First time LOTR reader, which edition to buy?

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JotaDe 28/Dec/2006 at 11:12 PM
New Soul Points: 12 Posts: 6 Joined: 28/Dec/2006
Hi everyone, greetings this holiday season.

I have one question, if you were reading the LOTR series for the first time which book editions would you buy?

I’ve seen the movie series many times, my favorite movie of all time. My family was more into the Narnia series growing up so I never was read LOTR as a kid. I did listen to the Hobbit in audiobook and really enjoyed it, but I’m ready to read all of the books, the only question I have is which set to buy. There are so many that I get lost looking. I’d love to read every book that encompasses middle-earth, not just the ones based off the movie series.

So my question is; which series would you suggest I acquire?
I don’t need the cheapest, I want something as close as possible to what Tolken originally produced.

Thank you.
Morgil 29/Dec/2006 at 12:11 AM
Minstrel of Lothlorien Points: 2614 Posts: 3542 Joined: 10/Dec/2008
JotaDe...Greetings! And welcome to the Plaza. As far as which edition, any should do, so long as it is the revised edition. As Tolkien writes in the Foreward, "A number of errors and inconstincies stat still remained in the text have been corrected..." . Although I imagine that the revised edition is the only one in current publication. Look at the offerings the bookstores in your area have and look for such notes from Tolkien or his son, Christopher, who is the literary executor for his estate. It might be worthwhile for you to look around before purchasing, as there are illustrated and collector’s editions out there. It just all depends on which you prefer.   
geordie 29/Dec/2006 at 02:27 AM
Hugo Bracegirdle Points: 20570 Posts: 14087 Joined: 06/Mar/2005
I’d love to read every book that encompasses middle-earth, not just the ones based off the movie series.

*choke* [sorry; that’s what comes of eating me cornflakes while reading].

Reading that bit again, I see you _don’t_ mean you think that the LotR books are based on the film, do you? Of course not. Phew!   
[mind you, I’m just waiting for some tulip to come along and say that...]

You mean books the likes of The Art of Middle earth, and Weapons and Warfare, I take it? Or perhaps the LotR eds with movie covers? [I have all of these, and more; I need ’em for the collection. But as they say, you can’t tell the books by the covers].

Right. Hope I have’nt scared you off with that ramble. Don’t worry; not everyone on the Plaza is as daft as me.    As for your question - to add to Morgil’s wise advice, you pays your money, and you takes your choice.

I see you’d like something as close as possible to what Tolkien intended. That’s a very interesting point; because the books as first published in 1954-5 were _not_ completly as he’d wanted. For instance, he did’nt like the idea of the story being split into three volumes; so that might be a factor in your decision. He was’nt entirely happy with the title for the second and third volumes, either. He wanted the Ring verse to be printed in Red for example, and he spent ages mocking up three pages from the book of Mazarbul to be included on a special sheet. But all of these considerations were rejected by the publishers, for commercial as well as financial reasons.

The very latest text available is the 2005 edition, in which Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull have gone over the words with a very fine tooth comb, sorting out the various problems of style and punctuation and the odd typo which still existed even after their exhaustive ed. for the 50th Anniversary edition in 2004.

I have two recommendations; the first is this very 50th Anniversary edition. It contains facsimiles of the pages from the Book of Mazarbul, for a start. Lovely. It’s available as a standard one-volume hardback; and also as a [pretty pricey] de luxe collector’s ed. But these latter eds. are not usually looked on as books to be read so much as just to look nice on the shelves!

My other recommendation is the illustrated ed. with pictures [lots of pictures] by Alan Lee. The hardbacks are best; very sturdy; they’ll stand up to a lot of reading.

Of course, if you’d really like to see the book as Tolkien first saw it [as opposed to the way he wanted it] then you’ll need a second hand copy of one of the early printings. Abebooks.com is a good place to look; and copies often appear on Ebay. I’ve got some good stuff from both over the years. But as always, it’s a case of ’buyer beware’.

However. If you just want to go for something contemporary [a very good idea; as I say, the two eds. I give above are both very good] then I also recommend a book of annotations - that is, The Lord of the Rings Reader’s Companion by Wayne G.Hammond and Christina Scull. This book is packed with info on the writing of LotR; its history, and so much more. It’s a must-have [and I’d say the same even if Wayne and Christina were’nt friends of mine; and even if my name wasn’t among the acknowledgements. ]

On the subject of guides -Tolkien loved maps. ’You _must_ have a map’ he once said. I recommend two books of maps: ’The Atlas of Middle-earth’ by Karen Wyn Fonstad, and also ’The Journeys of Frodo’ by Barbara Strachey.

And don’t forget an A-Z guide. The _only_ one to get is ’The Complete Guide to Middle-earth’ by Robert Foster [there’s an illustrated ed. of this too; with piccys by Ted Nasmith - very good]

I see you’ve listened to an audio book of TH. Marvellous! The best I’ve heard are the unabridged readings of TH and LotR by Rob Inglis. I recommend them unreservedly. And if you’re hooked, Rob has also recorded Appendix A, as ’The Annals of the Kings and Rulers’. Quite stupendous, actually!

These recommendations ain’t cheap, but for any who just want the _story_ which is all that matters, after all, I recommend a trip to the local library first, to see if you and the books get along. [there’s nowt so sad as an unwanted book.    ]

Right, I’ve rambled enough - welcome to the Plaza, by the way.
Morgil 29/Dec/2006 at 02:42 AM
Minstrel of Lothlorien Points: 2614 Posts: 3542 Joined: 10/Dec/2008

geordie...You truly are a fan, you know?  Although I usually end up snorting Mountain Dew up my nose, instead of choking on cornflakes. The suggestion about Foster’s Guide was a good one. I should have mentioned it. Could you provide the ISBN # for the illustrated edition? I didn’t even know there was one. As you say, Foster’s is the only one worth having, and Nasmith is my favorite Tolkien illustrator? Thanks.

geordie... Never mind about the ISBN. I found a copy and ordered a copy on Amazon. Good lord! One seller had three USED copies they were peddling for $1,250! I appreciate Foster and Nasmith, but if that had been my only option, I would have had to pass it up. There’s reasonable, and then there’s ridiculous. That price is beyond ridiculous. 

<Ulmo edit: Combined the two posts for ya.>

Endril 29/Dec/2006 at 06:36 AM
Healer of Imladris Points: 9193 Posts: 9362 Joined: 15/Jan/2006
Welcome to the Plaza JotaDe. Hope you will enjoy being around. It’s not so important which edition of LOTR you buy as much as you read it and like it.

The books are not made after the movies, not LOTR. LOTR is what Tolkien wrote as you say and in each edition, translated or not is Tolkien’s writings. I first read a translated one then bought the English version which is more clear than any translation. So doesn’t matter if your book cames in a big boxed set or just as three volumes or one, the story and the great writing is the same. Read the books and you will like them. If you are a great fan of the movies, well, the books are longer than the movie. Hope you will like them and want to have more than LOTR.
Captain Bingo 29/Dec/2006 at 09:18 AM
Messenger of Minas Tirith Points: 1573 Posts: 957 Joined: 31/Jan/2006
Apart from agreeing with everything geordie suggests my current favourite edition is the Harper Collins 3 volume hardback of the 50th anniversary edition. They have Tolkien’s original cover designs on the dust jackets in a very stylish matte effect with copper coloured lettering. The new editions of The Sil & Unfinished Tales have matching style jackets, again with Tolkien’s own paintings on the cover & together they make a beautiful 5 volume set. Unfortunately there is no matching Hobbit - though there is a facsimile hardback of TH available with Tolkien’s own colour paintings available.

The Folio Society editions look nice (I don’t have them), but as far as I’m aware they aren’t the 50th anniversary editions.
JotaDe 29/Dec/2006 at 10:00 AM
New Soul Points: 12 Posts: 6 Joined: 28/Dec/2006
I most certainly did not mean to imply that any of the books were based off the movie series - that was a mistake on my part. Sorry for the uproar hehe. I also noticed the Tolkien typo.

Thanks for the responses, I’ll be able to read them all and reply later today.
Nieliqui Vaneyar 29/Dec/2006 at 10:28 AM
Bowmaster of Lothlorien Points: 8191 Posts: 8480 Joined: 14/Feb/2003

Welcome to the Plaza and to Book Lore, JotaDe!  Please do stay around and enjoy all the discussions and other activities we have to offer.

My, but you certainly stirred some passions in this thread.  I’m taken by your closing statement - I want something as close as possible to what Tolken originally produced

I wonder if any publisher actually created ’what Tolkien originally produced’.  But as close as, well, if you’re trying to keep in the spirit of what Tolkien (at least I think) wanted, probably better to purchase a single volume of The Lord of the Rings, rather then the 3 set editions, because I don’t think he originally meant to have them broken up that way.  Maybe someone should put out a 6 volume edition, one for each ’book’, but then I don’t think we’ll see that.

The responders above are correct that hard cover editions do seem to last longer.  Some of my paperback editions have certainly seen better days, but...they certainly are less expensive, unless you have a special key to the Bank of England like our friend, geordie, seems to have. (that, or an overly accomodating significant other, )

anyway, I’m happy to see another reader of Tolkien and I hope to see you around, if not Book lore, then our wonderful plaza.

geordie 29/Dec/2006 at 10:42 AM
Hugo Bracegirdle Points: 20570 Posts: 14087 Joined: 06/Mar/2005
JotaDe -   

Nieliquie Vaneyar sez:

Maybe someone should put out a 6 volume edition, one for each ’book’, but then I don’t think we’ll see that.

There is - or rather, there was a seven-volume set published in 1999., reprinted 2001. [the 7th vol. being the Appendices]. Available in a boxed set; paperback. There’s a set on Amazon >Here<

This is a ’standard’ sized paperback ed. There was a smaller harback ed; but I would’nt recommend them - too small, and not very well put together. A bit gimmicky. But both sets do have the original six book titles which Tolkien came up with.

unless you have a special key to the Bank of England like our friend, geordie, seems to have.

Nah, I just use what little money I have wisely. And print off me own bank-notes on the sly.
Reikon Suchi-ru 29/Dec/2006 at 10:46 AM
Interrogator of Mordor Points: 13828 Posts: 13959 Joined: 11/Dec/2002
Ditto to what geordie said: with the right knowledge of the books and where to find them, it’s not as costly as one might think. As I’ve said elsewhere, I got my Taiwanese pirated LotR set for $9, and a red-leather version of LotR (like the Red Book of Westmarch) for just $25. It takes a little patience, and looking in the right places.
JotaDe 30/Dec/2006 at 06:32 PM
New Soul Points: 12 Posts: 6 Joined: 28/Dec/2006
Thanks again everyone. I’m still digesting your information you’ve given, there is a lot of it!
I swept by our local used book shop today out here in California and a couple pieces caught my eye.

-This one was in awesome condition, even the jackets seemed close to mint if not so, it was selling for $39.

-Another was a hard cover single book copy published by Houghton Mifflin in 1991 or 1992. The dust jacket was a painting of Frodo and Gandalf. This one was also in great condition, even though the dust jacket was a little bent at the top spine. This was $13.99. Wish I had more info to give on this one, I don’t believe it was a Lee illustration.

The first one above looked great, I specially liked the fold-out maps included in each edition. I’ll keep searching. Thanks again for all the replies.
Reikon Suchi-ru 30/Dec/2006 at 06:35 PM
Interrogator of Mordor Points: 13828 Posts: 13959 Joined: 11/Dec/2002
I suggest buying the Movie set. Cheap, and you don’t have to worry about messing up books that won’t increase in value, as they were mass-produced by Del Rey.
geordie 31/Dec/2006 at 01:24 AM
Hugo Bracegirdle Points: 20570 Posts: 14087 Joined: 06/Mar/2005
JotaDe - the 3-vol. set you linked to is a good one: would you be surprised to hear I have one too? . It’s strongly made; a box is always a good thing, because it keeps the books clean, and does’nt allow them to lean - and, as you say, the maps are great - unchanged since the first ed. if I’m not mistaken.

This ed. also has an invaluable ’Note on the Text’ by Doug Anderson, giving the publication details of LotR. However, if this sort of thing is of interest, please note that Doug updated this later, and that the definitive edition has to be the 50th Ann. ed. with notes by Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull.

All in all, the set you saw is pretty good - and the best thing is, you actually had the chance to see and touch it, and gauge the condition for yourself - very important: not something we can do when buying on the internet!


JotaDe 31/Dec/2006 at 10:19 AM
New Soul Points: 12 Posts: 6 Joined: 28/Dec/2006
Thanks for the input Reikon Suchi-ru & geordie.

I will/have looked at some of the movie sets and there are some nice ones. This purchase, for me, is an important one. When I buy books of stories that I love I like to buy ones that are a tad nicer than a usual paperback. Which is why I’m not too concerned with the $40 price tag of the set. In your opinions, are there any new sets (or single books) available online that you’d consider to be better than this one while having around the same price tag?
Reikon Suchi-ru 31/Dec/2006 at 04:10 PM
Interrogator of Mordor Points: 13828 Posts: 13959 Joined: 11/Dec/2002
JotaDe: I’ve always loved the 1999 Oversized Paperback set that Houghton Mifflin put out. Each has a cover that’s sort of frosted, if you know what I mean. I, personally, only have Silmarillion from this set, but I love the set as a whole. HERE is The Two Towers from the set I am speaking of, and there are also links to the other books from the set on this page as well. They run about $10 apiece, so if you get the Trilogy AND Hobbit, you’re looking at about $40, which is around what you were saying you wanted to spend.