Tolkien Publisher and Editor Passes Away – Sydney Morning Herald

by Dec 1, 2000Books

Dan M. alerted me to another obituary of one of Tolkien’s biggest fans, Rayner Unwin.

Rayner Unwin, son of Sir Stanley Unwin, was one of the first people to ever read Tolkien’s works set in Middle-earth. In a letter to the Allen & Unwin, Tolkien wrote, “Would you ask Mr. [Stanley] Unwin whether his son, a very reliable critic, would care to read the first chapter of the sequel to The Hobbit? I have typed it. I have no confidence in it, but if he thought it a promising beginning, could add to it the tale that is brewing.” At the time, Rayner was only 10 years old.

Here is an excerpt from the obituary:

J.R.R. Tolkien was acquired shortly afterwards, Unwin having cabled his father (then selling books abroad) that The Lord of the Rings was worthy of publication but might lose £1,000. Back came the famous reply: “If you believe it is a work of genius, then you may lose a thousand pounds.”

If advances were modest, as indeed they were, the writers at least knew their books would stay in print if possible, and never be remaindered when sales stayed small or microscopic. There were some 2,500 titles on the lists when Unwin took over as chairman after his father’s death in 1968.

Follow the link below to read the entire obituary (make sure you scroll about half-way down the page to read it).


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