So, thanks to Janice for pointing out to me the news that the copy of the first printing of THE HOBBIT J. R. R. Tolkien had sent to his friend and former pupil K. M. (Katharine Mary) Kilbride is currently being auctioned off by Sotheby's, with an estimated selling price of 50k to 70k pounds (roughly $75k to $100k in US dollars). Here's the link with the full auction catalogue write-up:
As the item description indicates, this is one of the presentation copies Tolkien himself had sent out when the book was first published; Kilbride's thank-you letter upon receiving it is now in the Tolkien collection in the Bodleian, so this is about as well-documented an associational item as we can get.
What's v. odd from my point of view is that I discussed these presentation copies in a section I added to the expanded one-volume edition of THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT, where it appeared as Appendix V: Author's Copies List. The Sotheby's description contains some biographical information about Kilbride I hadn't known before, and which is welcome. But it's odd, for me,
to see my own works quoted as an authority, right alongside Wayne's DESCRIPTIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY identifier. I'm used to presenting information and arguing my case, but not to being cited in a case where real money is on the line. It's an odd experience.
And of course having just recently spent a little time in the Marquette Archives, I have to marvel that this single book could go for twenty times what Marquette paid for their entire seven thousand page collection. Just another example of how high Tolkien's stock has risen within our culture as a whole.
Finally, The Wife Says, in sharing the news to our friends and acquaintances: Feel free to bid. I already told John he can't have it.
current reading: CHILDREN OF THE SUN
P.S.: Tolkien Society's re-posting of this announcement (http://www.tolkiensociety.org/2015/05/rare-first-edition-presentation-copy-of-the-hobbit-to-be-auctioned/) points out that the lines Tolkien quotes are in fact in Old English, not Elvish.