Friday, December 13, 2013

FFB: The Unauthorized Lord of the Rings

The Unauthorized Lord of the Rings 

The essay at the link above does a nice job of telling the story of how Ace came to publish the first U. S. paperbacks of the LOTR trilogy and of how Ballantine came to take over the market with its own editions.

Back in 1965, I knew nothing about this controversy.  One day when I was standing in a supermarket checkout line in Denton, Texas, I spotted the second volume of the Ace edition in a little rack of paperbacks intended to entice impulse shoppers.  When it comes to books, I'm one of those.  I know you're surprised to hear that.
Anyway, the Jack Gaughan cover of The Two Towers called out to me.  I wasn't a kid anymore, but that cover bypassed any adult parts of my brain and went straight to the old "sense of wonder" portion of it that remained.  I grabbed the book and bought it even though it wasn't the first volume in the series.  I figured I'd find the first one soon enough.  I did, and I found the third one, too.  That's how I came to read the unauthorized edition of the trilogy.  


No matter what you think of the Ace editions otherwise, I think we can all admit that the covers are far superior to those on the Ballantine paperbacks.  I still have those Ace editions today, and I still love the covers.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Face it - when they designed those racks for "impulse buyers" you are who they had in mind.

I think I had the Ballantine edition.


Jeff

Richard said...

I first became aware of Tolkien through a review of The Hobbit. Later I found LOTR in a small bookshop in Laguna Beach, CA and bought the set. It is the Houghton Mifflin Company hardcover, twelfth printing (1962). I read that set the first time I read the trilogy, and the next couple of times, before I finally bought the Ballentine 1973 trade paperback boxed set. I just didn't want to put any more "reading wear and tear" on those original hardcovers.

I knew nothing of the Ace vs. Ballentine dispute, or an unauthorized vs. authorized edition. Was/is there any difference in the text?

Bill Crider said...

Supposedly Tolkein had made some minor changes to the Ballantine editions. I don't know how significant they might have been.

Stephen B. said...

True fans would find such a release, and even buy it and then later get a hardback or "real" release of the book -- it could happen. I've heard about those and I heard they might be quite costly, like old paperbacks sometimes are!

James Reasoner said...

I remember seeing the Ace editions on the spinner rack at the drug store, but for some reason I never bought them. I picked up the Ballentines when they came out.

Bill Crider said...

I'm surprised you could resist those covers.

James Reasoner said...

I had to make sure I had enough allowance money for comic books and Doc Savage reprints and Edgar Rice Burroughs books.

Bill Crider said...

That would explain it, all right.

Dan_Luft said...

My first job was in a used store in my home town in the 80s. I never knew these were unauthorized editions. They certainly came into the store and were shelved like any other books. I wonder if they were worth anything back then because none of the obsessive fantasy readers mentioned anything like that.

Bill Crider said...

There was a time when they were pricey, but I think people figured out that Ace had printed something like 100,000 copies of each volume, and that drove the price way down.