Last spring or so, I found out that a new edition of The Lord of the Rings was coming out and that it would include illustrations by Tolkien himself, who in addition to being a philologist, Oxford don, husband, and father, was also a wonderful illustrator. While some editions of The Lord of the Rings have the covers Tolkien designed, this new one is the first edition to have his illustrations.
Color me sold.
Thanks to a generous gift card I received for doing some editing work for a friend, I headed to my local indie bookshop over the summer and pre-ordered the book. It came out on November 2, and I picked it up the next day.
So far, I am in love with it.
This is a hardbound edition with a sewn-in ribbon bookmark. The dust jacket is mostly white, with red and gold lettering. The front has a die-cut hole in the middle of the ringspell, which reveals the Eye of Sauron, which is stamped on the book’s front cover. The author name is the stylized signature J.R.R. Tolkien made at the request of his publisher, Allen & Unwin, who wanted a ‘signature’ to include on the title page.
The same red or gold lettering is on the spine, and so is Tolkien’s stylized signature. The Eye of Sauron in the middle of the ringspell on the spine is not die-cut. It’s printed directly on the dust jacket. You can see how reflective the gold lettering is from the reflection on the table.
The naked hardcover is plain black, save for the stamped Eye of Sauron (visible in the top photo) on the front cover, and the red or gold lettering and ringspell on the spine.
When I first picked up the book in the shop, I was surprised to see the sprayed edges with the ringspell picked out in white on the page edges. I’m sure the people who run TolkienGuide.com had mentioned the edges when discussing this edition on the Prancing Pony Podcast’s Discord server, but I either overlooked that or straight up forgot about it. I’m hit and miss when it comes to sprayed edges, but I like how they executed this design.
Inside, the book includes thirty-two of Tolkien’s illustrations and maps, along with the pages of the Book of Mazarbul (from the Dwarves’ ill-fated attempt to retake Moria), whose pages Tolkien had created to include in the initial editions, but were nixed by the publisher due to the high cost of the recreation in publication. There are also two removable, folded versions of Christopher Tolkien’s iconic map of Middle-earth and another of Mordor. The end pages are the same shade of red as the sprayed edges.
The chapter titles, drop caps at the beginnings of chapters, and the running heads are all in red. Before each of the individual books, there is a full color reproduction of Tolkien’s own cover design, and Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull wrote a ‘Note on the Illustrations’ that precedes the Forward to the Second Edition. The text itself is taken from the corrected editions that Hammond and Scull assisted Christopher Tolkien in completing in 2004 (you can tell if you have a pre-2004 version if, in ‘A Conspiracy Unmasked’, Merry says that Buckleberry Ferry is twenty miles away. The distance was meant to be ten miles, which is why Merry says, “Buckleberry Ferry. Twenty miles.” in the Peter Jackson films.
Overall, I am pleased with this edition and all the details that went into it. It feels like a very well-made book, with a solid cover and quality paper, along with the full-color illustrations. You don’t often see that in books (thought I do have the centenary edition, which has a set of full-color illustrations by Alan Lee). I will be reading this edition when I do my annual reread of The Lord of the Rings in December, though I have a feeling I will not allow myself to have my usual cup of tea at my elbow when I have this particular book in hand. I’d be too afraid that I (or Mina) would spill on it. It’s a beautiful book all around, and I’m thrilled to have it in my collection.