Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy 120th birthday, J. R. R. Tolkien

Above: The pastedown label on the slipcase of Houghton Mifflin Company's 1965 hardcover boxed set of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Today is the 120th anniversary of the birth of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, better known as J. R. R. Tolkien, who gave us the wonderful tales of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Gollum, Smaug, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee and more. All of them set in the Middle-earth that he painstakingly created from his own imagination.

The Tolkien Society has an excellent website that you should check out if you're a fan of the author and his writings.

Its offerings include lists of Tolkien resources, an F.A.Q. section (including suggestions on the order in which to reader Tolkien's works), links to Tolkien news1, and 21st century amenities such as Twitter, Facebook, podcasts and i-Phone apps that no doubt would have amazed everyone back in the Shire.

In addition to 2012 marking the 120th anniversary of Tolkien's birth, this year will also see the 75th anniversary of the publication of "The Hobbit, or There and Back Again." And, of course, we will be treated to Part 1 of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of "The Hobbit" in December.

Here are some more images from our family's copies of Tolkien's works. These are our scruffy paperback reading copies of "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King":

On the left is the November 1965 paperback edition by Ballantine Books. The illustration is by Barbara Remington. Tolkien Collector's Guide has a fascinating interview with her in which she discusses how her one illustration, which spans the covers of the three 1965 "The Lord of the Rings" paperbacks, came to be.

On the right is February 1978 paperback edition by Ballantine Books. The cover illustration of Barad-dûr is by Tolkien himself.2

Meanwhile, here are some international illustrations from "The Hobbit" that are featured in my copy of "The Annotated Hobbit" by Tolkien and Douglas A. Anderson:

Above: This is from a 1976 Russian edition of "The Hobbit" and it kind of makes Bilbo Baggins look like a cross between W.C. Fields and Mr. Magoo.

Above: This is from the 1962 Portuguese version of "The Hobbit."

1. My favorite headline: "Tolkien's fireplace for sale."
2. If you're interested in more on the myriad editions of Tolkien's works, one place to start might be this March 20, 2011, article by The Literary Omnivore.

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