Whenever I’m in a used bookstore, I like to look at the copies of anything by Tolkien, just to see what they have. Usually it ends up being the movie editions of The Lord of the Rings, or some cheesy ’70s copy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I’ve never seen any of these crazy and lovely copies featured on Flavorwire, though. It’s probably just as well because I’d either spend my life savings…or spend my life laughing.
1. The Hobbit, first printing – England – 1937 – illustrated by the Professor himself
This too can be yours for $30,000. Mere pocket change!
2. The Hobbit – England – Children’s Book Club at Foyle’s edition – 1942
Yikes. Just…yikes. Tolkien hated it, too. “…surely the paper wasted on that hideous dust-cover could have been better used.” I’m thinking: litter boxes.
3. The Lord of the Rings – Netherlands – 1965 – illustrated by Cor Blok
Tolkien himself purchased a few of Cor Blok‘s illustrations, he liked ’em so much.
4. The Lord of the Rings – Poland- 1981 – illustrated by some disturbed individual
Or, as I like to call them, “nightmare fodder editions”.
5. The Lord of the Rings – Poland – artwork taken from Hieronymus Bosch paintings
Think you don’t know Mr. Bosch? You probably do. Fun fact: if you look very closely in his famous painting from 1500, “The Garden of Earthly Delights“, you’ll see he’s included a tiny copy of The Lord of the Rings.
6. The Lord of the Rings – Japan- 1966
This one was 950 yen, or $12.50. I would have glady shelled out $12.50 in 1966 dollars for this awesome cover art.
7. The Hobbit – Russia – 1970s or 1980s
8. The Lord of the Rings – Finland
There’s a bit of Terry Gilliam about this one, no? Yet another movie that will never be: Monty Python’s Lord of the Rings.
9. The Hobbit – Israel
The Hebrew edition was translated by Israeli airline pilots imprisoned in Egypt! Translators of this book got to invent new words for “hobbit” and “troll” in their language – if Tolkien knew, I’ll bet he was proud!
10.Lord of the Rings – Israel
I’m not a big fan of this cover art, but it’s certainly better than the next one…
11. The Lord of the Rings – Germany – 1981
1981 must have been a WEIRD time for cover art, between the nightmare Polish illustrations and this one, which seems to rely heavily on notebook sketches from high school loners and copious amounts of green ink.
12. The Hobbit – Czech Republic – 1973
Czech and Slovak languages, though very similar, had some major translation differences that seemed to deal mostly with names. The Hobbit will always have two Bs in my heart, though. And in English.
13. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – Thailand
If I wasn’t afraid of needles, I’d have that dragon illustration tattooed on me yesterday. Very swanky editions here.
14. The Lord of the Rings – Good Quality Book Club – 1995
This is Pee-wee’s Playhouse on crack, and that’s saying something. These abstract terrors are only a hint at the shock that lies within – these editions are allegedly filled with typos. “Good Quality” indeed.
15. The Lord of the Rings – Arabic – 2007
A very respectable cover! After some of these, you’d think it impossible to find.