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An Illustrated Tolkien Bibliography Printing and Binding
The Lord of the Rings

The Fellowship of the Ring - 1953 Proof CopyIntroduction
Information Source I: Wayne G. Hammond
Information Source II: Rayner Unwin
Information Source III: The A&U Archive
Printing & Binding History
   - The Fellowship of the Ring
   - The Two Towers
   - The Return of the King
Summaries
   - By Impression
   - By Date
Postscript
References

Introduction
Although Tolkien had largely completed The Lord of the Rings by 1949, it was not until late in 1952 that Allen & Unwin were able to assess the manuscript. After obtaining composition and printing estimates from Unwin Brothers and Jarrold & Sons, Rayner Unwin informed his father that he thought it was a work of genius, but that, if published, it might lose the company a thousand pounds.  Fortunately the book buying public were in agreement with Rayner and the three volumes sold steadily, but not spectacularly, until the mid-1960s when interest in Middle-earth blossomed and sales soared.

In the absence of the present study, very little information regarding the number of books printed and sold is available.  The little that is known has been reported in books by Wayne G. Hammond and Rayner Unwin and relates, in the main, to the first impression of each book in the "trilogy".  The figures supplied are given below, together with more detailed numbers determined using correspondence and publishing ledgers held in the Allen & Unwin archive at Reading University.

Information Source I:  Wayne G. Hammond
The conventional view of the size of the first impression print runs is set out in J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography by Wayne G. Hammond.  It states:

Impression/
Date Published
Total Printed Allen & Unwin
Copies
HM* Copies
Exported
The Fellowship of the Ring First Impression July 1954 4,500 3,000 1,500
The Two Towers First Impression November 1954 4,250 3,250 1,000
The Return of the King First Impression October 1955 12,000 7,000 5,000

* HM = Houghton Mifflin

Information Source II:  Rayner Unwin
According to Rayner Unwin’s account of the later history of A&U, given in George Allen & Unwin: A Remembrancer, selling part of the print run to an American publisher was common practice, and gaining such an order would underwrite most of A&U's own manufacturing costs.  The figures given above are contradicted by Rayner's account, which suggests that the figures quoted for A&U are in fact the total number printed, i.e. they include the sets of sheets exported to the United States for use by Houghton Mifflin.  The figures reported by Rayner breakdown as:

Impression/
Date Published
Total Printed Allen & Unwin
Copies
HM Copies
Exported
The Fellowship of the Ring First Impression July 1954 3,000 1,500 1,500
The Two Towers First Impression November 1954 3,250 1,750 1,500
The Return of the King First Impression October 1955 7,000 Not given Not given

 
Information Source III:  The Allen & Unwin Archive
The A&U Archive is part of the British Publishing section of the Reading University Library Special Collections.  The bulk of the archive consists of around 1,300 boxes of correspondence, covering the period 1914-1968, containing letters to and from authors, agents, publishers, booksellers, individual book buyers, binders, paper suppliers, advertisers, printers etc.  This is complemented by manuscript books listing manuscripts received (1914-1972), twenty one publishing journals and ledgers (1917-1957) and a host of other records.  The correspondence has been catalogued and can be searched using Unicorn, the library's online information system.  The other materials are detailed in a typed handlist.  Further information can be found on the Reading University website and in Brian Ryder, 'The George Allen & Unwin Collection: Reading University Library', Publishing History v.47 (2000), pp.67-78.

Publishing Ledgers 109 and 110 include details of the production and promotion costs, and the sales and stock figures for The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.  They give the following figures, which, in general terms, agree with those given by Wayne G. Hammond:

Impression/
Date Published
Total Printed Allen & Unwin
Copies
HM Copies
Exported
The Fellowship of the Ring First Impression July 1954 4,550 (4,548) 2,998 1,550
The Two Towers First Impression November 1954 4,250 (4,334) 3,294 1,040
The Return of the King First Impression October 1955 12,000 (12,160) 7,160 5,000

[It was common practice for the printer to produce more sets of sheets than is ordered by the publisher to compensate for spoilage during the production process.  This often means that more bound copies are produced than were originally ordered.  The figures above for Total Printed give the number ordered, followed by the sum of the exported and the bound copies in brackets.]

Printing and Binding History
The correspondence and ledgers in the A&U archive include a wealth of further information.  Analysis of this has made it possible to determine the dates when each impression was first available, the number of copies printed and bound, and the number of copies exported to the United States for publication by Houghton Mifflin.

Where there is some uncertainty about quantities or dates this is denoted by an asterisk (*).  Differences between the Stated Date and the Date First Available occur because the publisher had to estimate when the printing and binding would be completed.  Unforeseen problems sometimes meant that the completion of the binding slipped into the following month.

In most cases the A&U copies were bound in batches, usually two or three per impression.  There were a number of reasons for this:

  • If all of the copies were bound at the same time then the costs of binding all had to be paid at the same time.  By spreading the binding over a period, say a year, the costs were also spread.
  • Should demand for the book decline then there was relatively little value tied up in the unbound flat sheets (essentially just the cost of the paper), whereas if the books had been bound then costs involved were much more substantial.  For instance, for the 1st Impression of The Fellowship of the Ring, the costs were £152 for printing, £273 for paper and £237 for binding of the A&U copies.
  • Bound copes, especially the dustwrappers, are more susceptible to damage than unbound flat sheets.

The method used to produce the Houghton Mifflin copies varied depending on circumstances prevailing at the time.  For earlier impressions, when Houghton Mifflin were able to indicate their needs in advance, they were printed with the Houghton Mifflin imprint on the title page, while for some of the later impressions a joint A&U/HM imprint was used.  When Houghton Mifflin were unable to place an order prior to printing, A&U copies were 'converted' to Houghton Mifflin copies by use of a cancel title leaf or fold.  This is indicated below by a double asterisk (**).  For further information see the notes following the tables.

Readers may notice small differences between the total printed and the sum of the A&U and Houghton Mifflin copies.  This is one of the many problems encountered when working with the A&U records.  The differences are due, in the main, to the printer compensating for spoilage during binding by printing more sets of sheets than were ordered.  While most of the printing work was completed by Jarrold & Sons, five impressions of The Fellowship of the Ring were printed by Purnell & Sons as indicated below.  [N.B. K&W = Key & Whiting Ltd (Bookbinders)]

The Fellowship of the Ring

Impression/
Stated Date

Date First Available

Total Printed

Allen & Unwin
Copies Bound

Houghton Mifflin
Copies Exported

Galley Proofs
Not Dated?
July 1953 4 4 Unbound* None
Page Proofs
1953
September 1953 35* 35 Bound by Jarrold - September 1953 None
Travellers' Samples 1953 September 1953 14* 14 Bound by Jarrold - September 1953 None
Advance Copies July 1954 June 1954 12 12 bound by Jarrold - June 1954* None
Paperbound Copies July 1954 June 1954 20 20 bound by Jarrold - June 1954* None
1st Impression
July 1954
July 1954 4,550 2,502 bound by Jarrold - July 1954
496 bound by K&W - September 1954
1,550 - July 1954*
2nd Impression
December 1954
December 1954 2,640 1,000 bound by K&W - December 1954
1,675 bound by K&W - December 1954
None
3rd Impression
January 1955
January 1955 3,470  
 
 
497 bound by K&W - September 1955
500 - January 1955
500 - April 1955**
2,000 - June 1955 **
4th Impression
November 1955
December 1955 3,500 (Purnell) 2,512 bound by Purnell - December 1955
500 bound by Purnell - February 1956
500 - December 1955
5th Impression
February 1956
March 1956 3,500 2,005 bound by Jarrold - March 1956
1,000 bound by Jarrold - November 1956
500 - March 1956
6th Impression
December 1956
January 1957 3,500 (Purnell) 1,500 bound by Purnell - January 1957
1,500 bound by Purnell - April 1957
500 bound by Purnell - September 1957
None
7th Impression
October 1957
November 1957 5,160 (Purnell) 2,000 bound by Purnell - November 1957
1,000 bound by Purnell - April 1958*
1,000 bound by Purnell - August 1958*
1,000 - November 1957
8th Impression 1959 January 1959 5,000 (Purnell) 1,500* bound by Purnell - January 1959
1,500* bound by Purnell - September 1959
500 bound by Purnell - April 1960
1,500 - January 1959
9th Impression 1960 April 1960 7,500 (Purnell) 3,036 Readers Union - April 1960
770* bound by Purnell - April 1960
2,194* bound by Purnell - July 1960*
1,500 - April 1960
10th Impression 1961 January 1961 4,785 1,000* bound by Jarrold - January 1961
1,650 bound by Jarrold - May 1961
1,135 bound by Jarrold - January 1962
1,000* - January 1961*
11th Impression 1961 August 1961 4,400


2,000 bound by Jarrold - October 1961
1,400 bound by Jarrold - January 1962

1,000 - August 1961
12th Impression 1962 May 1962 10,000* 3,500* bound by Jarrold - May 1962
 
4,368 bound by Jarrold - May 1963
1,000 - June 1962
1,500 - February 1963
13th Impression 1963 September 1963 10,000 4,020 bound by Jarrold - September 1963
2,012 bound by Jarrold - October 1964*
1,000 Deluxe Edition - November 1964
3,000 - September 1963
14th Impression 1965 January 1965 10,000 2,499 bound by Jarrold - January 1965
4,000* bound by Jarrold - April 1965
2,000 bound by Jarrold - December 1965
1,500* bound by Jarrold - March 1966
None
15th Impression 1966 May 1966 4,000 4,000* bound by Jarrold - May 1966 None

Notes - The Fellowship of the Ring
Galley Proofs - Four sets of sheets were sent out by Jarrolds in a piecemeal fashion commencing on or about 30 June 1953, presumably in an unbound state.  The final galleys were sent out no later than 19 July.

Page Proofs - The quoted figure of 35 copies is not certain.  27 copies were returned to Jarrolds for perfection of a binding error on 28 September 1953.  On the following day, one of the copies without the fault was sent to Tolkien.  The figure of 35 has been assumed because that was the number produced for The Return of the King - publishers are creatures of habit!

Travellers' Samples - Printed (and presumably bound) at the same time as the page proofs, these samples consist of the first two signatures of a book bound up for use by the publisher's sales representatives.  While there is no direct evidence that any were produced for The Fellowship of the Ring, it does appear to have been common practice to do so.  The figure of 14 was chosen as this was the quantity produced for both Beowulf and the Finnesburg Fragment and Farmer Giles of Ham.

Advance Copies - Sent out by Jarrolds on 11 June 1954.  The endpapers were white rather than cream-coloured, as is usual with most copies of this book.  It is unclear whether any of the bulk supplies also had white endpapers, but as Jarrolds would not have known that the endpapers must be cream-coloured until 14 June 1954, and by 8 July the 2,500 copies had "been bound for a few weeks", it seems possible that they had begun binding before they received the instruction.  The advance copies were probably wrapped in a proof version of the dustwrapper, which included two errors in the text on the lower cover.

Paperbound Copies - These were identical to the First Impression, but bound in paper wrappers rather than the usual red cloth covered binding case.  Jarrolds despatched them to A&U on 22 June 1954.

Publishing details from a 1953 proof copy of The Fellowship of the Ring

1st Impression - Twelve of the Houghton Mifflin copies were despatched by air in June 1954 for use as advance copies, while the remaining 1,538 copies were shipped by sea in July 1954.

3rd Impression - The January 1955 batch of Houghton Mifflin copies included a Houghton Mifflin title page as printed, and lacked any A&U device or colophon.  The remaining 3,000 sets of sheets all bore the A&U imprint.  In April 1955, 500 copies were converted to Houghton Mifflin copies by use of a cancel title.  The correspondence indicates that this was a 4-page affair to replace the title page, title verso and pages 29-30, and was printed on Art Laid paper.  However, Steven M. Frisby's study of the Houghton Mifflin Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring (see References) suggests that a cancel title leaf was used - attached to the stub of the original title page.  Analysis of the quantity of paper used for the printing supports the use of the 4-page cancel indicated by the correspondence, but it may be that only the title page was inserted when Unwin Brothers bound together the sheets.  In June 1955, a further 2,000 copies were converted using the cancel titles, this time printed on Drury Antique Wove paper.  A figure of 1,000 copies is recorded in Publishing Ledger 109, but this appears to be an error caused by the official order for 1,000 copies being amended to 2,000 copies in a subsequent letter.

7th Impression - The date given for the second binding (April 1958) is an estimate based on the number bound in 1957. The date for the third binding (August 1958) is based on an invoice for binding issued in that month.

8th Impression - The number of copies produced by the first and second bindings is unclear, but they totalled 3,000 copies.  A quantity of 1,500 copies has been indicated for the first binding to tie in with the corresponding binding for The Return of the King.  The quantity for the second binding was then derived by calculation.

9th Impression - The first binding order was actually for 1,500 copies, but for some unknown reason only 770 copies appear to have been produced.  A subsequent binding order was placed on 9 June 1960 for 2,194 copies.  When this was completed is uncertain, but by 25 August it had "been ready for sometime" and more than one delivery had been taken from it.

Proof version of the Ring verse in a 1953 proof copy of The Fellowship of the Ring

10th Impression - On 30 August 1960 A&U asked Houghton Mifflin to indicate their requirements for the forthcoming reprint.  There is no record of the response but copies of the 10th Impression have been seen in a Houghton Mifflin binding.  2,000 copies are not accounted for in the records, so an even split between A&U and Houghton Mifflin has been assumed.

12th Impression - A total print quantity of 10,000 copies has been assumed, matching that of the 1962 Impression of The Return of the King.  The figure of 3,500 copies for the first binding was calculated by subtracting the 2,500 copies for Houghton Mifflin and the second binding order of 4,368 copies (including overs and waste) from the 10,000 total print run - assuming that the 368 copies were the overs produced.

13th Impression - There is no indication in the records of when the second binding order was completed, but the first deliveries were taken from it in October 1964.  It is unlikely that the books were bound before March 1964, because at this time A&U were planning to use some of the existing sheets for the Deluxe Edition.

14th Impression - The quantity of 4,000 copies produced by the second binding order is an assumption based on the fact that the first binding orders for both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers were for 2,500 copies and the second binding order for The Two Towers was for 4,000 copies.  The figure for the fourth binding order was then derived by calculation.

15th Impression - Only one binding order is recorded for the 15th Impression, so presumably the entire print run of 4,000 copies was bound at this time.

The Two Towers

Impression/
Stated Date

Date First Available

Total Printed

Allen & Unwin
Copies Bound

Houghton Mifflin
Copies Exported

Galley Proofs
Not Dated?
November 1953 4 4 Unbound* None
Page Proofs
1954
March 1954 35* 35 Bound by Jarrold - March 1954 None
Travellers' Samples 1954 March 1954 14* 14 bound by Jarrold - March 1954 None
Advance Copies
1954
September 1954 12 12 bound by Jarrold - September 1955 None
1st Impression
1954
November 1954 4,250 1,997 bound by Jarrold - November 1954
1,297 bound by K&W - December 1954
1,040 - November 1954
2nd Impression
1955
January 1955 3,000 800 bound by K&W - January 1955
1,002 bound by K&W - March 1955
 
 
1,210 - June 1955 **
3rd Impression
1955
July 1955 4,750  
999 bound by K&W - September 1955
1,000 bound by K&W - December 1955
400 bound by K&W - January 1956
670 bound by K&W - March 1956
800 - July 1955
1,000 - September 1955**
4th Impression
1956
June 1956 4,000 2,007 bound by Jarrold - June 1956
1,000 bound by K&W - December 1956
1,022 bound by K&W - March 1957
None
5th Impression
1957
July 1957 5,260  
2,500 bound by Jarrold - September 1957
1,001 bound by Jarrold - July 1958
750 bound by Jarrold - December 1958
1,000 - July 1957
6th Impression 1959 January 1959 5,000  
1,500* bound by Jarrold - March 1959
1,250 bound by Jarrold - September 1959
750* bound by Jarrold - December 1959
1,500 - January 1959
7th Impression 1960 April 1960 8,000 3,060 Readers Union - April 1960
3,026 bound by Jarrold - April 1960
1,000 bound by Jarrold - December 1960
1,000 - April 1960
8th Impression 1961 July 1961 3,000*

992 bound by Jarrold - July 1961
1,000 bound by Jarrold - November 1961

1,000 - July 1961
9th Impression 1962 May 1962 10,000* 1,000* bound by Jarrold - May 1962
3,000 bound by K&W - October 1962
 
4,000* bound by Jarrold - May 1963
1,000 - June 1962
 
1,000 - February 1963
10th Impression 1963 August* 1963 10,000 4,000* bound by Jarrold - August* 1963
2,500* bound by Jarrold - October* 1964
1,000 Deluxe Edition - November 1964
2,500 - September 1963
11th Impression 1965 January 1965 10,000 2,506 bound by Jarrold - January 1965
4,000 bound by Jarrold - July 1965
1,193 bound by Jarrold - November 1965
2,301 bound by Jarrold - March 1966
None
12th Impression 1966 April 1966 4,000 4,000* bound by Jarrold - April 1966 None

Notes - The Two Towers
Galley Proofs - Four sets of sheets were sent out by Jarrold & Sons on 26 November 1953, presumably in an unbound state.

Page Proofs - The exact quantity is unknown.  The figure of 35 has been assumed because that was the number produced for The Return of the King.  The exact date these were available is also unclear, but A&U sent a copy to Tolkien on 4 March 1954.

Travellers' Samples - Printed (and presumably bound) at the same time as the page proofs, these samples consist of the first two signatures of a book bound up for use by the publisher's sales representatives.  While there is no direct evidence that any were produced for The Two Towers, it does appear to have been common practice to do so.  The figure of 14 was chosen as this was the quantity produced for both Beowulf and the Finnesburg Fragment and Farmer Giles of Ham.

Advance Copies - Twelve copies were sent out by Jarrolds in two batches of six.  The second batch arrived with A&U on 23 September 1954.

The Two Towers - 1954 Proof Copy2nd Impression - Houghton Mifflin did not order any copies of the 2nd Impression when it was printed, presumably because their own edition had not yet been issued.  In April 1955 they placed an order for 1,000 copies, and in May increased this to 2,000 copies.  Only 1,200 sets of sheets remained from the 2nd Impression and these were converted to Houghton Mifflin copies by use of a cancel fold to replace the title page, title verso and pages 27-28.  The remaining 800 copies were taken from the 3rd Impression.

3rd Impression - The July 1955 batch of Houghton Mifflin copies included a Houghton Mifflin title page as printed, and lacked any A&U device or colophon.  The remaining sets of sheets all bore the A&U imprint.  In September 1955, 1,000 copies were converted to Houghton Mifflin copies by use of a cancel title.

6th Impression - The number of copies produced by the first and third bindings is unclear, but they totalled 3,000 copies.  A quantity of 1,500 copies has been indicated for the first binding to tie in with the corresponding binding for The Return of the King.  The quantity for the third binding was then derived by calculation.

8th Impression - Details for this period are very sketchy, so it is possible that the total print quantity was higher than is noted above.  The figure stated is the sum of the quantities produced by the two known binding orders plus the Houghton Mifflin copies.

9th Impression - A total print quantity of 10,000 copies has been assumed, matching that of the 1962 Impression of The Return of the King.  The figure of 1,000 copies for the first binding is dependent on a total print quantity of 10,000 copies - 5,000 sets of sheets remained after the second binding of 3,000 copies.  Houghton Mifflin took a second batch of 1,000 sets of sheets in February 1963, leaving 4,000 for the third and final binding in May 1963.

10th Impression - The first binding was due to be completed in August 1963, but may have slipped over into September.  The figure of 4,000 copies for the first binding was selected as this was the quantity produced for the other two volumes.  The quantity produced by the second binding is dependant on the assumed figure for the first binding.  There is no indication in the records of when the second binding order was completed, so the date given is the same as that for the 1963 impression of The Fellowship of the Ring.  It is unlikely that the books were bound before March 1964, because at this time A&U decided to use some of the existing sheets for the Deluxe Edition.

12th Impression - Only one binding order is recorded for the 12th Impression, so presumably the entire print run of 4,000 copies was bound at this time.

The Return of the King

Impression/
Stated Date

Date First Available

Total Printed

Allen & Unwin
Copies Bound

Houghton Mifflin
Copies Exported

Galley Proofs
(Main Text)
Not Dated?
July 1954 14 14 Unbound* None
Page Proofs
(Main Text) 1954
November 1954 35 35 Bound by Jarrold - November 1954 None
Travellers Samples 1954 November 1954 19* 19 bound by Jarrold - November 1954 None
Galley Proofs* (Appendices) 1955 June 1955 2 2 Unbound* None
Page Proofs
(Appendices) 1955
July 1955 38* 38 Bound by Jarrold - July 1955 None
Advance Copies
1954
September 1955 12 12 bound by Jarrold - September 1955* None
1st Impression
October 1955
October 1955 12,000 7,160 bound by Jarrold - October 1955 5,000 - October 1955
2nd Impression
November 1955
December 1955 4,000 2,020 bound by Jarrold - December 1955
2,030 bound by Jarrold - August 1956
None
3rd Impression
January 1957
February 1957 3,500 2,000 bound by Jarrold - February 1957
1,486 bound by Jarrold - October 1957
None
4th Impression
May 1958
May 1958 3,200* 1,000* bound by Jarrold - May 1958
1,200* bound by Jarrold - November 1958
 
 
1,000 - December 1958**
5th Impression
1959
March 1959 4,300 1,504 bound by Jarrold - March 1959
1,000 bound by Jarrold - December 1959
 
796 bound by Jarrold - March 1960
 
 
1,000 - February 1960**
6th Impression 1960 April 1960 6,000* 3,060 Readers Union - April 1960
1,000* bound by Jarrold - April 1960
2,000 bound by Jarrold - November 1960
None
7th Impression 1961 April 1961 3,000* 2,000* bound by Jarrold - April 1961 1,000 - May 1961
8th Impression 1961 July 1961 3,000*

1,000* bound by Jarrold - July 1961
1,000* bound by Jarrold - December 1961

1,000 -August 1961
9th Impression 1962 May 1962 10,000 3,500* bound by Jarrold - May 1962
5,280 bound by Jarrold - May 1963
1,500 - June 1962
10th Impression 1963 August 1963 10,000 4,024 bound by Jarrold - August 1963
2,500 bound by Jarrold - October 1964*
1,000 Deluxe Edition - November 1964
2,500 - September 1963
11th Impression 1965 January 1965 14,000* 2,500* bound by Jarrold - January 1965
4,000* bound by Jarrold - April 1965
3,500* bound by Jarrold - October 1965
3,500 bound by Jarrold - January 1966
546 bound by Jarrold - March 1966
None

Notes - The Return of the King
Galley Proofs (Main Text) - Four sets of sheets were received by A&U on 5 July 1954, presumably in an unbound state.  A further 10 sets were ordered the following day, with a request to cut them to a depth of eight inches.

Page Proofs (Main Text) - There appears to be some correspondence missing from the A&U Archive for the period 28/10/1954 - 23/11/1954.  Due to this the exact date when the the 35 copies were ready is not certain.  Jarrolds started the make-up around 18 October and the margin pages were approved on 29 November.  Typically this process took five to six weeks with the proofs being sent out a few days before the margins were approved.  If this was the case with The Return of the King then the page proofs were ready in the later part of November.  There is a mention of proofs in a letter from A&U to Tolkien dated 18 November 1954, but it is unclear which proofs are being discussed.  The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion: Chronology records that on 26 January 1955 Rayner Unwin may have delivered a set of page proofs to Tolkien in Oxford.  These were not 'proper' page proofs, but cut up galley proofs with printed headlines and page numbers.  How these unbound proofs fit in with the galley and page proofs noted above is unclear, but similar proofs also exist for the Appendices.  A complete set, including the main text and Appendices, was included in a Sotheby's sale in New York in 2002 (see References).

Travellers' Samples - Printed (and presumably bound) at the same time as the page proofs, these samples consist of the first two signatures of a book bound up for use by the publisher's sales representatives.  A standing order was placed in April 1954 for an extra 19 sets of the first two signatures of the page proofs to be printed and bound as travellers samples.  These samples were produced for The Return of the King, but there is no direct evidence of the number of sets supplied.

Amendments made to page 386 of a 1955 proof copy of The Return of the King

Galley Proofs (Appendices) - The date given is for the issue of complete proofs for all of the Appendices.  The issue of galley proofs for the Appendices of The Return of the King was not a simple matter due to the piecemeal fashion in which Tolkien submitted the copy.  The first section to be proofed was Appendix C (Family Trees).  This was sent to Tolkien on 18 November 1954.  Galleys of Appendix F and the Shire Calendar from Appendix D were issued on 2 March 1955, and these were followed on 4 April by a proof of one of the alphabets.  Complete galley proofs of all the Appendices were finally sent out on 29 June when one set was sent to Tolkien and another to Allen & Unwin.

Page Proofs (Appendices) - A&U received three sets of page proofs on 18 July, and sent one set to Tolkien and another to Houghton Mifflin.  An additional 35 sets were ordered, to be combined with the page proofs of the main text.

Advance Copies - The exact date when the advance copies were sent out is unclear.  They were due on 21 September, but on this date Jarrolds reported problems with the binding.  There is no sign of any complaint from A&U, so it seems that the advance copies appeared only a few days later.

1st Impression - Due to a misunderstanding between A&U and the printers, the text on the verso of the title page of the American Edition was not in accordance with Houghton Mifflin's requirements.  A&U offered to print a four page cancel fold, but Houghton Mifflin decided to print their own cancel title leaf as they did not wish to delay the publication of their edition.

4th Impression - The quantity printed is not noted in the records, but the quantity of paper used suggests 3,200 copies.  This is supported by a request to print a minimum of 3,000 dustwappers.  The quantities of A&U copies produced by the two binding orders are little better than guesses, the only certain figure being the 1,000 Houghton Mifflin copies. As printed, all sheets bore the A&U imprint.  In December 1958, 1,000 copies were converted to Houghton Mifflin copies by use of a cancel title.

5th Impression - As printed, all sheets bore the A&U imprint. In February 1960, 1,000 copies were converted to Houghton Mifflin copies by use of a cancel title.

Amendments made to page 386 of a 1955 proof copy of The Return of the King

6th Impression - The total quantity printed and the number of copies produced by the first A&U binding are unknown.  The total of 3,000 A&U copies was selected to match the 3,000 copies of The Fellowship of the Ring rather than the 4,000 copies of The Two Towers, because both FR and RK were reprinted before TT.  The quantity for the first binding was then derived by subtraction.

7th Impression - Details for this period are very sketchy, so it is possible that the total print quantity was higher than is noted above.  The number of A&U copies is unknown, but was undoubtedly small because the book was reprinted three months later.

8th Impression - As with the 7th Impression, details for this period are very sketchy, so it is possible that the total print quantity was higher than is noted above.  The number of A&U copies is unknown, but was probably small because the book had been reprinted three months earlier.

9th Impression - The figure of 3,500 copies for the first binding was calculated by subtracting the 1,500 copies for Houghton Mifflin and the second binding order of 5,280 copies (including overs and waste) from the 10,000 total print run - assuming that the 280 copies were the overs produced.

10th Impression - There is no indication in the records of when the second binding order was completed, so the date given is the same as that for the 1963 impression of The Fellowship of the Ring.  It is unlikely that the books were bound before March 1964, because at this time A&U decided to use some of the existing sheets for the Deluxe Edition.

11th Impression - The total print quantity is unknown, but was significantly higher than 10,000 copies.  A&U asked Jarrolds to print 10,000 copies of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, and to use all of the remaining paper for The Return of the KingRK was not reprinted with FR and TT in 1966 because sufficient stock remained.  The figure of 14,000 was chosen as this was the number of copies of FR and TT produced over the 1965 and 1966 impressions.  Quantities of 2,500 and 4,000 copies for the first and second bindings were chosen to tie in with FR and TT.  The quantity given for the third binding was then determined by calculation.

Summaries
The summary tables below list the approximate quantity printed for each impression - Total, A&U and Houghton Mifflin.  Where there is some uncertainty about the quantity this is denoted by a question mark (?).  Further details regarding these uncertainties can be found in the notes for each volume - FR - TT - RK.

3,000 copies of each volume were printed for Readers Union with the 1960 impressions, and 1,000 copies of each of the 1963 impressions were used for the A&U Deluxe Edition.  These have been excluded from the figures given in the summaries below.

In 1964 Houghton Mifflin decided to print all three volumes in the United States, therefore they stopped importing folded and collated copies from England.  The last copies exported to the United States were from the 13th Impression of The Fellowship of the Ring, and the 10th Impressions of The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

Summary - By Impression
 
Total Printed
Allen & Unwin Copies
Houghton Mifflin Copies
FR
TT
RK
FR
TT
RK
FR
TT
RK
1st Impression
4,500
4,250
12,000
3,000
3,250
7,000
1,500
1,000
5,000
2nd Impression
2,500
3,000
4,000
2,500
1,800
4,000
0
1,200
0
3rd Impression
3,500
4,800
3,500
500
3,000
3,500
3,000
1,800
0
4th Impression
3,500
4,000
3,200
3,000
4,000
2,200
500
0
1,000
5th Impression
3,500
5,250
4,300
3,000
4,250
3,300
500
1,000
1,000
6th Impression
3,500
5,000
3,000?
3,500
3,500
3,000?
0
1,500
0
7th Impression
5,000
5,000
3,000?
4,000
4,000
2,000?
1,000
1,000
1,000
8th Impression
5,000
3,000?
3,000?
3,500
2,000?
2,000?
1,500
1,000
1,000
9th Impression
4,500
10,000?
10,000
3,000
8,000?
8,500
1,500
2,000
1,500
10th Impression
4,750
9,000
9,000
3,750
6,500
6,500
1,000?
2,500
2,500
11th Impression
4,400
10,000
14,000?
3,400
10,000
14,000?
1,000
0
0
12th Impression
10,000?
4,000
7,500?
4,000
2,500
0
13th Impression
9,000
6,000
3,000
14th Impression
10,000
10,000
0
15th Impression
4,000
4,000
0
Total
77,650?
67,300?
69,000?
60,650?
54,300?
56,000?
17,000?
13,000
13,000

 
Summary - By Date

Houghton Mifflin imported more than one batch of sheets from some impressions.  These are recorded separately.

 
Total Printed
Allen & Unwin Copies
Houghton Mifflin Copies
 
FR
TT
RK
FR
TT
RK
FR
TT
RK
July 1954
4,500
3,000
1,500
November 1954
4,250
3,250
1,000
December 1954
2,500
2,500
January 1955
3,500
500
500
February 1955
3,000
1,800
April 1955
500
June 1955
2,000
1,200
July 1955
4,800
3,000
800
September 1955
1,000
October 1955
12,000
7,000
5,000
December 1955
3,500
4,000
3,000
4,000
500
March 1956
3,500
3,000
500
June 1956
4,000
4,000
January 1957
3,500
3,500
February 1957
3,500
3,500
July 1957
5,250
4,250
1,000
November 1957
5,000
4,000
1,000
May 1958
3,200
2,200
December 1958
1,000
January 1959
5,000
5,000
3,500
3,500
1,500
1,500
March 1959
4,300
3,300
February 1960
1,000
April 1960
4,500
5,000
3,000?
3,000
4,000
3,000?
1,500
1,000
January 1961
4,750
3,750?
1,000?
April 1961
3,000?
2,000?
1,000
July 1961
3,000?
3,000?
2,000?
2,000?
August 1961
4,400
3,400
1,000
1,000
1,000
May 1962
10,000?
10,000?
10,000
7,500?
8,000?
8,500
1,000
1,000
1,500
February 1963
1,500
1,000
August 1963
9,000
9,000
6,500
6,500
September 1963
9,000
6,000
3,000
2,500
2,500
January 1965
10,000
10,000
14,000?
10,000
10,000
14,000?
April 1966
4,000
4,000
May 1966
4,000
4,000
Total
77,650
67,300?
69,000?
60,650?
54,300?
56,000?
17,000?
13,000
13,000

Postscript
As is often the case, more reports about the number of copies printed have come to light since this article was first published.  The first report can be found in an essay about Tolkien by L. Sprague de Camp in which he discusses the reception of the books:

"The Lord of the Rings had modest American sales.  For several years, the sales of each volume hovered between one and two thousand copies a year.  (The British edition did better, selling 35,000 sets from 1954 to 1961.)"
Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers, p.216.

Fifty Years of Publishing Books That Matter. 1964De Camp corresponded with Tolkien during the 1960s, so it seems probable that these quantities were supplied by Tolkien himself.  The figures for the American Edition are a little vague, but agree with the quantities for each of the three volumes given above (11,000, 8,500 and 9,000 copies respectively).

The figure of 35,000 sets for the British Edition is more problematic:  The three volumes were usually sold separately rather than as a set, with The Fellowship of the Ring selling in significantly higher numbers than the other two volumes.  According to the figures given above (FR 33,000, TT 26,000 and RK 27,000), sales were lower than the 35,000 sets reported by de Camp.  It may be that the 35,000 sets refers to the total quantities printed - by 1961 these were 34,000 for The Two Towers and 36,000 for The Return of the King.

A further report appeared in a pamphlet issued by Allen & Unwin in 1964 to celebrate fifty years of publishing:

"Rayner Unwin, Sir Stanley's second son, joined the firm in 1951 ... An early outcome was the publication ... of that great three volume 'heroic romance' The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, under whom he had studied at Oxford.  Its sales are now over 186,850 volumes."
Fifty Years of Publishing Books That Matter, p.5.

On the face of it this is a simple statement, however, according to the figures given above only 171,950 copies had been printed by mid-1964.  Some of the shortfall could be accounted for by the fact that Houghton Mifflin started to print their own edition in 1964, but whether they printed 15,000 copies is unknown at present.  Alternatively, the 186,850 copies may include the Dutch, Polish and Swedish translations - sales figures reported elsewhere by A&U for The Kon-Tiki Expedition included foreign sales and translations.

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References
Fifty Years of Publishing Books That Matter
[Author unknown] 1964.
George Allen & Unwin, London.
See page 5.

Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers
L. Sprague de Camp. 1976.
Arkham House, Sauk City. ISBN 0870540769.
See especially page 216.

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography
Wayne G. Hammond with the assistance of Douglas A. Anderson. 1993.
St. Paul’s Bibliographies, Winchester. ISBN 1873040113.
Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, Delaware. ISBN 0938768425.

George Allen & Unwin: A Remembrancer
Rayner Unwin. 1999.
Merlin Unwin Books, Ludlow. ISBN 1873674376.
See especially pp.98-103.

The Tolkien Collector
Edited by Christina Scull. Issue 20, July 1999. Williamstown, MA.
See pp.25-34, 'Identifying First Edition Printings of the Houghton Mifflin Lord of the Rings - Part I' by Steven M. Frisby.  See especially Step 5 on page 27 and Footnote to Step 5 on page 33.

The Tolkien Collector
Edited by Christina Scull. Issue 21, September 1999. Williamstown, MA.
See pp.20-27, 'Identifying First Edition Printings of the Houghton Mifflin Lord of the Rings - Part II' by Steven M. Frisby.  See especially Step 4 on page 22.

The Tolkien Collector
Edited by Christina Scull. Issue 22, January 2000. Williamstown, MA.
See pp.22-30, 'Identifying First Edition Printings of the Houghton Mifflin Lord of the Rings - Part III' by Steven M. Frisby.  See especially pp.22-23.

Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana
Sotheby's, New York. 13 December 2002.
See especially the description and illustrations for lot 153 - Bound page proofs of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, together with unbound galley proofs of The Return of the King.

The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion & Guide: Chronology
Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond.  2006.
HarperCollins, London.  ISBN 0261103814 / 9780261103818.
See especially the entries for 1953-1955.

Allen & Unwin Archive
RUL MS 3282 - Item 109 on Handlist. Publishing Ledger ca. 1940-56. A-G.
RUL MS 3282 - Item 110 on Handlist. Publishing Ledger ca. 1937-57. P-Z.
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 553/5 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1952)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 574/15 (Letters to/from Unwin Brothers 1952)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 598/1 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1953)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 639/18 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1954)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 641/4 (Letters to/from Key & Whiting 1954)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 680/5 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1955)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 681/12 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1955)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 682/22 (Letters to/from Key & Whiting 1955)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 692/9 (Letters to/from Purnell & Sons 1955)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 722/8 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1956)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 723/16 (Letters to/from Key & Whiting 1956)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 724/2 (Letters to/from G&J Kitcat Ltd 1956)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 732/9 (Letters to/from Purnell & Sons 1956)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 763/1 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1957)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 764/6 (Letters to/from G&J Kitcat Ltd 1957)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 773/10 (Letters to/from Purnell & Sons 1957)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 801/1 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1958)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 811/6 (Letters to/from Purnell & Sons 1958)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 836/3 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1959)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 837/6 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1959)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 847/8 (Letters to/from Purnell & Sons 1959)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 872/17 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1960)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 874/4 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1960)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 884/4 (Letters to/from Purnell & Sons 1960)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 909/14 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1961)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 910/20 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1961)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 921/13 (Letters to/from Purnell & Sons 1961)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 947/21 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1962)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 949/5 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1962)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 987/2 (Letters to/from Houghton Mifflin 1963)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 988/15 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1963)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 1028/14 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1964)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 1071/13 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1965)
RUL MS 3282 - AUC 1116/16 (Letters to/from Jarrold & Sons 1966)

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