March 25th is Tolkien Reading Day! For me and all my Hobbit Homies, it's a pretty big day!! If you didn't know, J.R.R. Tolkien is the guy who wrote all of ‘The Lord of The Rings’ books. He’s basically the father of medieval fantasy stories as we know them today, and he deserves his flowers, damn it!! I thought we could celebrate Tolkien Reading Day with the story of a first edition version of The Hobbit that has its own interesting adventure. Similar to the ring of power in the LOTR trilogy, this book was stolen from, but then later returned to, its home at The University of North Texas. Luckily for all of us book lovers and fantasy fans, it wasn't dipped in a lava bath once it got back home.

Monique Bird, University of North Texas. The First Edition copy of The Hobbit after it was returned to UNT
Monique Bird, University of North Texas. The First Edition copy of The Hobbit after it was returned to UNT
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Now, if you don't read much and you're not sure what the deal is, I'll let you know that ‘First Edition’ books are INSANELY rare. A ‘First Edition’ is exactly what it sounds like, it's the first version of a book that gets printed, meaning this copy of The Hobbit was one of the first versions of the story to ever be put out until they reprint more. Usually when a book is reprinted, there are changes and edits made which make the first editions even more rare. Sometimes a first edition can contain information about characters or storylines that get taken out later on, whether due to length of the book or for some other reason. One of the most special parts about this particular first edition of ‘The Hobbit’ is that the illustrations were all hand drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien himself! The fact that these drawings were made by Tolkien makes the book worth even more. Meaning this book was a very valuable part of the university's collection, you might even wonder how something so important gets stolen in the first place. Well lemme tell ya about it! 

(UNT Libraries) A shot of the letter that arrived with the copy of The Hobbit that was previously stolen from the UNT Library
(UNT Libraries)
A shot of the letter that arrived with the copy of The Hobbit that was previously stolen from the UNT Library
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This is the letter that The University of North Texas library received with their long lost copy of The Hobbit. The person who took the book way back in 1974 was just so dumbfounded that they found a first American edition of Tolkien's, The Hobbit, that they had to take it. Later in life, the book thief had a change of heart and decided the book deserved to be back on the library shelves so they returned it to UNT with an anonymous letter telling the library that it was loved and cherished but they just felt they needed to give it back. 

 

Because this anonymous book thief decided to give it back in 2019, the library at UNT now has a copy of a rare Tolkien book to delight any fans of Tolkien's very rare first edition of The Hobbit. 

 

Are you a fan of Tolkien's stuff and will you celebrate Tolkien Reading Day by diving into your books or just turning on the movies? Either way! We know Tolkien will be happy his stories are living on!! Happy March 25th!!