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30 Dec, 2008
2008/12/30 4:28:27 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
In the Descriptive Bibliography entry for the 1982 Silmarillion (A15h) I stated that “Allen & Unwin do not seem to have bound all 1,000 sets of sheets, and some originally unsigned copies were later converted to signed copies. All 100 signed copies appear to have been sold.” This is accurate, but was condensed, to a comfortable level of certainty, from more elaborate data in Allen & Unwin records which had passed to HarperCollins.

It appears that originally 170 copies were bound, numbered 1-70 (signed by Christopher Tolkien) and 101-200. The edition did not sell as well as Allen & Unwin hoped, but there was enough interest (or the publisher anticipated enough interest) that additional copies were bound beyond these 170. Also, there was enough demand for signed copies that some originally meant to be unsigned, i.e. numbered higher than 100, were converted. Just how this was done isn’t clear, and depends on whether those copies numbered 1-100 all have the statement of limitation, with Christopher’s signature, on a separate leaf inserted following the first integral (blank) leaf, or whether some of those low-numbered copies have the numbered and signed statement on a plate (identical to the separate leaf, except without the signature and trimmed) pasted on the recto of the front free endpaper.

When I wrote the Bibliography, Christina and I were not yet married and our Tolkien collections had an ocean between them, so I had never seen my signed copy (no. 9) next to her unsigned copy (no. 134), and didn’t know that although mine has a statement of limitation on a separate inserted leaf -- which I mistakenly assumed was true of all copies, signed and unsigned -- Christina’s has a limitation plate pasted onto the front endpaper. I would be interested to know if anyone who has a signed copy has the signature on one of the pasted-on plates rather than on a separate leaf, and what the copy number is.

I assume, because it would have been the most efficient way, that the separate limitation leaves were signed by Christopher before they were bound into the printed book. The signed copies in fact were available (I had to wait for the one I ordered) after the unsigned copies were put on sale, and I heard that the former were delayed at the bindery -- probably, I’ve thought, because of the extra step of inserting the extra leaf, though it could also be that Christopher took longer than expected to produce a hundred signatures. But were the unsigned limitation plates pasted into copies 101+ at the bindery, or left loose to be pasted in as copies were needed for sale? If they were pasted in, how were unsigned copies converted? Those big plates couldn’t be soaked out without damage to the free endpaper. Were the free endpapers, with pasted-in plates, excised and a replacement endpaper inserted on a stub, while one of the separate limitation leaves with Christopher’s signature was tipped in? Were signed limitation leaves cut down to plate size and pasted over existing plates?

Different possibilities occur to me, but from the Allen & Unwin records it seems certain at least that each of the unsigned copies had a number assigned to it. There seems to have been no rhyme or reason in the selection of copies originally meant to be unsigned for conversion to signed copies, perhaps a random picking from stock. No. 99 was designated as signed all by itself, possibly by special request. Copies 245, 248, 265, 273, and 281 became nos. 71-75, nos. 290-299 became nos. 76-85, and fourteen other copies, again mostly not in sequence, became 86-98 and 100.

The record is fairly clear that all 100 signed copies were sold. Since copies are known to have been available numbered as high as 299, this suggests that maybe 270 were bound up (1-70 + 99 + 101-200 + 201-299), assuming that there was no break in the original numbering after 200. Unfortunately, the Allen & Unwin files did not include sales figures. It’s conceivable that there were unsold copies of the unsigned version, which themselves may have been discarded, and bound copies left deliberately unnumbered (out of series) for distribution to Allen & Unwin officials, friends of the firm, etc. A file note of 4 March 1988 says that 700 sets of sheets were still held at that time, thus (allowing that this may be a rounded figure) 300 sets were used for binding or lost to waste. The question was asked whether these 700 sets should be pulped, and since there was no reply recorded, in the absence of any further indication of binding one could assume that the unbound sheets were indeed pulped -- although a more economical solution would have been to bind up the excess sheets as standard trade copies the next time a new supply was needed.

30 Dec, 2008
2008/12/30 9:01:00 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
Many thanks for this, Wayne - fascinating information.

- wellinghall
31 Dec, 2008
2008/12/31 6:29:02 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
Thanks, Wayne. Your research is simply outstanding. Sometimes I just can't believe the details that you (and Christina, of course) dig up.

I guess that's all that needs said about why the book is more valuable than the 87 Super Hobbit. I am still not sure about $2400 pricing, but I suppose if someone is willing to pay that much, then it is worth that much. Such is the free market.
Seller: arsfugit
Ends 2023/10/12 21:29:43
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