Happy Hobbit Day
As serious Tolkien fans know, 22 September is the birthday of both Bilbo Baggins (of The Hobbit) and his cousin Frodo (of The Lord of the Rings) – called by many ‘Hobbit Day’, at the end of ‘Hobbit Week’. And yesterday (as we write), 21 September, was the 75th anniversary of the first publication of The Hobbit, in 1937. These occasions led to numerous online news stories and blog posts about The Hobbit, not all of which were concerned with the second trailer for the forthcoming film (about which we will say no more). Rather too many of them called The Lord of the Rings a ‘trilogy’, which it isn’t, and a few misspelled ‘Tolkien’ and ‘Middle-earth’; and some (such as this one) contained many points with which a Tolkien scholar may quibble.
One of the best articles was on the ABC News blog by Matthew Rosenbaum, but then he had the good sense to ring Wayne for comments (alerted by a Williams student who had read a news story on the college website). Tom Shippey wrote a nice piece (naturally) for the Daily Telegraph, and Corey Olsen contributed an article about Tolkien to the Wall Street Journal.
Today the Journal also published a note mentioning The Art of The Hobbit and linking to a slideshow of pictures by Tolkien, though as of this writing the slideshow is empty. The Daily Beast was more successful in this regard. Our book – which was published in its American edition by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt last Tuesday, the 18th – was also noted in an article for USA Today.
This afternoon, we drove to our nearest Barnes & Noble bookshop and helped to deplete their stock of new editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Normally we would order at a discount from Amazon or Book Depository, but we wanted to be sure of (1) copies in good condition, (2) copies with the right covers, not picked from earlier stock, and (3) first printings. We were happy to see The Art of The Hobbit on their special Tolkien table; in fact, this was the first time we were able to handle the American edition, since our author’s copies have not yet arrived. The Finnish translation of The Art of The Hobbit has also been published, Hobitti Tolkienin Silmin, from WSOY: this is largely identical to the HarperCollins edition, in a slipcase.
Christina, who handles most of the shelving of books in our library, is being put to the test during the anniversary of The Hobbit and in response to the films, with so many new editions of Tolkien’s books appearing – The Lord of the Rings is also being re-released in conjunction with its ‘prequel’. Of course, we don’t have to acquire all of them, but what’s a completist collector to do? We’ve decided to be very selective, though, in regard to new titles about Tolkien, which are pouring out just as they did alongside the earlier films a decade ago.
And not only English-language editions: our shelves of The Hobbit in translation are groaning with the added load. Four new acquisitions in this category are pictured within this post. From top to bottom: the Danish Hobbitten hardback from Gyldendal honours Tolkien’s design with his dust-jacket, Mirkwood on the front endpapers, Wilderland on the back endpaper spread, Thror’s Map as a foldout with the moon-runes on the verso, and Tolkien’s other illustrations throughout the text, though here the black and white drawings are the coloured versions by Riddett. The German Der Kleine Hobbit mass-market paperback from DTV is unillustrated except for a redrawn map. Minotauro in Spain have issued a deluxe anniversary edition of El Hobbit, limited to 3,500 numbered copies, with a separate ‘facsimile’ of Thror’s Map (in Spanish) laid in, a dust-jacket simulating decorated red leather – meant to suggest the Red Book of Westmarch – a ribbon marker, ribbon ties at the fore-edge, and a wraparound advertising band. Less presupposing, but so far a unique example of a Tolkien work in the language, is Hobit, a translation into Sorbian, one of the Slavic languages, prepared and published in Leipzig.