First edition of Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ fetches £137,000

Book is inscribed with a handwritten note from the author in Elvish


A first edition of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit has been sold at an auction in New York to an anonymous bidder for £137,000 – twice what it was expected to reach.

The previous world record for a copy of The Hobbit was set in 2008 when it sold for £50,000.

The book was intended as a gift from the author to one of his first students, Katherine “Kitty” Kilbride, at Leeds University, where he was a professor of English.

The first edition is inscribed with a handwritten note from the author in Elvish, one of the languages created by the author for his fantasy books.

He continued to present Ms Kilbride copies of each book that was published, and sent letters and cards to her throughout his life.

Her set of The Lord of the Rings (inscribed to “CM Kilbride”) was also sold at auction by Sotheby’s in London in 1982, and later, at Sotheby’s New York in 1993. An autograph postcard to her, dated December 24th, 1926, was sold at another auction in 2012.

Three volumes of the first edition The Lord Of The Rings sold for £20,000.

The Hobbit was Tolkien’s most successful book, establishing his name as a fantasy author, and was published in 1937, before the longer Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

The author had originally intended the book for his children but after reading it, Tolkien’s friend, Elaine Griffith, had helped to get it published.

Tolkien, who was raised in Birmingham, spent most of his life as an academic in Oxford, before retiring to Dorset with his wife, Edith.

After she died he sold up and moved back to Oxford. Tolkien passed away in September 1973.