The Hobbit, or There and Back Again
For a collector of modern first editions, there are few books put on a higher pedestal than The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Last month a collector purchased a first edition of this novel, via AbeBooks, for more than £12,000. The Hobbit is considered the archetypal epic fantasy novel and is thoroughly entrenched in popular culture, but this was not always the case. Published in 1937, the book was a slow burning success, receiving encouraging reviews and earning subsequent printings and a North American release after several months.
The book really took off in the 1960s when publishers reissued a massive number of affordable copies in the United States. Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Smaug the dragon and Gollum have become some of the most famous fictional characters in literature. Gollum's hissed catchphrase 'My Precious' is known around the world.
Two other modern firsts to appear on March’s list of pricey sales were a signed copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick and Cormac McCarthy’s semi-autobiographical novel Suttree. Speaking of autobiographical works, a buyer paid £5,900 for a first edition of No Easy Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. This book was printed in 1965 while Mandela was still imprisoned. This particular copy was signed by Mandela after his release.1. The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien - £12,758
2. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick - £7,799
First edition, first printing of the book that inspired Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, published in 1968 and signed by Dick.
3. 40 Dessins de Picasso en Marge du Buffon by Pablo Picasso - £6,551
This edition was limited to 226 copies (this No. 148) and signed by Picasso in green crayon. Published in 1957, this folio contains 89 pages with text in French and includes 40 facsimile lithographic plates.
4. No Easy Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela - £5,927
Signed first edition of Mandela's account of the battle against apartheid. This volume contains his famous speech at the Rivonia Trial - now regarded as among the greatest speeches ever. No Easy Walk to Freedom was extended and republished in 1994 as Long Walk to Freedom.
5. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy - £4,294
First UK edition, first impression - inscribed by the author “For Ken, All the best, your friend Cormac.”
6. Topographiae Urbis Romae Haec Nuper Adiecta by Marliani Bartolomeo - £3,990
A topography of Rome published in 1544. This is the first modern description of the city with a plan created from the observations of Giovanni Battista Palatino, illustrated with woodcuts.
7. Urne Buriall and the Garden of Cyrus by Sir Thomas Browne - £3,742
One of 215 copies of Browne’s two-part work illustrated by Paul Nash and printed by Oliver Simon at the Curwen Press. Nash contributed 30 cellotypes from chalk and crayon drawings and many consider this a high-point in British art, published in 1932.
8. ABECEDA by Vitezslav Nezval - £3,546
Alphabet designed by Karel Teige photographed by Karel Paspa. Published in 1926, this book contains 25 black and white photomontages in which dancer, Milča Mayerová, performed particular poses to represent each of the letters of the alphabet. This copy is signed by Mayerová. This is a landmark item in Czech avant garde art.
9. 1629 Folio King James Bible -£3,545
Published by Bonham Norton and John Bill in 1629, bound in speckled full calf with raised bands with the title in gilt on the spine.
10. La Route des Flandres by Claude Simon - £3,469
First edition of this Nobel Prize Laureate’s 1960 novel about a cavalry soldier recalling his time in a German prisoner-of-war camp.