The Lord of the Rings
NOTE ON THE TEXT
The Lord of the Rings
is often erroneously called a trilogy, when it is in fact a single novel, consisting of six books plus appendices, sometimes
published in three volumes.
The first volume,
The Fellowship of the Ring,
was published in Great Britain by the London firm George Allen & Unwin on 29 July 1954; an American edition followed on 21
October of the same year, published by Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston. In the production of this first volume, Tolkien
experienced what became for him a continual problem: printer’s errors and compositor’s mistakes, including well-intentioned
‘corrections’ of his sometimes idiosyncratic usage. These ‘corrections’ include the altering of
nasturtiums, try and say
try to say
and (‘worst of all’ to Tolkien)
In a work such as
The Lord of the Rings,
containing invented languages and delicately constructed nomenclatures, errors and inconsistencies impede both the understanding
and the appreciation of serious readers – and Tolkien had many such readers from very early on. Even before the publication
of the third volume, which contained much hitherto unrevealed information on the invented languages and writing systems, Tolkien
received many letters from readers written in these systems, in addition to numerous enquiries on the finer points of their
The second volume,
The Two Towers,
was published in England on 11 November 1954 and in the United States on 21 April 1955. Meanwhile Tolkien worked to keep
a promise he had made in the foreword to volume one: that ‘an index of names and strange words’ would appear in the third
volume. As originally planned, this index would contain much etymological information on the languages, particularly on the
elven tongues, with a large vocabulary. It proved the chief cause of the delay in publishing volume three, which in the end
contained no index at all, only an apology from the publisher for its absence. For Tolkien had abandoned work on it after
indexing volumes one and two, believing its size and therefore its cost to be ruinous.
The Return of the King,
finally appeared in England on 20 October 1955 and in the United States on 5 January 1956. With the appearance of the third
The Lord of the Rings
was published in its entirety, and its first edition text remained virtuallyunchanged for a decade. Tolkien had made a few small corrections, but further errors entered
The Fellowship of the Ring
in its December 1954 second impression when the printer, having distributed the type after the first printing, reset the
book without informing the author or publisher. These include misrepresentations of the original printed text – that is, words
and phrases that read acceptably in context, but which depart from Tolkien’s wording as originally written and published.
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