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The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Identifying First Edition Points of Issue

 The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien First edition  

First UK edition dust jacket

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The Hobbit by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien or J.R.R. Tolkien - First Edition Points of Issue

Pages: 310 numbered - 312 total

Price: ?

Publisher: George Allen & Unwin

Date Published: September 21, 1937


Copyright Page: Has the statement: FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1937 with no additional printing dates indicated

First Edition Total Publication: 1,500 copies

Other First Edition Points of Issue: The front and back Boards are green with pictorial decorations to the front, spine and back in blue. Map is shown on both endpapers in red, black, and white. Top page edges are stained green. No color illustrations within the book itself, but included 10 black-and-white illustrations along with the two maps mentioned previously.

Size: 7.48 x 5.31 inches

Bound: Green boards with pictorial decorations on the front, spine and back in blue.

Dedication: ?

Front and spine boards The Hobbit First UK Edition

Front cover and spine of The Hobbit UK first edition

Additional Information:

1937 - 1st/1st UK Allen & Unwin 
All artwork throughout the book is by Tolkien. Originally Tolkien intended the flying dragon and the sun on the dust jacket to be painted red, but budget restraints forced the red color to be substituted with black.

The UK first printing had no color illustrations within the book itself with the exception of the two end pages maps (red, black and white), the book has 10 black and white illustrations along with the two maps, the original plan was for five maps.

The following is a list of errors in the first UK edition as listed in Hammond (J.R.R. Tolkien - A Descriptive Bibliography):

1. page 14, ll. 17-18, 'find morning', for 'fine morning'.
2. page 17, ll. 29-30, "So you have got here at last! what (for That) was what he was going to say'.
3. page 25, l. 11, 'more fierce then fire' for 'more fierce than fire'.
4. page 62, ll. 2-3, 'uncomfortable palpitating' for 'uncomfortable, palpitating'
5. page 62, l. 31, 'their bruises their tempers and their hopes' for 'their bruises, their tempers and their hopes'.
6. page 64, l. 21, 'where the thrush knocks' for 'when the thrush knocks'.
7. page 85, l. 10, 'far under under the mountains' for 'far under the mountains'.
8. page 104, l. 17, 'back tops' for 'black tops'.
9. page 147, l. 16, 'nor what you call' for 'not what you call'.
10. page 183, l. 26, reversed double quotation marks for the word 'Very'.
11. page 205, l. 32, 'dwarves good feeling' for 'dwarves' godd feeling'.
12. page 210, l. 29, 'above stream' for 'above the stream'.
13. page 215, l. 13, 'door step' for 'doorstep'.
14. page 216, l. 4, 'leas' for 'least'
15. page 229, ll. 16-17, 'you imagination' for 'your imagination'.
16. page 248, l. 32, 'nay breakfast' for 'any breakfast'.

Here is a detailed list of the illustrations in the first UK edition:

Page 4: The Hill: Hobbiton Across the Water
Page 49: The Trolls
Page 68: The Mountain-path
Page 117: The Misty Mountains Looking West from the Eyrie Towards Goblin Gate
Page 126: Beorn's Hall
Page 146: Mirkwood (halftone plate facing page 146)
Page 177: The Elvenking's Gate
Page 196: Lake Town
Page 209: The Front Gate
Page 307: The Hall at Bag End
front endsheet: Thror's Map. printed in black and red
back endsheet: Wilderland, printed in black and red

1937 - 1st/2nd UK Allen & Unwin
By December 15, 1937, the first printing of The Hobbit was sold out and a second printing of 2,300 copies was published.  On the copyright page "SECOND IMPRESSION 1937" The book was actually published in January 1938. During the World War II bombing of London in 1940, 423 unbound copies were destroyed by a fire at the bindery of Key & Whiting leaving only 1,877 copies.

This second printing had four illustrations in color. The line drawing of the Hill: Hobbiton Across the Water (p4) was replaced by a color frontispiece of The Hill: Hobbiton Across the Water. Three other color plates were added: The Fair Valley of Rivendell facing page 59, Bilbo Comes to the Huts of the Raft Elves, facing page 192, and Conversation with Smaug, facing page 228.
The second impression is the only UK 1st edition published with 4 color and 9 black and white illustrations, and is easily identified.

The Hobbit First American Edition Dust Jacket

First American edition dust jacket of The Hobbit

1938 - 1st/1st US Edition Houghton-Mifflin
The first impression of the first US edition was published in 1938 by Houghton Mifflin Co. of Boston & New York. This book has tan cloth binding over boards, imprinted with a red hobbit bowing to the left in the upper right of the title on the front. The dust jacket in blue with the Hobbiton frontispiece in color in front. Title page shows outline of the same hobbit bowing similar to the cover. Again all of the artwork is by Tolkien. 5.94 x 8.27 inches and 310 numbered pages.

Title page hobbit insignia was changed to the publisher's device of a seated flautist during the first edition run.  It is unknown how many of each were published.

The first impression , or first state of the American edition was published in 1938. The number of copies of the first state is unknown. The second impression , or second state was published March 1, 1938 and limited to 5,000 copies. The first American editions of the Hobbit were published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. The first American editions differed significantly from the UK editions by the inclusion of four of Tolkien's color plates. Two of these were used on the dust jacket, the Hill: Hobbiton Across the Water (on the front cover) and Conversation with Smaug (on the back cover). Houghton-Mifflin also decided to place a small figure of a hobbit bowing to the left on the title page and the cover. Notice that this hobbit wore boots! To be fair to the publisher, this hobbit was modeled on the hobbit figure in Tolkien's illustration, Conversation with Smaug. The hobbit in the illustration also wears boots. This figure was removed at some point in production during the second impression run.


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