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Rare first edition sets of JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, including a signed set, are up for auction at Sworders in Stansted





Two rare first edition sets of JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings triology, including a signed set, are up for auction at Sworders in Stansted later this month.

The copies of the Middle Earth epic which bear the author's signature are estimated for sale at between £6,000-£10,000 while the unsigned set, which is in unread condition, is expected to fetch between £5,000 and £8,000 at the Books and Maps sale on Tuesday August 23.

Tolkien's fantasy set in Middle Earth began as a sequel to his 1937 children's book The Hobbit, but eventually developed into a much larger work. Written in stages between 1937 and 1949, The Lord of the Rings was – for reasons of economics – published over the course of just over a year from July 29, 1954 to October 20, 1955 in three volumes titled The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

The unsigned trilogy (58595729)
The unsigned trilogy (58595729)

A spokeswoman for Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers, based in Cambridge Road, said: "The trilogy has since been reprinted many times, but the copies offered for sale from two different sources are all first editions printed during the relatively narrow 1954-55 window.

"The copy signed by the author has been well used, with occasional tears, small losses, stains and tape repairs. The original owner's father had been at Oxford the same time as Tolkien and had asked him to sign them.

"Another set of the three books, that comes from a private collection, does not have the allure of the author's signature, but these first edition, first impression copies retain all maps and all dust jackets with the price of 21 shillings unclipped. As a fine and unread set, they are exceptionally rare."

The page signed by JRR Tolkien (58595723)
The page signed by JRR Tolkien (58595723)

Another noteable item for sale at Sworders is a rare Tudor manuscript dating from 1566 which was designed to help with swan-keeping in the era when mute swans were owned by the English crown.

The two-volume manuscript was used from the 16th to the 19th century by landowners in Norfolk and Suffolk.

A favourite delicacy for the banqueting table, the swan has been deemed a royal bird from the Middle Ages. All swans flying free on open and common waters were deemed the property of the crown and only the monarch could grant the privilege of owning a 'game' of swans to individuals or institutions.

All such birds had to be marked and pinioned to assist in any dispute over ownership or for swan upping, the annual overseeing of the marking of the new cygnets.

Handwritten notes on how to care for swans (58595735)
Handwritten notes on how to care for swans (58595735)

A Swan-Master was appointed both to care for the royal swans and to oversee and regulate swan-keeping throughout England. He was assisted by deputies with responsibility for a specific and manageable region.

A Sworders spokeswoman said: "The manuscript references the 'Hundred of Wisbech' in Norfolk and Suffolk. The first volume dated 1566 contains over 600 marks, followed by 19 pages of manuscript notes concerning the 'Laws and Ordinances regarding swan'.

"The names start with the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, on to the Bishop of Ely and the Dean of York and finish with wealthy landowners."

Drawings show the different markings for the birds (58595741)
Drawings show the different markings for the birds (58595741)

The second volume is dated 1834 and includes notes on swan marks followed by 84 pages of swan marks and an index of owners.

A similar manuscript was sold by Christies in 1999. This one, from the estate of Wisbech dealer Peter Croft, is guided at £8,000-£16,000.



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