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Rare Tolkien First Editions at George Washington University

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Tolkien_Books_Gelman_LibrarySince the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, interest in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien has swelled. Scholars and fans alike visit the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library’s Special Collections Research Center at George Washington University for a special treat. The library houses first editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which even carries a note written with The Professor’s own hand.

Inside the dust jacket of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a handwritten note from Tolkien to E. Rasdall, Esq., dated March 21, 1956. The text reads:

I am so sorry! Your parcel arrived safely, but it arrived at a crowded time, and I was also unwell. In fact, I had to go away to recuperate, and only returned yesterday. It was on my conscience that I had gone off without either returning your books or letting you know. I will send them off, I hope on Friday. Why not at once? Well, because tomorrow my wife and I celebrate our 40th or ruby wedding anniversary, and are preparing for the gathering of our children and children-in-law, which has not occurred complete for many years. I fear it will be a ceremony by Shire standards ‘brief, moderate, simple, and jejune’ but there may be a speech!

Yours truly, J. R. R. Tolkien

P.S. I have just had a letter from a real Sam Gamgee (of Tooting)!

Jenny Kinniff, public services and outreach librarian for Special Collections, explained to GWToday, “First editions are useful for scholars to see an author’s original intent, before edits that are sometimes made in subsequent editions.”

And though you might suspect that only serious academics are granted access, Kinniff wants to make it clear that any interested readers may request to see these rare copies. “These things are here to be used,” she said. “We feel very strongly about that.”

 

Thanks to “Got News Precious” Contributor Stephanie for alerting us to this story! If you find a cool Tolkien/Hobbit/Lord of the Rings/Middle-earth news item, please submit it using the Got News Precious link at the bottom of the page.

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