Tolkien Gateway

Letter 135

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 135
RecipientRayner Unwin
Date24 October 1952
Subject(s)Cost of printing The Lord of the Rings, current work, British atomic bomb

Letter 135 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

A printer had estimated that to recover costs The Lord of the Rings would have to be priced at £3 10s at a minimum and would cost more if divided into two volumes. A second opinion was being sought from another printer. Tolkien regretted having produced such a sizable monster in unpropitious days and thanked Rayner for all his trouble. Tolkien hoped that the decision whether or not to go ahead with publication of the work would be made soon for the uncertainty weighed heavily on his heart. He could neither dismiss it as a disaster and turn to other things nor develop related items such as the maps.

Tolkien called the given estimate very big for any book, asking if they did publish at that price how many they would print and how many would they have to sell to realize a profit? Tolkien claimed that there were large numbers of people who were avid for such fare, who delighted in length, and who would be willing to pay for it. However he did not want to hazard a guess as to these people’s numbers.

Tolkien had just gone through three weeks of incessant labour and now faced a calmer period of lecturing and teaching, examining a thesis on Fairy Tales, editing a monograph, producing a contribution to "Essay and Studies" journal,[notes 1] completing his edition of Ancrene Wisse, and writing the W.P. Ker Lecture for Glasgow.[notes 2] Tolkien wished to find a new place to live since his charming house had become uninhabitable due to the noise and fumes of modern life. He also regretted that the recent billowing cloud was not the fall of Barad-dûr but the product of its allies.[notes 3]

[edit] Notes

  1. The contribution would be The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorthelm's Son.
  2. A discussion of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, delivered on 15 April 1953.
  3. The British had tested their first atomic bomb on 3 October 1952.