Art and Literature News / Tolkien News

Vintage Tolkien Covers, from the Charming to the Bizarre

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











Bilbo Baggins is: Mr. Magoo – don’t tell me that wasn’t your first thought.  Take a look at all of the scanned illustrations here.


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.

Tags: , , , , , , ,


  1. These are just delightful! Thanks for sharing them!

  2. Looking for a set of: 3. The Lord of the Rings – Netherlands – 1965 – illustrated by Cor Blok?

    As a Tolkien collector since many hears, I have many duplicates. Send an e-mail to and tell me in which country you live and maybe I can do you an offer……..

  3. Wow, some of those are very…attention grabbing.