Printings 1-12 of the HMCO 1st Edition Silmarillion in Hardback w/Jacket

This article is an introduction to Houghton Mifflin Co. and Ballantine first U.S. editions from 1977 through 1998 of The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien, with some assistance from Guy Gavriel Kay. It does not cover second editions from 1999 through the present (where the text was reset and part of Carpenter's Letter 131 was added) or Easton Press editions. This article is to serve as a companion piece to Trotter’s article on UK first edition Silmarillion hardbacks.


Printings 1-12 of the HMCO 1st Edition Silmarillion in Hardback without Jacket

The Silmarillion was first published on the 15th September 1977 and was a huge undertaking by the publishers to meet the expected demand for the book. Here in the United States Houghton Mifflin printed hundreds of thousands of copies for the expected demand.

Uncorrected Proofs

Unlike George Allen & Unwin, Houghton Mifflin Co. did tend to produce and keep around more proofs of their publications, and so these are easier to come by than their UK counterparts. Pictured below are a few photos borrowed from Berelach of a 1st U.S. uncorrected proof. The collector who took these photos is unknown at this time.

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Cover, Title, & Copyright Pages of the Uncorrected Proof

Pre-publication uncorrected proof copy. According to records seen at HMCO these were used and distributed as a quality control check as the first volumes were being printed and prepared for publication. Most copies are issued in a tan colored, un-illustrated card wrapper that bears a strong resemblance to the title page of the published copies with the HMCO logo and ISBN numbers.

Last known sale of one from 2018.

First Edition Hardback

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1st Edition 1st Printing HMCO Silmarillion

Hardcover in dust-jacket, Cover illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien (colored by H.E. Riddett). Published September 15, 1977. 1st Printing: August, 1977 – 325,000 copies. There were 12 print runs total from August through November and the first 4 printings were completed before publication. Multiple printers were used for the 1st Printing. There are two variants (no priority): 1. Page 229 shows loss of text on right edge of type block, 2. Page 229 is undamaged. All 1st Printings have a misprint on page 3 (‘Father Giles‘ for ‘Farmer Giles‘); this was corrected for the 2nd Printing. Also issued as a Book Club Edition. This can be distinguished from the trade edition by having one or more of the following: a blind stamp on the back board, no price on the inside jacket flap, no ISBN on the jacket’s back cover.

Book Club Edition Hardback


Image courtesy of Tolkienbooks.us

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Book Club Edition next to the larger Trade Hardback

1978 Book Club Edition, Hardcover in dust-jacket, Cover illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien (colored by H.E. Riddett). No fold out map, it is printed on the endpapers and is obviously smaller size than the trade hardback and no red top stain. There were 5 printings from 1978 through 1986. Also has a standard book club copyright page with no number line and no ISBN on back cover. Some of the printings have a gutter code and some do not.

Mass Market Paperback Editions

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1979, 1982, & 1984 Ballantine Paperback Editions

3rd Image Courtesy of Urulókë

1979 First U.S. Paperback Edition, 1982 U.S. Paperback Edition 2nd Printing, and 1984 U.S. Paperback Edition 6th Printing. Ballantine Books. Mass market paperback. Cover illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien (colored by H.E. Riddett) on the 1979 and not reprinted. Cover illustration by Darrell K. Sweet on the 1982 & 1984. Only difference between the '82 prints 2 through 5 and the '84 prints 6 onwards is the changing of the text from black to white.

Permabound Editions


Cover Craft Permabound Edition

Image Courtesy of LanceFormation

Printed by Cover Craft for schools and libraries. It is unclear how many were printed.

Trade Paperback Editions

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1983 & 1991 HMCO Paperback Editions

1983 First Trade Paperback U.S. Edition, and 1991 First Trade Paperback U.S. Edition 2nd Printing. Houghton Mifflin Co. Trade paperback. Cover design for 1983 based on artwork by J.R.R. Tolkien and not reprinted. With the 1991 2nd through 13th prints, the cover art was completely changed with different artwork by Tolkien used with Tolkien's bird design taking the place of the heraldic device.

Illustrated Edition

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1st Edition HMCO Hardback Illustrated Silmarillion w/ a hand drawn illustration by Ted Nasmith and a custom black slipcase

1st U.S. Illustrated Edition. Houghton Mifflin Co. Hardback in Dust Jacket. Illustrated by Ted Nasmith. Printed October 1998, not reprinted. The Realms of the Noldor and the Sindar map is located on the last integral page. The Map of Beleriand and the Lands to the North colored by H.E. Riddett and appears on both endpapers. Also includes twenty color illustrations by Ted Nasmith.


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Signed 1st Edition HMCO Hardback Silmarillion

Images Courtesy of LanceFormation

In the Summer of 1987 Christopher Tolkien traveled to Wisconsin in the United States, as he was the Guest of Honor at the Mythopoeic Society convention (Mythcon) at Marquette University that year. He did sign many items that participants brought to the convention and this was the only time that Christopher was in the USA to sign HMCO Tolkien books.


US Silmarillions are very easy to collect as many were printed and dealers struggled to sell them in the early years after publication. It’s actually more difficult to find the trade paperbacks and book club editions as fewer of these were printed.

For more information

1. J.R.R. Tolkien A Descriptive Bibliography - Wayne G. Hammond with the assistance of Douglas A. Anderson (Oak Knoll)
2. Berelach’s site Tolkienbooks.us

TCG Silmarillion Articles