Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

The Publishing (And Editorial) History of Some Extremely Famous Fiction

What “…was written in stages between 1937 and 1949, much of it during World War II…It [being] the second best-selling novel ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.”?

And, to give a few folks a bit more time to think about that question, I’ll point out to the grammar-folk that I fully intended the .”? at the end of the previous sentence :-)

And, from the Wikipedia article I’m quoting from, here’s another clue:

It “…was initially intended…to be one volume of a two-volume set…, but this idea was dismissed by [the] publisher. For economic reasons [it] was published in three volumes over the course of a year from 29 July 1954 to 20 October 1955…”.

O.K., I can only give those racking their brains as long as it takes to say I also fully intended the …”. at the end of the previous sentence :-)

By the way, my maverick punctuation is nothing compared to the spelling idiosyncrasies of the author of the work in question

The Answer Is:

The Lord of The Rings


“Tolkien’s unused cover designs for the three volumes which would later be used for the 50th anniversary editions of the books”

This classic work of literature had a rather torturous publishing history with some hair-pulling editorial episodes.

Again, from Wikipedia:

“A dispute with his publisher, George Allen & Unwin, led to the book being offered to Collins in 1950. Tolkien intended The Silmarillion (itself largely unrevised at this point) to be published along with The Lord of the Rings, but A&U were unwilling to do this. After Milton Waldman, his contact at Collins, expressed the belief that The Lord of the Rings itself ‘urgently wanted cutting’, Tolkien eventually demanded that they publish the book in 1952. Collins did not; and so Tolkien wrote to Allen and Unwin, saying, ‘I would gladly consider the publication of any part of the stuff.'”

And, to indicate some of the editorial challenges, from The Tolkien Society’s Site:

Tolkien “…was wondering who might want to read such a book, but cheered up on one point about the publication: ‘At any rate the proof-reader, if it comes to that, will, I hope, have very little to do’ … However, Tolkien had not reckoned with a problem which had already occurred with The Hobbit: ‘I use throughout’, he wrote, ‘the “incorrect” plural dwarves. I am afraid it is just a piece of private bad grammar, rather shocking in a philologist; but I shall have to go on with it’…”

“He did ‘go on with it’, and as a result, he comments on The Fellowship of the Ring: ‘the printing is very good, as it ought to be from an almost faultless copy; except that the impertinent compositors have taken it upon themselves to correct, as they suppose, my spelling and grammar: altering throughout dwarves to dwarfs, elvish to elfish, further to farther, and worst of all elven- to elfin. I let off my irritation in a snorter to A. and U. [the publishing firm] which produced a grovel’…”

The link to the Tolkien Society leads to a bewitching tale of the trials and tribulations of bringing this Epic Tale to the public and I heartily recommend writers and readers take the link and learn the shaded and twisting facts—one more quote about publishing and editorial shenanigans:

“Tolkien was re-editing because…Ace Books in the United States published an unauthorised edition. The Fellowship came out in May 1965, the other two volumes in July. 150,000 copies were printed of each volume! The main text was reset, and introduced new errors, but the appendices were reproduced photographically, and thus contained only the errors already there. Ace Books were exploiting a copyright loophole which meant they did not have to pay Tolkien or his publishers any royalties. Houghton Mifflin appears to have imported too many copies, and the notice they contain, ‘Printed in Great Britain’ meant that the texts were deemed to be in the public domain in the United States.”

There are those who claim literary knowledge who also claim TLoTR is trash.

One thing is certain about its history—struggling against incompetence and impertinence to become a much-loved reading experience for millions…

One last quote (bolding mine):

“There is no time today to do more than note that The Lord of the Rings has been translated into Russian, and numerous other languages. Those translations have been made from various, more or less error-free English editions, by more or less competent translators, with more or less competent typography.”

Something for those struggling to self-publish their own book to remember, eh?
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5 responses to “The Publishing (And Editorial) History of Some Extremely Famous Fiction

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