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Lord of the Rings Comparison 2

December 21, 2014

Lord of the Rings 2014 deluxeIn a previous post, we compared editions of The Lord of the Rings with corrected text issued between 2004 and February 2012 by HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), so that we could answer a recurring question: Which edition of The Lord of the Rings is the most accurate? We also wished to see if Tolkien’s primary British and American publishers had made further changes or corrections (as noted in our online addenda and corrigenda) since we edited The Lord of the Rings for its 50th anniversary in 2004–5. Since that earlier post, nearly three years ago, many more editions and printings have appeared, and as the question of an accurate text is still being asked, we thought that we should bring our findings up to date.

As before, Wayne has compared copies in our own collection and has classified them according to their respective typesettings, denoted as A, B, C, and (now) D. The list given below is revised and expanded from its earlier appearance, with hardback and paperback versions broken out for clarity, new versions added, and further information provided. The printings checked are internally marked as first impressions unless otherwise stated.

A1. HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin one-volume hardback (2004), de luxe (both) and trade (HarperCollins) (Tolkien Collector 27, pp. 9–10, 14).

A2. HarperCollins three-volume trade hardback (2005), with dust-jackets reproducing Tolkien’s designs (Tolkien Collector 27, p. 11). The preliminaries have different pagination relative to that in other ‘A’ copies.

A3. HarperCollins one-volume trade (B format) paperback (Tolkien Collector 27, pp. 10–11). The 1st printing (2005) is in predominantly gold-coloured wrappers. We also have the 40th and 51st printings (acquired in 2007 and 2014 respectively), in predominantly red-coloured wrappers.

A4. Houghton Mifflin one-volume trade hardback (2005), with cover art by Alan Lee. Wayne checked the 1st (2005) and 9th (2012?) printings (Tolkien Collector 27, p. 15; Tolkien Collector 33, p. 11); the latter has the Houghton Mifflin imprint on the title-page and binding spine, but identifies the publisher as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on the jacket spine.

A5. Houghton Mifflin one-volume trade paperback (2005), with cover art by Alan Lee. Wayne checked the 1st (2005) and 6th (2009?) printings (Tolkien Collector 27, p. 15; Tolkien Collector 29, p. 13).

A6. HarperCollins three-volume trade (B format) paperback (2011), in black wrappers with coloured spine panels (Tolkien Collector 33, p. 9).

A7. HarperCollins three-volume trade (B format) paperback (2012), with film tie-in covers. We have these volumes in a boxed set with The Hobbit (2013).

A8. Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt one-volume trade paperback (2012), with a film tie-in cover featuring the One Ring.

A9. HarperCollins three-volume hardback ‘collector’s edition’ (2013), bound in decorated cloth. We have these volumes in a boxed set with The Hobbit, similarly bound.

A10. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt one-volume trade hardback (2013), bound in grey suede.

A11. HarperCollins three-volume trade hardback (2014), with dust-jackets reproducing Tolkien’s designs. Both this edition and D1 were meant to include the same further corrections; A11, however, missed some of these and added at least two new errors:

On pp. xvi–xix, our note on the 50th anniversary edition is reprinted from 2004, though we submitted a slightly amended version. (The latter is correctly printed in D1.)

On p. 169, l. 7 from bottom, ‘Dear Frodo,’ (the opening of Gandalf’s letter) is still indented, but should be flush with the left margin.

On p. 170, l. 9, we had noted, in regard to the original 50th anniversary setting, that the first line of the poem (‘All that is gold does not glitter,’) should be indented, that is, brought to the left measure of the poem rather than set (with a standard paragraph indent) at the left measure of the larger text block. But the typesetter failed to see that this point had been corrected already in this edition, and indented the line still further, too far to the right.

For p. 1041, n. 1 (etc.), we had discussed issues with footnotes or parts of footnotes in Appendix A which needed to be within quotation marks, to indicate ‘extracts’ from annals or tales. The typesetter has misread this in regard to n. 1 on p. 1043: here, instead of an ‘extract’, followed by a comment not within quotation marks, followed by another extract, the comment has been enclosed in quotation marks, within a larger not in quotation marks. The note should correctly read, with all quotation marks as they should be printed: ‘The sceptre was the chief mark . . . with a silver fillet’ (p. 146; pp. 848, 861, 967). In speaking of a crown . . . Aragorn’s line. ‘The sceptre of Númenor . . . crowning of Aragorn.’

On p. 1100, the death date of Bingo Baggins still reads ‘1363’ but should be ‘1360’.

On p. 1136, l. 7, the name hámfœst (with an oe digraph) has not been corrected to hámfæst (with an ae digraph).

On p. 1137, l. 29, ‘butterflies to the falcon’ has not been corrected to ‘butterflies to the swift falcon’.

On p. 1173, index col. 2, entry for ‘Spiders’, the see also note should read ‘Shelob; Ungoliant’, with a semi-colon, but has been set instead with a comma.

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). Wayne checked both the first (2008) and third printings.

B4. HarperCollins three-volume mass-market (A format) paperback (2012), with film tie-in covers (Tolkien Collector 33, p. 10). We also have this (FR 1st, TT 7th, RK 5th printing) in a boxed set with The Hobbit.

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).

D1. HarperCollins one-volume de luxe edition (2014), with cover and interior art by Alan Lee, issued in a plastic slipcase.

For each edition or printing, Wayne checked selected textual points or the presence or absence of particular features, such as the revised and expanded index. These are presented in detail in a separate document (pdf). We would be pleased to hear from anyone who has, or has seen, a later printing of any of these editions in which a reading differs from that in our analysis.

There are, then, four distinct HarperCollins or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt typesettings currently in print, and among those four are subsets with different textual readings. The text as first published in the 50th anniversary edition in 2004 (A1) was further corrected in reprints and changed formats, but not identically in each. (Granted that the derivations deserve to be described in more detail, ideally with a ‘genealogical chart’ to make the relations clearer. Wayne plans to include these in an article for The Tolkien Collector about the multiplicity of Lord of the Rings editions since 2004.)

On the HarperCollins side, A2 is corrected from A1; from this is derived, in one offshoot, A6 and A7, and in another, A9. A11 is partly corrected from A9, but adds errors. On the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt side, A4 and A5 are derived from A1, with a few corrections; A10 is derived from A4; the 6th printing of A5 has the correction ‘check copies’ on p. xx, but curiously in the 9th printing this has reverted to ‘check copied’, and from A5 is derived A8. In the B typesetting, B2 and B3 are separate offshoots of B1, and B4 is derived from B2. C1 and D1 are, so far, unique to themselves.

Of all of these, the new HarperCollins de luxe edition (D1) currently has the most accurate text, with all points noted to date. It is, however, reset, with new pagination, and therefore the page references in our Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion (keyed to the A typesetting) do not directly apply. We understand that the remaining and new errors in A11, which retains the 50th anniversary edition pagination (and has been issued in an attractive boxed set with our Reader’s Companion), are to be corrected in a later printing.

Three recent editions of The Lord of the Rings do not use the corrected text and new index, but instead return to an earlier typesetting. These are, therefore, not included in this analysis. The 2012 HarperCollins slipcased reissue in seven trade paperback volumes (Tolkien Collector 33, pp. 10–11) contains the pre-50th anniversary setting used in their previous seven-volume edition (1999). The 2012 three-volume Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt trade paperback Lord of the Rings, which we have in a slipcase with The Hobbit (Tolkien Collector 33, p. 9), likewise repeats an uncorrected setting from 1999, with Douglas A. Anderson’s ‘Note on the Text’ dated April 1993; the wrappers are predominantly black with coloured spine panels, like A6 above. Finally, the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt leatherbound pocket edition of The Lord of the Rings, issued in 2014 with The Hobbit, also uses a 1999 typesetting.

Image: HarperCollins 2014 deluxe edition of The Lord of the Rings, D1 in the list above.

  1. December 21, 2014 11:31 am

    Thanks for this! Are we to understand that the one volume deluxe 60th edition of LotR “D1” is the most accurate, but that the pages don’t match up with the 60th Reader’s Companion?

    Though neither are available in the States, will there be some point in the future when both “D*” and a corresponding Reader’s Companion will be available?

    • December 21, 2014 11:56 am

      Yes, D1 is the most accurate, but it’s reset and has new pagination. Our Reader’s Companion can still be used, of course, just not with direct page references (as those are keyed to the 50th anniversary edition and to the old standard typesetting). We do not know of any plans to issue the new one-volume edition in the United States, nor is it likely that we’ll produce a new Reader’s Companion to suit the pagination of a typesetting which is probably not going to become a new standard. The new three-volume HarperCollins edition (A11), however, to which the Reader’s Companion does directly apply (and which can be purchased in a boxed set with the new edition of the Reader’s Companion), is to be corrected and brought up to the same level of accuracy as the new one-volume.

  2. December 21, 2014 3:58 pm

    Thanks ever so much; I recently thought about your last post on this and am very glad to read this updated version of it. Well, I’ll have to ask Father Christmas to send me one this year!

  3. Nelson permalink
    December 27, 2014 3:55 am

    Thank you for this! I’m sure you would have said if you could precisely, but do you have a sense for how long a corrected reprint like that planned for the A11 set generally takes to get implemented and produced?

    • December 30, 2014 8:40 pm

      Sorry, we don’t know how long it will be, or how long it generally takes to accomplish, if indeed there’s a ‘general’ amount of time at all. HarperCollins’ initial order of the boxed set immediately sold out, and two reprints were soon put in hand. We heard this back in July, at the same time that we were able to examine a set and let HarperCollins know that the three-volume edition didn’t include all of the corrections it was supposed to have had. Assuming that HarperCollins will pick up the remaining points in the next reprint, the main question now will be how long the new stock will last, and the answer may be: for a while. Our revised note on the anniversary edition, which HarperCollins noticed had not replaced the previous note, is to be included in one of the early reprints of vol. 1, if it hasn’t already, so there will be an interim corrected printing of that volume, just to confuse the bibliographical situation a little more!

  4. December 31, 2014 12:11 am

    I presume you will let your eager readers know when the revised and corrected boxed set is out?

  5. Urnoev permalink
    December 31, 2014 9:42 am


    first of all, thank you for this great list and comparisons. It really helped me finding the perfect edition for me right now (D1, though I’ll buy the most likely and hopefully corrected A12 too).

    Now, I wondered whether a similar list exists for “The Hobbit”. I searched for it on this site and couldn’t find one. Does it exist? And if not, would you maybe consider creating one?

    Or are there no real differences between the texts released over the years anyway.

    I wish you the best of luck for the future and a Happy New Year.

    • franzrogar permalink
      December 31, 2014 2:01 pm

      Thanks for your amazing work.

      I guess when you wrote D1 is ‘the most accurate up to day’ you mean no addenda & corrigenda applies to it (not from your website or the Companion).

      If so, then I have a problem, though with D1. In your web corrigenda p. 1079, the word “dragon” is capitalized in D1 but in your website is not. I don’t have A2 here (have it at home) so I can’t check there.

      • December 31, 2014 3:25 pm

        franzrogar, that is what we meant about D1. As for the point you mention, we wonder if we’re looking at the same books as you. Our copy of D1 has ‘dragon’, correctly not capitalized, on the relevant page, i.e. the ‘Line of the Dwarves of Erebor’ genealogical chart in Appendix A (1079 is the page reference for the A typesetting, in D it’s earlier).

      • franzrogar permalink
        December 31, 2014 3:43 pm

        Thanks for your kind and fast answer. You’re right. I was looking on the wrong appendix as I didn’t know what whew the right page number. On Appendix B is where the same sentence appears “Dáin I slain by a Dragon” capitalized. I don’t know if both words make sense (both small caps and caps). Thanks for your hard work and Happy New Year.

      • December 31, 2014 4:26 pm

        franzrogar, we’re glad to have that clarified. Tolkien wasn’t always consistent in capitalization; sometimes the upper or lower case is meaningful (e.g. a capitalized honorific or name of a race), sometimes not.

    • December 31, 2014 3:20 pm

      Hi, Urnoev, and a Happy New Year to you too. For The Hobbit, textual differences for editions published to 1992 are detailed in Wayne’s Descriptive Bibliography (Oak Knoll Press/British Library). We don’t have an analysis for anything later, but then The Hobbit doesn’t present the range or difficulty of errors and emendations that we find with The Lord of the Rings, and there are only a small handful of contested textual points. We’ve been considering The Annotated Hobbit to have the most accurate text among current editions, though admit we haven’t made a close comparison lately.

  6. January 3, 2015 10:40 am

    Thank you for this detailed comparison: I’m struck, as ever, by the sheer apparent difficulty of assembling a single edition of The Lord of the Rings which contains all the desirable elements (corrected text, updated prefatory material, corrected original maps, Tolkien’s “Book of Mazarbul” illustrations, your revised index, etc.).

    Even the new 60th-anniversary edition (D1 in your comparison) contains a minor error, though not related to the text itself: it includes an older version of “The West of Middle-earth at the End of the Third Age” map, with the placement of the rivers Celos and Sirith in Gondor reversed from their placement on the 1955 large-scale map of Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor. These rivers’ names were swapped on the smaller-scale map in 2004, as you mention in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion (p. 588, third note to p. 875), but this change seems to have been reverted for the newest edition.

    • January 4, 2015 9:21 pm

      Thanks, we hadn’t noticed this. There’s always something, isn’t there?

      • January 8, 2015 8:57 pm

        Doug, looking further into the matter of the map and into our e-mail files, we see that we took note already a few years ago that the map in the British anniversary edition was the older, uncorrected version. We sent word about this to HarperCollins, but the map has never been corrected in any post-2004 HarperCollins printing of The Lord of the Rings which includes that particular (Unfinished Tales) map. So, this isn’t a reversion in D1, but a continuation. Houghton Mifflin, on the other hand, included the corrected map in their anniversary edition in 2004, and have done so also in later editions with this text.

  7. Franz Rogar permalink
    January 7, 2015 9:39 am

    One question. I’ve just compared the ring inscription in my A2 and D1, and apart from color differences (A2 red, D1 black), they’re equal.

    I want to remember that A2 got the wrong (unapproved) ring inscription, hence D1 would also have the wrong inscription (and ‘cheap’ color), but I’m able to find a graphic comparison between the wrong and the good one.

    I’d like to know if I’m right, if you please. Thanks.

    • January 8, 2015 9:03 pm

      D1 has the correct Ring inscription. The first printing, at least, of A2 reproduced a version of the inscription which Tolkien had drawn and rejected. A11, which is based on A2, has the correct inscription. (We’ll include a dozen or so trial Ring inscriptions by Tolkien in The Art of The Lord of the Rings.)

  8. January 19, 2015 2:40 pm

    HarperCollins have replied about dates for the revised version of A11.

    “I can confirm that the below corrections have now been taken in to the latest impressions of the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings. Copies of the books are en route from the printer in China and should be in our warehouse around mid-February.

    Readers will be able to discern which are the most correct copies of the books by checking that the respective copyright pages include “Printed in China” and have the following impression number:

    The Fellowship of the Ring 8
    The Two Towers 7
    The Return of the King 7

    I trust this information will be of use to you and to others.”

    I don’t think that The Two Towers has any changes, so if you are looking to get just the books with the updates then you do not need a copy of all three books.

  9. Dan permalink
    February 9, 2015 5:54 pm

    Thanks for the amazing work! Two questions:
    1. Do you know if any of the new printings of A11 include the corrections of D1?
    2. It’d be great if you did a similar post for the ebooks, comapring the iBooks and Amazon versions and the single and multi-volume editions.

    • February 10, 2015 10:43 pm

      Hi, Dan. For your first question, see Trotter’s comment, above. For the second, sorry, we don’t have any of the ebook versions to compare. It’s quite enough work to keep up with printed editions! (But if anyone else would like to do this, we’d be interested to read it.)

  10. February 11, 2015 2:07 am

    I don’t think you can do a comparison on ebooks in the same way as you can with printed books. When the 50th Anniversary Edition of the LOTR first appeared on the Kindle, I downloaded it and noticed a large number of errors, spoke to the publishers who said some of these have been fixed. If I deleted the file from my library and re-downloaded it, then I would have less errors. However the ebook gives no indication that it has been changed.

    • Mike Chambers permalink
      April 4, 2015 9:02 pm

      Just curious…

      Any speculation as to why there are no plans for a U.S. Publication of the D1 (2014, 60th anniversary)? All things LotR seem to sell quite well here since the release of the Jackson movies (somewhat to the chagrin of those of us that have been faithful readers for 50 years).

      Second, any speculation whether (and if so when) HarperCollins might release the D1 text in e-book form?

      Finally (for those of us obsessive devotees), is there any speculation on the possibility of HoME and C.T.’s later Middle-Earth publications in ebook form.

      Mike Chambers

      • April 23, 2015 7:43 am

        Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are more conservative in their Tolkien publishing than HarperCollins. They seem to be content with selling existing editions rather than taking up new ones, as long as the books sell at reasonable levels. It’s always possible, of course, that they’ll issue a new deluxe edition later on, for Christmas giving, or are waiting for the 60th anniversary of the completion of The Lord of the Rings in America, in 2016. We don’t have any information one way or the other. Nor, unfortunately, have we heard anything about an e-book version of D1 or about any other Tolkien e-books.

  11. Mike Chambers permalink
    April 4, 2015 9:35 pm

    On comparing ebook editions…

    This is possible (under some circumstances), but it is not a quest for the faint of heart. I have not done this with LotR, but I have done so with works of similar complexity.

    Without delving too deeply into the gory detail, ePub files are zip archives containing small metadata files and book text segments in HTML format files. A number of well-tested macros exist for programmable text editors that permit contextually aware difference identification.

    The most common use for these tools is the identification of “meaningful” changes in computer programming source code. However, the tools can be (and I have) modified them for non-programming textual analysis. The most significant of those I attempted was a very detailed technical specification about 10 times the character count of LotR. This is not a “push button” process, but it does make editing and difference analysis less onerous.

    The most cumbersome effort, I suspect, would be the verification of ANY electronic text against the hard published text versions Wayne and Christina have labored upon. I strongly suspect that NO published electronic text is textually identical to ANY of hard texts. The likely outcome might only be an assessment of which e-format releases is “least awful” in comparison to D1.

    The quest has piqued my interest…


    • April 23, 2015 7:43 am

      No doubt one could compare e-book versions, but it hardly seems worth thinking about as they’re so easily variable, or at least more easily variable than print. Though then there’s print-on-demand….

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