Lord of the Rings Comparison
A few weeks ago, we were asked a very good question: Which version of the 50th anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings is the most accurate, taking into account the addenda and corrigenda posted on our website? We knew that HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin had made some further corrections in some versions of the anniversary edition in 2005 (following the original printings of 2004); but we weren’t sure – we hadn’t kept track – if these had carried through into in later printings, one of which (the 2011 three-volume HarperCollins paperback) had just arrived in the post.
To answer the question, Wayne pulled all of the copies of the 50th anniversary edition we have on our shelves (here A, B, and C denote the three different typesettings associated with the various issues):
A1. HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin one-volume hardcover editions (2004), deluxe (both) and trade (HarperCollins) (Tolkien Collector 27, pp. 9–10, 14)
A2. HarperCollins three-volume hardcover edition (2005), with dust-jackets reproducing Tolkien’s designs; the preliminaries have different pagination relative to A1, A3 and A4, but the setting is otherwise unchanged (Tolkien Collector 27, p. 11)
A3. HarperCollins one-volume trade (B format) paperback, the first printing (2005) in gold-coloured wrappers and a later printing (2007, marked as the 40th printing (‘40’) on the verso of the title-leaf) in red-coloured wrappers, both with Tolkien’s ‘Ring and Eye’ device on the upper cover (Tolkien Collector 27, pp. 10–11)
A4. Houghton Mifflin one-volume trade edition (2005); Wayne checked the first printing of the hardcover issue and the first and sixth printings of the paperback; the cover art is by Alan Lee, a view of Minas Tirith or, in the later paperback printing, of misty mountains (Tolkien Collector 27, p. 15)
A5. HarperCollins three-volume trade (B format) paperback (2011), in black wrappers with coloured spine panels
B1. HarperCollins three-volume mass-market (A format) paperback (2005), in white wrappers (Tolkien Collector 27, p. 11)
B2. HarperCollins three-volume mass-market (A format) paperback (2007), in black wrappers (Tolkien Collector 27, pp. 11–12)
B3. HarperCollins three-volume trade (B format) paperback (2008), with cover and interior art by Alan Lee (Tolkien Collector 27, p. 12); the type is enlarged relative to B1, B2; Wayne checked both the first and third printings
C1. Houghton Mifflin three-volume trade paperback (2005), with cover art by John Jude Palencar, made for the young adult market (Tolkien Collector 27, p. 14)
In each of these, Wayne looked at twenty selected points. Some of the points, he found, have not been changed in any issue: for example, in Book II, Chapter 8 of The Lord of the Rings, Galadriel’s phrase remains ‘We have come to bid our last farewell’, not ‘We have come to bid you our last farewell’, and in Appendix E, a direction related to Quenya still has ‘dictated’ rather than ‘indicated’. Other points vary between issues. Here are seven examples, with page references to the ‘A’ setting given unless noted:
1. In our ‘Note on the 50th Anniversary Edition’, p. xix, l. 11, we mistakenly acknowledged ‘Yuval Kfir’ rather than ‘Yuval Welis’. The error appears in A1, A2, A3, A4, B1, B2, and C1, but was corrected by HarperCollins in B3 (2008) and is correct also in A5 (2011).
2. Also in our ‘Note’, p. xx, line 44, although we wrote the phrase ‘check copies’ in our Word document, the typesetter of 2004 altered it to ‘check copied’. The words appear in the latter form in A1 and in the first printing of A4, but are correctly ‘check copies’ by the sixth printing of A4 and in all other versions (2005 to date).
3. In Book I, Chapter 9, p. 159, two of the verses in Frodo’s song (‘There is an inn, a merry old inn’) were mistakenly closed up in the 2004 setting: there should be a space after the line ‘and a dish ran up with the spoon’. This was corrected in the ‘B’ copies – possibly only by chance, as a page break occurs at just this point – but the error remains uncorrected in all ‘A’ copies to date as well as in C1.
4. In Book VI, Chapter 6, p. 977, line 19, there is a mention of Fréalaf, Helm’s sister-son. This name should have an acute accent over both the ‘e’ and the second ‘a’. The second accent is absent in A1, A2, A4, A5, and C1, but present in A3 and in all copies with the ‘B’ setting. Most interesting here is that although HarperCollins’ A3, the one-volume paperback of 2005 and later, has correct ‘Fréaláf’, A5 from the same publisher in 2011 has incorrect ‘Fréalaf’.
5. In the Baggins family tree, p. 1100, the death date of Bingo Baggins is given incorrectly as ‘1363’ in all versions except B3 (2008), which has correct ‘1360’. The later (2011) three-volume trade paperback from HarperCollins, with the ‘A’ setting, has ‘1363’.
6. In Appendix F, p. 1136, line 7, the ‘ancient English’ version of ‘Hamfast’, hámfæst, should be spelled thus, with an ae digraph. It was misspelled hámfœst, with an oe digraph, in 2004, and is found thus in A1, A2, A4, A5, and C1. It is correctly given in A3, B1, B2, and B3. Here again, an ‘A’ setting correction in A3 (2005) appears in the incorrect form in later A5 (2011).
7. Also in Appendix F, p. 1137, l. 29, a similar situation occurs in which A1, A2, A4, A5, and C1 have incorrect ‘butterflies to the falcon’, while A3, B1, B2, and B3 have correct ‘butterflies to the swift falcon’.
Our new, expanded index, which we were unable to complete in time for the first 50th anniversary edition printings of 2004 (and so is absent from A1), was included by HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin in all later issues, except for the Houghton Mifflin 2005 three-volume paperback, C1.
What, then, is the answer to our reader’s question? We don’t have every printing of every issue of the 50th anniversary edition, so can judge only on the basis of the fourteen copies on our shelves. But using our collection as a guide, the most accurate text to date, solely in terms of the number of corrections made, is that of the three-volume HarperCollins trade paperback of 2008 (this link is to the Fellowship; see our comment below for the other volumes). Next in this ranking would be the one-volume HarperCollins trade paperback of 2005, and then the most recent HarperCollins paperback, issued in a boxed set with The Hobbit as well as separately. The Houghton Mifflin one-volume trade edition, hardcover or paperback, has only a few of the post-2004 corrections (or had few in its earliest printings). Our correspondent, from California, hoped to be able to buy an American edition; and although the Houghton Mifflin single volume is comparatively less accurate, it’s easy to find and it continues the ‘A’ typesetting, to which our addenda and corrigenda could be applied easily as this is the typesetting we track. On the other hand, although the three-volume HarperCollins trade paperback of 2008 is comparatively the most accurate, it has the ‘B’ typesetting and therefore different pagination, which would make it harder for someone to apply our addenda and corrigenda based on ‘A’. In the end, we could make no straightforward recommendation.
We would be glad to hear from anyone who has different printings than those listed above and would be willing to check their copy or copies against my findings. A more extensive account of the variations in points (that is, the fifteen points which exhibit variation, out of the twenty checked) is posted on our website as a spreadsheet (pdf).
After the 50th anniversary edition was published in 2004, we proceeded to complete The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, in the course of which we detected a few further errors in Tolkien’s text and notified HarperCollins (as Tolkien’s primary publisher) for possible action. We’ve also submitted other points, but for the most part have posted them on our website for easy reference. Errors, unfortunately, are not always discovered in time to be incorporated into a new printing or edition, nor is it always economical to do so.
Image: HarperCollins boxed set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (2011), A5 in the list above.