3-30 4:39:52 AM UTC
Interesting! Can you provide photos of the complete front (recto) and back (verso) of your title page? Also, this may be hard to get a photo of, but can you check if your title page is a cancel leaf (meaning, the publisher cut out the original page, leaving a very short stub of paper in the gutter, and then glued a new title page to that stub)?
30 Mar, 2023
2023-3-30 7:58:55 AM UTC
Here they are.

I can't see or feel any indication of a cancel leaf (doesn't mean it's not there of course!) - I've included a photo.

From a little bit of searching online, I could see some pictures of 11th and 13th impressions where the impression is stated on the verso - but I couldn't find any of a 12th.

5570_6425409fb90c9.jpg 4000X3000 px

5570_642540aa695d2.jpg 4000X3000 px

5570_642540b1914ed.jpg 4000X3000 px
31 Mar, 2023
2023-3-31 5:40:34 AM UTC
Here's a 12th. That's a really strange one you've got there.

4451_6426724e0d904.png 903X500 px
31 Mar, 2023
2023-3-31 7:38:21 AM UTC
Thank you - yes it seems like a real oddity.

I bought it from a bookseller (no pictures) who provided a perfectly accurate (as it turns out!) description of the fact that it had no statement of age nor impression, but with a DJ priced at $5.95 - so I assumed it was a 4th or 5th with a later DJ. So this was quite an unforeseen outcome
1 Apr, 2023
2023-4-1 9:46:16 AM UTC
P.S. I'm putting this up for sale in the Facebook group as I've just bought a first impression and my (sadly limited) shelf space doesn't warrant two HMCO first editions!
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