The cover of Marquette University’s latest addition to
its J.R.R. Tolkien Collection.
- With manuscripts and working drafts of “The Hobbit” and
“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and other J.R.R. Tolkien-related
material, Marquette University was still missing something.
Hobbit” first printing first edition, an acquisition it made
widely public this week.
having a copy of this was like having a tooth missing from a
smile,” said William Fliss, archivist and curator of the
J.R.R. Tolkien Collection at Marquette, renown for its dental
owns the manuscript for ‘The Hobbit,’ so we have all the
various handwritten corrections for it,” Fliss said.
collection does have many other English copies as well as
versions in other languages.
in very nicely with ‘The Hobbits’ we do have,” he said.
described the copy as in very good condition but without a
on Sept. 21, 1937, by George Allen & Unwin, the first
printing sold out before 1938.
Tolkien works arrived at Marquette 20 years later, shortly
after “The Lord of the Rings” was published in 1954-’55.
William B. Ready, Marquette’s director of libraries from
1956-’63, recognized them as classics and purchased them for
1,500 pounds, or less than $5,000. Humanities study is a part
of the Jesuit tradition, Fliss said.
printing of the first edition of “The Hobbit” follows the
purchase of two Tolkien letters
as recent significant additions. And is on top of the
mountain of other materials that includes 1,200 volumes of
Tolkien books, 270 titles of periodicals, plus book reviews,
studies of (invented) Elvish languages, poems, puzzles and
videos. “The Hobbit” manuscripts alone number 1,586 pages,
including corrected typesets and a holograph version.
a lot of rewriting of chapters,” said Fliss, who has been
curator since 2012 but at Marquette since 2003. “You can see
his creative process develop over time and ... you can see
improvement in them.
was a world builder.”
the breadth of Tolkien and the stunning details, it’s hard
to finger any one reason for his long-standing popularity,
Fliss said. He added the popularity soared with the release of
the Peter Jackson films, beginning in 2001.
things are universal.
represents a lot of values that you gravitate toward -
loyalty, friendship, love, standing up to oppression, courage,
perseverance,” Fliss said. “These values seem to grab
title page of “The Hobbit.” The first printing first
edition was published by George Allen & UnWin on
Sept. 21, 1937, in London.
academic and amateur researchers come from all over the world
to study the works on the third floor of the Raynor Memorial
Libraries, 1355 W. Wisconsin Ave., it’s also a place for
fans to pay homage to the writer who died in 1972.
have, for lack of a better word, pilgrims. They are Tolkien
fans who just want to make some kind of contact with the
collection,” Fliss said.
curious about Tolkien and the world he created can attend
bimonthly showings of the collection. The next is at 2:30 p.m.
Jan. 20 at the library. Fliss said he expects to have the
Department of Special Collections and University Archives
acquisition of “The Hobbit” on display. A lot of the
collection isn’t hands-on.
preservation purposes, researchers often work with photocopies
or microfilm versions of the original manuscripts and
sometimes printed versions of handwritten letters that can be
hard to read. They can work with rare books.
most part it's like coming to a museum and you can get a good
look at it, but not handle them,” Fliss said.