The Lord of the Rings (First Edition) by J.R.R. Tolkien



2015-06-26 10:52:26

The Lord of the Rings is an epic fantasy trilogy of novels by J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973). The first editions of these three works were published in July 1954, November 1954, and October 1955 by George Allen and Unwin, London. Background

The Lord of the Rings was a sequel to The Hobbit (1937), whose popularity prompted Tolkien to begin this epic tale at the age of 45. It was finished twelve years later in 1949, and not published until 1954 and 1955, when Tolkien was 63.

The idea for the first chapter was fully formed, very much as a lead on from The Hobbit. The significance of the ring and reason for Bilbo’s departure from the shire developed later. The ring acquired by Bilbo in The Hobbit took on a new significance for Tolkien, and became the focus of the new stories.

The novel developed out of Tolkien’s interests in philology, religion, fairy tales, Norse mythology, and Celtic folklore. Some locations were inspired by areas of Tolkien’s childhood. There may be aspects of his war experience in there, though he denied any direct allegory.

Most consider the novel to be a huge literary achievement. It is the third best-selling novel ever written, over 150 million copies sold. It has had possibly the a greater influence on both the development and the demand for the fantasy genre than any other book ever written.

Plot, Characters, Themes

The plot describes the epic journey of some hobbits, a race of small, peace-loving, country bred folk, unused to adventure, who find themselves on an epic quest to save Middle Earth. They are aided to this end by men, elves, dwarves, a magician, and various other creatures, as they all fight to stop the dark forces of Lord Sauron and his minions rising once again to control Middle Earth.

The epic is divided into three volumes: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.


Tolkien is one of the most famous fantasy writers in history. His works have inspired and delighted millions, and the story of The Lord of the Rings has become significant to many people all over the world.

Notable auction sales and collecting tips

First editions of the three volumes (1954, 1954, and 1955, George Allen and Unwin, London) are very collectible. They are much more valuable if they retain their original bindings, and their original dust-jackets, so it is not recommended to restore them. The value shoots up if they are signed or inscribed by Tolkien.

There were several printings of the first edition. Therefore, whether a copy is a first edition first impression or later impression can make a difference to its value.

Profiles in History sold a first edition set signed by Tolkien for $90,000 in December 2008.

Christie’s sold first edition sets for $11,353 in April 2003, £17,625 in December 2002, $56,400 in April 2001, a signed first edition for $71,700 in May 2002, and a first edition inscribed by Tolkien to his son for $152,500 in October 2002.

Sothebys sold first edition sets for $17,500 in June 2010, £9,375 in December 2007, £10,800 in December 2003, and £32,450 in December 2001.

Share on social media
Write a response...

The bookmarklet lets you save things you find to your collections.

Note: Make sure your bookmarks are visible.


Click and drag the Collect It button to your browser's Bookmark Bar.

collect it