The History of Middle-earth

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First hardcover editions of The History of Middle-earth

The History of Middle-earth is a 12-volume series of books published between 1983 and 1996 that collect and analyse much of J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium, compiled and edited by his son, Christopher Tolkien.

The series shows the development over time of Tolkien's conception of Middle-earth as a fictional place with its own peoples, languages, and history, from his earliest notions of a "mythology for England" through to the development of the stories that make up The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.

Volume 6-9 has been published independently as a boxed set, by HarperCollins in 1998 and 2002, as The History of The Lord of the Rings. In this set, Sauron Defeated retained only content related to The Lord of the Rings, and was published under the title The End of the Third Age.

Volumes and contents[edit | edit source]

  1. (I) - The Book of Lost Tales: Part One (1983)
  2. (II) - The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two (1984)
  3. (III) - The Lays of Beleriand (1985)
  4. (IV) - The Shaping of Middle-earth (1986)
  5. (V) - The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987)
  6. (VI) - The Return of the Shadow (1988) — (The History of TLotR vol. 1)
  7. (VII) - The Treason of Isengard (1989) — (The History of TLotR vol. 2)
  8. (VIII) - The War of the Ring (1990) — (The History of TLotR vol. 3)
  9. (IX) - Sauron Defeated (1992) — (The History of TLotR vol. 4)
  10. (X) - Morgoth's Ring (1993) — (The Later Silmarillion vol. 1)
  11. (XI) - The War of the Jewels (1994) — (The Later Silmarillion vol. 2)
  12. (XII) - The Peoples of Middle-earth (1996)
  13. (XIII) - (Index) (2002)

The first two books introduce us to The Book of Lost Tales, the first conception of Tolkien's legendarium. The third volume deals with long poems concerning some of the main stories. The following two books follow developments from The Book of Lost Tales to the first so called Quenta Silmarillion. Volumes 6 through 9 discuss the development of The Lord of the Rings, while the second half of book 9 discusses the tale of Númenor. Books 10 and 11 discuss the later developments of The Silmarillion, which served as source material for the published edition. The final book entails the development of The Lord of the Rings Appendices, followed by some assorted essays J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in the last years of his life.

A thirteenth volume was published in 2002, The History of Middle-earth Index. This book has completely integrated all the indices from the set in one large index.

Conception[edit | edit source]

After the publishing his edition of The Silmarillion in 1977, Christopher Tolkien continued investigating the earlier manuscripts of his father, preparing a book which he called The History of The Silmarillion. In 1981, he wrote to Rayner Unwin (then chairman of Allen and Unwin), informing him of the work acomplished till that point: a book of 1,968 pages so far, 16,5 inches across.[1]

If and/or when you see this book, you will perceive immediately why I have said that it is in no conceivable way publishable. The textual and other discussions are far too detailed and minute; the size of it is (and will become progressively more so) prohibitive. It is done partly for my own satisfaction in getting things right, and because I wanted to know how the whole conception did in reality evolve from the earliest origins...

If there is a future for such enquiries, I want to make as sure as I can that any later research into JRRT's "literary history" is not turned into a nonsense by mistaking the actual course of its evolution. The chaos and intrinsic difficulty of many of the papers (the layer upon layer of changes in a single manuscript page, the vital clues on scattered scraps found anywhere in the archive, the texts written on the backs of other works, the disordering and separation of manuscripts, the near or total illegibility in places, is simply inexaggerable...

In theory, I could produce a lot of books out of the History, and there are many possibilities and combinations of possibilities. For example, I could do "Beren", with the original Lost Tale, The Lay of Leithian, and an essay on the development of the legend. My preference, if it came to anything so positive, would probably be for the treating of one legend as a developing entity, rather than to give all the Lost Tales at one go; but the difficulties of exposition in detail would in such a case be great, because one would have to explain so often what was happening elsewhere, in other unpublished writings.

Publication history and gallery[edit | edit source]

Here is given the publication history and gallery of the three-volume set. For more details see the sections in each article.

In 2000 & 2001, The History of Middle-earth series was released in three volumes in a Deluxe India Paper edition, each in a cloth covered slipcase, and each limited to 1000 copies.

  1. The History of Middle-earth: Part One (includes volume 1 to 5)
  2. The History of Middle-earth: Part Two (includes volume 6 to 9)
  3. The History of Middle-earth: Part Three (includes volume 10 to 12)

In the following year 2002, the standard one-slipcase boxed set was released. A new deluxe boxed set was released in 2017.

India Paper Edition vol.1-3  
India Paper Edition cover  
2002 edition boxed set  
2002 edition vol.1  
2002 edition vol.2  
2002 edition vol.3  
2017 deluxe edition boxed set  

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]


The History of Middle-earth series
i.The Book of Lost Tales: Part One · ii.The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two · iii.The Lays of Beleriand ·
iv.The Shaping of Middle-earth · v.The Lost Road and Other Writings · vi.The Return of the Shadow ·
vii.The Treason of Isengard · viii.The War of the Ring · ix.Sauron Defeated ·
x.Morgoth's Ring · xi.The War of the Jewels · xii.The Peoples of Middle-earth ·
A J.R.R. Tolkien book guide
Books by Tolkien or based on his writings
Of Arda Authorized by
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
(i.The Fellowship of the Ring · ii.The Two Towers · iii.The Return of the King) ·
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil · The Road Goes Ever On · Bilbo's Last Song
Edited by Christopher Tolkien The Silmarillion · Unfinished Tales · The History of Middle-earth series (i.The Book of Lost Tales: Part One · ii.The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two · iii.The Lays of Beleriand · iv.The Shaping of Middle-earth · v.The Lost Road and Other Writings · vi.The Return of the Shadow · vii.The Treason of Isengard · viii.The War of the Ring · ix.Sauron Defeated · x.Morgoth's Ring · xi.The War of the Jewels · xii.The Peoples of Middle-earth · Index) ·
The Children of Húrin · Beren and Lúthien · The Fall of Gondolin
Edited by others The Annotated Hobbit · The History of The Hobbit · The Nature of Middle-earth · The Fall of Númenor
Not of Arda Short stories
and poems
Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major ·
Letters from Father Christmas · Mr. Bliss · Roverandom ·
Tree and Leaf (compilation) · Tales from the Perilous Realm (compilation)
Fiction works The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún · The Fall of Arthur · The Story of Kullervo · The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Translations and academic works Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo · Finn and Hengest ·
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary · The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays ·
Tolkien On Fairy-stories · A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages · The Battle of Maldon
Other The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Books by other authors
Reference books The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
Scholarly books with Tolkien's writings J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography · The Inklings · The Road to Middle-earth ·
A Question of Time · Tolkien and the Great War ·
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion · The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide
Scholarly journals with Tolkien's writings Tolkien Studies various issues
Other published works by Tolkien
Linguistic journals Vinyar Tengwar issue 1-50 · Parma Eldalamberon issue 11-22
Collections of artwork
and manuscripts
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien · Tolkien: Life and Legend · J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator ·
The Art of The Hobbit · The Art of The Lord of the Rings · Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth ·
Tolkien: Treasures · J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript
This list only includes the major published works, for the full bibliography of Tolkien, see here or here