Burren Tolkien Society Festival & Scéal Eile Books present – Auction of ‘Tree and Leaf’ by J. R. R. Tolkien – A Facsimile Signed First Edition, First Impression Copy

The Event

On Thursday, 16rd of May at 3pm in the Roadside Tavern, Lisdoonvarna, The Burren Tolkien Society in association with Scéal Eile Books auctioned a scarce first edition, first impression of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Tree and Leaf’ featuring the facsimile signature of the author. Proceeds from the auction went to local charities, including the RNLI. We are delighted to have raised over €1000.


A first edition, first impression of ‘Tree and Leaf’, from the private collection of Jeremy Prince – an undergraduate student of Tolkien’s at Oxford in the 1960’s.  You can read about the provenance of this book below, in Mr. Prince’s own words, or watch the video here

“I was privileged to be an undergraduate at Oxford in the 1960’s and was able to attend Professor Tolkien’s lectures. I was even more privileged in that he would select a few students for little seminars in his rooms where we could ask questions about Middle Earth which went far beyond what was written in those books because Tolkien’s mind encompassed far more than he ever put down in writing. When, in 1964, ‘Tree and Leaf’ was published, the publishers – as was the practice then – printed the first few copies with Tolkien’s signature – the first run of the first print of the first edition of this book. I was incredibly privileged that Professor Tolkien himself handed me this book – from his hand to mine, personally. Since then, it has sat in a privileged position on my bookshelf. Now, more than 49 years later, we are going to auction this book for charitable causes at the Burren Tolkien Soctiety Summer Symposium, here in the wilderness of the Burren. There could not be a better location for auctioning this book. The Burren is a wild, rocky, inspiring wilderness with huge, craggy hills of limestone, and deep valleys. It is an area which Professor Tolkien knew from his time in Ireland, and which we all who live here believe inspired him.”

Jacket Notes

Fairy stories are not just for children, as anyone who has read Professor Tolkien will know. The taste for them is a natural one, at any age. In his essay, On Fairy Stories, which forms the first part of this book, he rescues them from the academics on the one hand, the philologists and anthropologists, and, on the other, from those who would relegate them to ‘juvenalia’. The second part contains, as an apt and beautiful illustration, one of Professor Tolkien’s earlier short stories, Leaf by Niggle. Like the later and more generous The Lord of the Rings, it shows his mastery of the art of ‘sub-creation’, the power to give to fantasy ‘the inner consistency of reality’.

Introductory Note

These two things, On Fairy-stories and Leaf by Niggle, are here reprinted and issued together. They are no longer easy to obtain, but they may still be found interesting, especially by those to whom The Lord of the Rings has given pleasure. Though one is an ‘essay’ and the other a ‘story’, they are related: by the symbols of Tree and Leaf, and by touching in different ways on what is called in the essay ‘sub-creation’. Also they were written in the same period (1938-39), when The Lord of the Rings was beginning to unroll itself and to unfold prospects of labour and exploration in yet unknown country as daunting to me as to the hobbits. At about that time we had reached Bree, and I had then no more notion than they had of what had become of Gandalf or who Stirder was; and I had begun to despair of surviving to find out.

The essay was originally composed as an Andrew Lang Lecture and was in a shorter form delivered in the University of St. Andrews in 1938. It was eventually published, with a little enlargement, as one of the items in Essays presented to Charles Williams, Oxford University Press, 1947, now out of print. It is here reproduced with only a few minor alterations.

The story was not published until 1947 (Dublin Review). It has not been changed since it reached manuscript form, very swiftly, one day when I awoke with it already in mind. One of its sources was a great-limbed poplar tree that I could see even lying in bed. It was suddenly lopped and mutilated by its owner, I do not know why. It is cut down now, a less barbarous punishment for any crimes it may have been accused of, such as being large and alive. I do not think it had any friends, or any mourners, except myself and a pair of owls.


Book Description and Condition

Main Title: Tree and Leaf by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Published: London, George Allen & Unwin.

Date: 1964.

Edition: First edition.

Description: 92p. 19cm.

Subjects: Fairy tales – History and criticism.

Notes: Advertisements at end of book for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King; The Adventures of Tom Bombadil; Farmer Giles of Ham; The Hobbit; English and Medieval Studies.

Condition: A near fine copy in its original dark green cloth with gilt-blocked titling on spine and the author’s facsimile signature printed on the title page. The top edge of the text block is dyed green and a small amount of bleeding has occurred to some of the pages. There is a small stain on the top corner of back cover beside spine. The dust-jacket is in good condition although it is price-clipped, somewhat edge-nicked and has some small tears to the edges. The dust-jacket is also stained and rubbed from shelf-wear with some marks to the front cover and the spine is sun-toned. The dust-jacket is now protected with mylar sleeving.

Detailed images of the book can be found on our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151412691802862.1073741827.21857357861&type=3

Queries can be sent to scealeilebooks@gmail.com

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