This set of 1954-55 firsts of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King is bound in black leather gilt with an ‘Eye of Sauron’ motif and Elvish inscription to the front covers. Loosley inserted is a slip of paper on which Tolkien has written: “If you would like a signature for ‘The Lord of the Rings’, you can stick this in with my good wishes. J.R.R.Tolkien 20/6/73.”
Offered by Whyte’s (20% buyer’s premium) on February 3, it made €6400 (£5695).
Where this famous trilogy is concerned, it is a set of the Allen & Unwin firsts offered at Christie’s New York in 2002 that is the record holder. The jackets were rather worn but each volume was inscribed by Tolkien to his son, Michael. The selling price was $130,000.
As for The Hobbit, the record was set in the summer of 2015 at Sotheby’s, where an inscribed 1937 first issue in jacket made £110,000. Previously sold in 1975 for $75,000 in its New York rooms, it was one given by Tolkien to Katherine Kilbride, who in the 1920s had been one of his first students at Leeds University.
The Middle English inscription it bears translates as: “In the west are many wonders and creatures unknown to men. A beautiful land; a dwelling of elves. Precious stones shine secretly in mountain caves.”