A FAMILY first edition copy of J R R Tolkien’s The Hobbit, presented to his favourite aunt who lived in Worcestershire could go under the hammer for a record £50,000.
The book, a forerunner of the sequel, The Lord of the Rings – now a made into an Oscar-winning movie – was inscribed: “Aunt Jane from J R R T with love October 6 1937.”
A below estimate price for the book, which is due to be auctioned at Sotheby’s in London on Thursday, July 11, would still beat the existing world record for a first edition of The Hobbit which went for £27,850 in December 2001.
The book – complete with original pictorial dust jacket – is being sold by a family descendent, with a loosely inserted manuscript of a runic alphabet in the author’s hand.
Emily Jane Suffield, Tolkien’s mother’s younger sister, who lived in Dormston, was an important influence on the author’s personal and literary development.
Tolkien stayed with her in 1904, after his mother had fallen ill and she also played a crucial role in the courtship of his parents, passing letters between the secretly-engaged Mabel Suffield and Arthur Tolkien.
Tolkien kept in close contact with his aunt and she was responsible in 1961 for asking her nephew for a book “with Tom Bombadil at the heart of it”.
The Adventure of Tom Bombadil was published a year later.
She lived at a farm in a lane which led no further and which was called by locals Bag End – the name Tolkien used for the place where the Hobbits lived.
“Contemporary inscriptions in first editions of this title are rare but the fact that the book belonged to Tolkien’s aunt – an important influence on his development – is particularly significant,” said Lindsay Drewett, of Sotheby’s.
Tolkien (1892-1973) was born in South Africa, but educated in Birmingham and Merton College, Oxford, where he later became professor of Anglo-Saxon and of English Languages and Literature.