It’s a big day for J.R.R. Tolkien fans here in the Philippines for today marks the release (yes, our country is ahead of the worldwide screening date, just how swell is that!) of the film adaptation of the classic children’s book published in 1937, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first in a slated three-part motion picture epic, directed none other by the man who brought to life Tolkien’s majestic Middle- Earth, Peter Jackson.
As a way to celebrate this day, and before I troop to the nearest multiplex to watch the year’s much anticipated movie, let me share with you (honestly, it’s more like showing off) Gentle Readers some editions of The Hobbit I have thus far collected through the years. As much as a die-hard Tolkien fan that I am, my collection is just modest at best since most of these I bought from my favorite second-hand bookstore and the tantalizing ones — the special, limited editions — are not available in the country or is out of reach of my present financial capabilities.
Each book has definitely given me endless hours of pleasurable reading and as I had said on my review of The Hobbit: “reading [Tolkien’s] work is always a call to be delighted and dazzled once more…”
• The 1984 US Special Silver Jubilee Edition — my copy is an 8th printing, published by Ballantine Books with a cover art by Darrell K. Sweet, one of the artists who illustrated a number of Tolkien Calendars (also by the same publisher) during the late 70s up to the 80s. This copy is the first ever copy of The Hobbit I owned. I chanced upon this selling for PHP 50 on the sidewalk of Recto back in college. I particularly bought this edition because it’s associated with fond memories as it looks the same as the one I had read during high school (it might also belong from the same batch of the book’s 8th printing for all I know), the book that was recommended to me by the school librarian. As can be seen, my love for this one is palpable as it has been read into rags. Opening the pages of this book takes me back in a time when, like Bilbo himself, I’m just beginning journeying my way to harsh hinterlands of the Wilderness with no clue how will this whole affair turn out.
• The 1995 George Allen & Unwin Edition, a later printing of the Reset “Fifth UK Edition” — what I like about this edition is its look, being a reproduction of The Hobbit when it was published way back in 1937. It features the dust jacket that was designed by Tolkien with a wrap-around image of some of the places where most of Bilbo with Thorin and company’s adventure took place. It also includes the author’s illustration in the inside pages.
• The 2007 70th Anniversary Edition — published by the Houghton Mifflin Company, this, for me, is the definitive edition of The Hobbit as Tolkien envisioned it seventy-five years ago. If you may refer to the earlier edition above, Tolkien first proposed that the sun and the dragon (on the back of the dust jacket) should appear in red ink, but due to cost cutting during the time pushed by his UK publisher, they decided it can only carry three colors on its cover, i.e., black, green and blue. The 70th Anniversary Edition also has a new set of illustrations by Tolkien all in full color. The Preface by his son Christopher Tolkien, which first saw print in the 1987 50th Anniversary Edition of the book, explains the history of its writing and publication as well as the editing process The Hobbit has gone through the years to bring its plot in congruence with the events later told in the The Lord of the Rings.
• The Hobbit illustrated by Michael Hague — I have the big, paperback soft covered edition published by Houghton Mifflin Company which is probably a later printing (it was first printed in hardcover sometime in 1984). Lavishly illustrated, it features the 48 paintings by noted artist Michael Hague who was also commissioned to do some of the highly collectible Tolkien Calendars.
And there you go! I hope you had as much fun as I did sharing some of the books from my Tolkien collection. I greatly recommend to read the book first (if you haven’t yet) before rushing to a cinema near you to catch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It’s a fairly easy read and maybe it will help you have a working knowledge to know some of its fantastic characters, lest the names of the thirteen dwarves in Thorin’s company confuse you.
Happy viewing, Gentle Readers!