Collector Profile: Pieter Collier & His Tolkien Library

A collector of Tolkien books, and the person behind the website "The Tolkien Library".

How did you get started in collecting?

I have been reading books by Tolkien since I was a child. Although I don’t know the exact year, I still remember the first time I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This was a turning point in my life, although I did not realize it back then. From day one I wanted to own a personal copy of The Lord of the Rings, just to be able to re-read it whenever I wished. Soon I got a well-read copy of The Hobbit and a short while later I received The Lord of the Rings.

In the beginning I just wanted to acquire every written word by J.R.R. Tolkien, so it wasn’t long before I bought Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wootton Major and The Silmarillion. In my search for more Tolkien material I constantly discovered new books to read and collect. First I found nicely illustrated editions, then I saw the calendars, and soon I bought some biographies, books on Tolkien art and some fairy tales. Before I realized it I had acquired a nice Tolkien collection.

The year 1992 was an important turning point in my life. Johan Vanhecke organized a J.R.R. Tolkien Exhibition in Antwerp, Belgium, which I visited several times. By then I already had a lot of Tolkien books but the exhibition showed me how much more was out there. It also made me realize that I was not the only huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan. From that period I started tracking down any Tolkien and Tolkien-related books that I could find. Soon I found my way to antique book dealers and book fairs, where I'd find some books and a lot of my rare editions. Via the Internet I got into contact with some good antique book dealers, and was able to search the whole world for rare Tolkien books. Collecting now became a lot easier!

Dutch Hobbit cover In 2001 when the Lord of the Rings movies were announced everything changed. Naturally, prices began to rise and a lot of collectors appeared. In a few years time the value of some books rose to incredible amounts, as interest surged. This was also a personally exciting time, though, as suddenly there were many more people to share my passion with.

What do you collect?

Since my collection now has almost every single edition from 1966 up to the present day and many of the older editions, I primarily look for limited / numbered and signed copies and other rare Tolkien books. I’m also always tring to find proof copies, rare books like mint first editions and books from the personal library of Tolkien.

How big is your collection?

There are now about 650 Tolkien books in my living room and because of a lack of space I store the rest in boxes. One day I hope to have enough room for a nice library and then I will be able to properly count them all.

A large part of my book collection consists of Dutch Tolkien translations. Being from Belgium this was the easiest to collect, but the majority of my collection is in English, both UK and US editions. Most of the books are Middle Earth related (different editions of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion), but I also have a lot of Tolkien’s academic works, fairy tales, early poetry and other essays.

What has been your greatest find so far?

One day at a rare print fair I found a postcard sent by Tolkien's father, from South Africa to England, just before he died. It's a one of a kind item!

Tell us about your Web site.

I started Tolkienlibrary.com in November of 2002 and began writing articles to help other Tolkien book collectors. In the beginning the idea was to create a bibliographical site, but later on it evolved more and more towards a general Tolkien collector resource. The project is still growing and fills a big part of my life.

On Sunday July 2nd, 2006 at 8pm The Gathering of the Fellowship hosted The 1st Annual Northeast Tolkien Society Imperishable Flame Awards Ceremony. The awards cites the accomplishments of 1 individual in each of 3 categories, Tolkien/Inklings Scholarship, Tolkien/Inklings Fan Appreciation and Tolkien/Inklings Inspired Creativity. Votes were cast at the Heren Istarion website. The honor was mine to receive the award for Tolkien/Inklings Fan Appreciation with 318 Votes. Many thanks for all support and votes!

I have been interviewed by Marty Weil, the driving force behind ephemera.typepad.com on 3 June 2007. He is an ephemera dealer, consultant, and researcher. He is also a freelance journalist. I have added some extra pictures of the items mentioned in that interview right here at the left side.

What does collecting mean to you?

Collecting Tolkien books is a big part of my life and has been for over 20 years. Being 28, this is funny to say! Collecting Tolkien is a never-ending story; you never know what lies around the next corner. Rare editions show up weekly on Abebooks and while the The Lord of the Rings movie hoopla has finally died down, the books and book collectors are more active then ever!

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