21 Sep 2010

The Hobbit - 73 today !

73 years ago today, a young child called Rayner Unwin, received a brand new book from his father Stanley Unwin (Tolkien's publisher) .Rayner was asked to read to book and write a review for it, he was paid the standard fee of one shilling. As he later said, "It was the best shilling the firm ever spent". The opening sentence of that book was to become one of the most famous book opening of all time :

"In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit"

By Christmas that year, The Hobbit's first printing was sold-out. Professor Tolkien painted the original dustjacket in the style of William Morris, a designer he admired greatly. I was lucky enough to admire the original Tolkien's dustjacket for The Hobbit earlier this year in Oxford. It is without doubts, one of Tolkien's best illustrations which demonstrates his sense of visual design.

73 years on, translated into virtually every language on the planet, and many publications later, The Hobbit still remains one of the greatest books ever written.

The Hobbit 's First Review by Rayner Unwin (age 10):

"Bilbo Baggins was a Hobbit who lived in his Hobbit hole and never went for adventures, at last Gandalf the wizard and his Dwarves persuaded him to go. He had a very exciting time fighting goblins and wargs. At last they get to the lonely mountain; Smaug, the dragon who guards it is killed and after a terrific battle with the goblins he returned home — rich! This book, with the help of maps, does not need any illustrations it is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9."

The Hobbit - Published September 21, 1937