TOLKIEN, J.R.R. (1892-1973). [The Lord of the Rings trilogy:] The Fellowship of the Ring. 1954 -- The Two Towers. 1954 -- The Return of the King. 1955. All London: Allen & Unwin Ltd.
Together 3 volumes, 8o. Folding map tipped-in each volume (one loose). Original red cloth (first volume with some corner extremes clipped, various minor wear to each volume, a few hinges tender; pictorial dust jackets (variously worn, with a some tape repairs on first volume's jacket). Provenance: Michael H.R. Tolkien (b. 1919), Tolkien's son (presentation inscription in each volume; his bookplate and name in each volume).
A DEDICATION COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION OF TOLKIEN'S 'LORD OF THE RINGS' TRILOGY, INSCRIBED BY TOLKIEN TO HIS SON MICHAEL IN EACH VOLUME. Later state of the third volume with signature mark "4" on p. 49.
The Fellowship of the Ring is inscribed in Tolkien's calligraphic hand on the front free endpaper: "Michael from Father." In addition, affixed to the front pastedown is a presentation note from Tolkien to his son that reads: "Dearest M. This book has now such a history that some of it was typed by you while your hand was still injured! It has grown to be a major work -- and I am glad to say is receiving a resplendent welcome in some quarters. You are included in the dedication. God bless you. With my love Daddy." Above this, Michael has neatly written: "This is only 1/3 of whole!" and below "P.T.O." On the verso is a light pencil note in his father's hand which he has transcribed: "The above note says: I think you may find that MG will enjoy it -- some children no older do so, though of course the implications escape them." In addition he has written his name in red and blue ink twice in the book, once under the dedication inscription and again on his bookplate on the front free endpaper: "Michael H.R. Tolkien:- Woodcote:- August 17, 1954:-" On the bookplate he notes: "From:- Father:-" On the final page of text, a much older Michael has added two reading schedules of the book, the last of which concludes: "Enjoyed more than on any previous reading, of which there have been many!"
In his Foreword to the first volume, Tolkien states: "I dedicate this book to all admirers of Bilbo, but especially to my sons and my daughter, and to my friends the Inklings [members of the literary society he founded with C.S. Lewis at Oxford in the 1930s]. To the Inklings, because they have already listened to it with a patience, and indeed with an interest, that almost leads me to suspect that they have hobbit-blood in their venerable ancestry. To my sons and my daughter for the same reason, and also because they have all helped me in the labours of composition."
The Two Towers is inscribed by Tolkien: "M.H.R.T. December 1954 from JRRT." Affixed to the front pastedown is a note on Tolkien's University stationery that reads: "7 Dec. 1954 Dearest M. Much love to you from Daddy." Michael has noted on his bookplate below the inscription: "From:- Father. Michael H.R. Tolkien. Woodcote. Christmas. 1954." On the final page he also includes two reading schedules of the book, and concludes the final one: "Finished: Monday, July 31st, 1972: 2.45 a.m. More enthralling than ever!"
The Return of the King, the final volume, is inscribed by Tolkien: "Michael from Daddy October 22nd 1955." Michael has signed and dated his bookplate below the inscription: "Michael H.R. Tolkien:- Woodcote:- 22/10/55:-" On the final page of text (p. 311) he includes a reading schedule in which he proudly ends: "More convinced than ever that this is a work of genius, an immortal classic, the greatest work of fiction of this century, in scope and conception."
In his phenomenally successful mythic trilogy, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien attracted much more than just a cult following. According to the Dictionary of Literary Biography:
"Middle Earth seems almost consciously designed as a fictional, and some feel, allegorical, substitute for the technological, fragmented world of the twentieth century. In the last few decades, Tolkien has thus become a cult figure for those who feel spiritually displaced from the great meaningless heritage of man's sullied rule on earth and the terrifying proportions that this rule has ended in, the atomic age. If modern audiences and critics alike hunger of a world where 'Frodo lives,' they do so because The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy draw on the satisfying, imaginative feast of moral substinence" (vol. 15, p. 522).
Although people have read it as an allegory of multiple good versus evil conflicts (post-World War I and the rise of Hitler; Christian myth; even the environment, with the Dead Marshes reflecting Tolkien's despair over the desolation wreaked by military technology), the trilogy, according to the author, is self-contained; in a new preface to the 1965 edition, Tolkien wrote: "As for any inner meaning or 'message,' it has in the intenton of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical."
In his essay entitled "On Fairy-Stories," Tolkien spells out his purpose in writing about an imaginary world:
"The peculiar quality of the 'joy' in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is not only a 'consolation' for sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, 'Is it true?' The answer to this question that I gave at first was (quite rightly): 'If you have built your little world well, yes: it is true iN that world."
But Middle Earth is hardly a little world: its mapped-out terrain reaches all the way from the secluded Hobbiton to the dark mountains of Mordor, and it is vast enough to contain (amidst dwarves, goblins, elves, Black Riders, dragons, and men) characters so majestically drawn that they have become near-archetypes: Frodo, the hobbit; Gandalf, the wizard; and Gollum, the sniveling, slithering, once-human creature whose desire for his "precious" makes for both his personal destruction and Middle Earth's salvation.
PRESENTATION SETS OF THE 'THE LORD OF THE RINGS' ARE VERY RARE, AND NO COMPARABLY SIGNIFICANT TOLKIEN PRESENTATION SET OF THE TRILOGY HAS EVER APPEARED IN THE MARKET. The Library of Richard Manney (sold at Sotheby's, New York, 11 October 1991) contained a set presented by Tolkien to one of his house-servants. Hammond A5a-i, ii, and iii; Bleiler 1606; Pringle, Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels 16; Cawthorn & Moorcock, Fantasy: The 100 Best Books 76. A MOST WONDERFUL ASSOCIATION COPY OF TOLKIEN'S MASTERPIECE.