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An Illustrated Tolkien Bibliography The Early Publishing History
of The Lord of the Rings

Readers Union Ring and Eye motifWhile the process of writing The Lord of the Rings has been described in detail by Christopher Tolkien in the History of Middle-earth series, less is known of the production and early publishing history of the books.

Some of Tolkien's thoughts and actions are recorded in the selection of his letters that have been published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien and The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, and Wayne Hammond's Tolkien bibliography includes a fairly detailed chronology of events up to the publication of The Return of the King in October 1955, but there is great deal more information that is not so widely available.  This includes Rayner Unwin's account of his relationship with Tolkien in his book George Allen & Unwin: A Remembrancer, and correspondence held in the Allen & Unwin archive at Reading University.

The articles below cover a variety of aspects of the bibliography of The Lord of the Rings and will, when completed, trace the publishing history from Tolkien's attempts to secure the publication of both LotR and The Silmarillion in the early 1950s through to the publication of the Second Edition in the mid-1960s.

Part V - The First Impression of The Return of the King - Updated Dec06 - An illustrated guide showing how to recognise variants of the First Impression of the First Edition.

Part VI - The First Boxed Edition - Updated Aug07 - A guide to the publishing history of the first slipcased edition.

Part VII - The Readers Union Edition - Updated Dec06 - A detailed illustrated account of the publication of the First Book Club Edition.

Part VIII - The First Deluxe Edition - Updated Dec06 - A description of the development of the replacement for the First Boxed Edition.

Part IX - Printing and Binding The Lord of the Rings - Updated Dec07 - An attempt to summarise the number of copies of each impression that were printed and bound, or were exported to the United States.

Part XIV - The Lord of the Rings - A Bibliography - Updated Sept07 - A guide to early three volume editions, including details of impressions numbers and other points of interest.

Part XV - The Lord of the Rings - A Bibliography of Boxed Sets - Updated Oct06 - An illustrated guide to boxed sets issued by Allen and Unwin, including details of the impression numbers that were included in the sets.

Forthcoming

Part I - Who will publish this "Monster"? - An account of Tolkien's attempts to secure the publication of both The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954Part II - The Early Publishing History of The Fellowship of the King - A description of the production of the First Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, including details of variations in the text, dustwrapper and binding, and the number of copies of each impression that were printed and bound, or were exported to the United States.

Part III - The Early Publishing History of The Two Towers - A description of the production of the First Edition of The Two Towers, including details of variations in the text, dustwrapper and binding, and the number of copies of each impression that were printed and bound, or were exported to the United States.

Part IV - The Early Publishing History of The Return of the King - A description of the production of the First Edition of The Return of the King, including details of variations in the text, dustwrapper and binding, and the number of copies of each impression that were printed and bound, or were exported to the United States.

Part X - A Brief Guide to the Houghton Mifflin Edition - An account of Houghton Mifflin's involvement in the publication of LotR, together with an illustrated guide to identifying early printings of the three volumes.

Part XI - Early Translations of The Lord of the Rings - Details of how the translations into Dutch, Swedish and Polish came to be published.

Part XII - The Ace Books Affair - An attempt to piece together the ins and outs of the story of the "Pirate" Edition that lead to the publication of the Revised Edition of LotR.

Part XIII - The Second Edition - An account of the publication of the Revised Edition of The Lord of the Rings and its early reprints.

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