Bidding from 29 November – 12 December.

Lot 373 - J.R.R. Tolkien | The Hobbit, 1938, first American edition, first issue, signed presentation copy, with Tolkien's annotations


The Hobbit or There and Back Again. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1938

SIGNED PRESENTATION COPY, WITH TOLKIEN'S CORRECTIONS AND ANNOTATIONS ON 15 PAGES, first American edition, first issue, 8vo (206 x 151mm.), 4 coloured plates and 9 in-text illustrations by the author, publisher's tan cloth, upper board with title stamped in blue, first issue dust-jacket with publisher's "$2.50" price present on front flap, dust-jacket frayed and with some tears at extremities

The present copy includes all the issue points of a first American edition, first issue, namely the bowing hobbit on the title-page—replaced by a publisher's device for the second issue, probably at Tolkien's suggestion, owing to the conflict against the text's description of hobbits as bare-footed—and the endpaper maps mistakenly bound opposite to the order of the List of Illustrations. Tolkien described the first American edition as "not so bad", though he bemoaned how poorly the Rivendell picture had been reproduced ("spoilt... by slicing the top and cutting out the ornament at the bottom"), adding that "All the numerous textual errors are of course included", since the main texts of the British and American first editions had identical typesetting (quoted in Hammond, Bibliography, p. 20).

The neat pencil corrections in this copy include several of Tolkien's distinctive letterforms (notably his gamma-shaped "y" and v-shaped "w"). Of particular note are the decisive corrections and marginal annotation on page 30, where Tolkien changes Gandalf's reading of the runes on Thror's map so as to accord with Elron's later reading: he alters the phrase "'Five feet high is the door and three abreast may enter it" so as to read "'Five feet high the door and three may walk abreast'", and the accompanying marginal note reads "Cf. p.64 which is correct". Though a subtle textual change, it indicates the scrupulous efforts that Tolkien took to achieve full narrative consistency within his brilliantly realised fantasy world. Indeed, this slight error seems to have been especially bothersome to the author, as he discusses it in a letter to G.E. Selby of 14 December 1937, penned shortly after the publication of the first British edition (Morgan Library, MA 4373). Elsewhere, on page 27, Tolkien changes Gandalf's description of Bilbo from "Excitable little man" to "Excitable little fellow", also changing "more men" to "more of us" on page 294. These corrections follow Arthur Ransome's critique of Tolkien's references to "men" when the text is not referring to Men—though he retains "little boys" on page 117 as an insult to the goblins.

Though the second, amended, American edition was not published until 1951, it is possible that Tolkien's annotations in this copy date from as early as 1938, when the dedicatee of his presentation inscription was an undergraduate historian at Exeter College, Oxford.


Hammond and Anderson A3b


Given by Tolkien to John Gordon Beckwith (1918-1991), Byzantinist and curator in the Department of Architecture and Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum: presentation inscription to preliminary blank

Estimate GBP 10,000 - 15,000
Sold for GBP 82,550 ... obbit-1938-first-american

Lot 374 J.R.R. Tolkien | The Lord of the Rings, London, 1966-1968, inscribed by the author in Elvish


The Lord of the Rings, London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1966-1967

SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR AND INSCRIBED IN ELVISH IN VOLUME 1 ("a star shines on our meeting"), 3 volumes, second edition (vols 2 and 3 second impressions), 8vo (221 x 141 mm.), half-titles, 3 folding maps printed in red and black, original red cloth, spines lettered in gilt, top edges red, original dust-jackets, some light marginal dampstaining in vol.3, dust-jackets lightly soiled and rubbed at extremities, spine ends slightly frayed

[with four related items:] autograph note with a copy of the Elvish inscription, presumably a draft (this item loosely loosely inserted into vol. 1); autograph letter signed ("J.R.R. Tolkien"), to Leslie Megahey, discussing Elvish script, on headed stationary of Hotel Miramar, East Overcliff, Bournemouth, large 8vo, with autograph envelope, 20 February 1968; enclosed retained letter from Leslie Megahey to J.R.R. Tolkien, requesting examples of Elvish script, 14th February 1968; autograph note by J.R.R. Tolkien providing examples of the phrase "Tolkien in Oxford" transliterated and translated into Elvish

A COPY OF LORD OF THE RINGS INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR IN ELVISH ON CAMERA FOR A DOCUMENTARY. Leslie Megahey directed the documentary Tolkien in Oxford, produced by the BBC and originally broadcast on 30 March 1968. The Lord of the Rings was by this time an international phenomenon and the documentary included an extended interview with its donnish author. Tolkien talked about the origin myths of Middle Earth; admitted that the Ring inscription came to him in the bath; and explained that he had invented languages all his life and found it a pleasure in itself, but "I don't desire to go and have an afternoon talking Elvish to chaps. For one thing of course Elvish is too complicated. I've never finished making it." The documentary was shot from the 5th to the 9th of February 1968, with the correspondence between Megahey and Tolkien included in this lot taking place during the following two weeks.

In the accompanying typed letter, Megahey requests from Tolkien an example of the phrase "Tolkien in Oxford" written in Elvish—with the intention of using it during the title sequence of the documentary. Tolkien responded with the autograph letter and examples of Elvish script also included in this lot.

The documentary includes a close-up shot of Tolkien inscribing volume 1 of this copy in Elvish, with the Elvish greeting "a star shines on our meeting", accompanied by Tolkien's verbal commentary: "my writing is very inferior to the Elves'" and "Oh God, I've made a mistake—never mind". The shot even shows the slight smudging of blue ink created by Tolkien's hand as he inscribes the volume. The note loosely inserted into volume 1 features the same Elvish phrase.

LITERATURE: (see 17:56 -18:49 for Tolkien inscribing vol.1 of this copy); Hammond and Anderson: A5.e.i, A5.e.ii, A5.e.iii

Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Leslie Megahey • 20 February 1968 (#1717)
Letter from Leslie Megahey to J.R.R. Tolkien • 14 February 1968 (#1718)

Estimate GBP 60,000 - 80,000
Sold for GBP 95,250 ... -of-the-rings-london-1966

Urulókë wrote:

Noting that this lot was previously sold at Christie's in 2006 for £10,800 ... 4&from=salessummary&lid=1

The Tolkien Society

We had the great honour of hosting Tolkien in Oxford producer Leslie Megahey at our Annual Dinner back in April. Watch as he talks about making the film, and meeting and working with J.R.R. Tolkien.

As the producer of the BBC documentary, Megahey spent two days working and filming with J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien in Oxford was first shown on BBC 2 on 30 March 1968, and is one of the few television shows (and recorded interviews) featuring Tolkien himself.

Although Tolkien confessed in a letter to Donald Swann that he wasn’t entirely happy with the documentary, he did refer to the producer – Megahey – as “a very nice, very young man and personally equipped with some intelligence and insight“.

Please note that large portions of the video have had the audio removed as parts of the speech involved the playing of various clips from Tolkien in Oxford and off-cuts from the shoot. The BBC granted permission to show the footage on the night, but not to be re-broadcast in any form. ... -about-tolkien-in-oxford/