I am a bibliophile. And before torches are lit and pitchforks raised, this means I love books. This is probably obvious from the fact that I buy books faster than I read them, in fact sometime I never read them. This is why I was so upset when I discovered this in August. There is one book in my ‘collection’ (it’s not that impressive) which I cherish more than the others: my 1971 copy of The Hobbit.
The copy was already dog-eared when I stole it from my brother, aged 10, and it has been through the mill ever since. But it is the crumbly, well-read feel of this book that makes it so special. I can remember the origin of many of the blotches and blemishes, the tears and scuffs, and each of them adds to the story of the book as a physical, personal object. Every time I pick the book up the oddly perfumed aroma takes me back to that day in 1989 when a bottle of Imperial Leather shower gel was spilt over the bookshelf.
The antique nature added to the appeal of this book and seemed to fit the story within; the ancient maps, hidden runes, the mouldering forests. As a ten year old boy who was largely lost in his own imagination (I pity my poor teachers) the story was a revelation and kicked off a lifelong love of books.
I don’t think I need to say much about the story itself, though I think it’s a shame that in some ways it has been overshadowed by J.R.R. Tolkien’s later work; The Lord of the Rings. It is a wonderful children’s book and contains more than enough wit and sophistication for any adult to enjoy even if they had no childhood experience of it. Indeed, ignoring it will be a hard thing to do soon as the film adaptation will start rolling cameras next year, and after that point it will be omnipresent. For anyone interested in news of the book adaptation then www.theonering.net is a good bet. Current rumours of Stephen Fry’s involvement are intriguing, let’s hope he plays Bilbo.
For those of you already convinced by The Hobbits merits I would strongly recommend ‘The History of the Hobbit’ series by John D. Rateliff. In these two volumes Rateliff goes back to the original Tolkien manuscripts, comparing and contrasting the versions and providing a lively and informed commentary on its history and providence.