Tolkien publications for 2010 by Harper Collins - Q&A with David Brawn (04.03.10 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

Just as the last few years I contacted David Brawn, the publishing director of Harper Collins, to get some more information. The questions were sent before I announced the 2011 Tolkien Calendar, as well as the announcement of the reprint of The History of Middle-earth and news about the Oliphaunt poster. Here follows some more info on the new Tolkien books that will be released this year.

2010 will be very exciting for the Tolkien fans and as you will read, we are in for some nice editions.

David Brawn interview

TL. It is now March, but let us start by talking about some books that were released at the end of last year. The paperback edition of “Letters from Father Christmas” looked simply wonderful, was it successful around the Christmas period and can we expect this edition to stay for the coming years?

DB. The paperback edition of Letters from Father Christmas proved to be very successful, and as a result a lot of new readers will have discovered the book for the first time. From some of the correspondence we received, I think some people were surprised to find that it was illustrated in colour throughout. Our intention now is to keep the book in print for the foreseeable future, with the larger format hardback also available for those who prefer the larger reproductions of the illustrations.

[ read more about Letters from Father Christmas ]
J.R.R. Tolkien The letters From Father Christmas
TL. In October there was released a new Illustrated Edition of The Hobbit, with a new cover by Alan Lee and a new illustration as well. So far I did not see the new cover show up on for example Amazon. Is this book available for order already?

DB. The Illustrated edition of The Hobbit was reissued in hardcover in October, having been out of stock for the best part of a year. We took the opportunity to revise the jacket, reverting much more to the look of the original 1997 edition rather than the heavily cropped and I think less attractive version on the 2002 reprint, while adding an unpublished painting by Alan Lee on the back of the jacket. This painting, showing Bilbo outside the Green Dragon, was intended for the original edition, but Alan literally ran out of time and it had remained in his studio unseen by anyone for a decade. When we learnt of it, Alan kindly completed the painting in 2008, and so we were delighted to add it to the hardback jacket as a bonus.

[ buy the new illustrated edition of The Hobbit here ]
new Illustrated Edition of The Hobbit


TL. It also seems in the beginning March we will get a reprint of all hardback editions of the History of Middle-earth. We already have the complete set in the black paperback version, but a reprint of the hard covers is fantastic news! Will these reprints resemble the hardbacks as we know them? Or will there be different covers, updates, ...

DB. New print-on-demand technology is finally enabling us to produce books of a really high standard. We are working with a small specialist printer in the north of England, with whom we have had great success recently in resurrecting the famous New Naturalist series of natural history books in editions which are almost indistinguishable from the originals, and they include full colour plates. One of my biggest regrets as Tolkien's publisher over the last 15 years was seeing The History of Middle-earth disappear in hardback, but now we are able to reprint them individually that unavailability can become a thing of the past. They will include the original colour plates and have proper printed jackets just like the originals, and fans can at last collect or complete the series of 12 books in hardback. Our editor, Chris Smith, has been working to ensure that any corrections and updates that have been made in the paperbacks over the years are incorporated into these hardbacks.

[ read more about The History of Middle-earth reprints ]

TL. I’m especially excited to see there will be printed a hardcover Index of the History of Middle-earth volumes. Will this 13th volume now match the series and is this a reprint of the Index as we know it in paperback?

The Index will be released in hardback to match, produced in the same way as the 12 volumes. This is also being checked editorially to remove a handful of errors that we were aware of in the original paperback edition. In addition, this new technology is enabling us to reissue other titles that have been unavailable in hardcover for many years, including The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien and The Monsters and the Critics. All of these will be available for purchase direct from HarperCollins.

TL. The following month, April, also brings us a lot of nice Tolkien books. We will get a paperback edition of The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. Is there anything new to be expected for this release?

DB. The paperback of The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun will be pretty much identical to the hardback, with a new cover featuring a different detail from the Hylestad carving, which you should now have seen. For fans who are unaware of what this books is, there is a very good summary by Christopher Tolkien exclusively on the Tolkien Estate's website.


[ read more about The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun paperback ]
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun Paperback


TL. Also we will see the Audio version released, something I much look forward to since this new Tolkien book just calls to be read out loud. This audio version of Sigurd and Gudrun has been delayed some times before, do you expect any more delays? I’m just curious, but in most audio books the forward is not read and we only get the book itself, will this be the case here as well? I believe the foreword by Christopher Tolkien to be very interesting and it would be very exciting to hear him read this part.

DB. I am afraid the audiobook of The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun is not currently scheduled for publication.

TL. Then we will see the release of more maps of Middle-earth, where we will get the best from both John Howe and Brian Sibley. What can you tell about these maps and hardbacks?

DB. We are in the process of reissuing all three of the John Howe/Brian Sibley maps, which were published originally about ten years ago. Rather than calling them 'The Map of Tolkien's...', this time we are taking the original titles of the accompanying booklets as the titles for the publications; therefore the map of Beleriand and the lands to the north is published in April under the title West of the Mountains, East of the Sea, and the Hobbit map of Wilderland will complete the series in September, reissued under the title There and Back Again.


[ read more about The Maps of Middle-earth ]
The Map of the Hobbit



TL. Also in April we will see the release of a boxed set with the Illustrated editions of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Will this set only be released in paperbacks? Is this being seen as a gift edition?

DB. We have in recent years had two different paperback boxed sets each containing The Hobbit and the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings - one was of the Collins Modern Classic editions with the blue spines, the other was of the classic editions featuring Tolkien's own cover designs, though internally I think the books were identical. Both sets have been discontinued, so this is the replacement, using the current paperbacks with Alan Lee covers and colour plates. It is primarily for people who want to buy an affordable gift set, as the hardback sets we publish are obviously a lot more expensive.

[ buy The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Boxed Set here ]

TL. Is there any new Tolkien publication that you are preparing for this year? Can we expect more ‘unpublished material’ to be released any time soon?

DB. We are working on a couple of projects for the autumn, but nothing at the moment of the 'previously unpublished' variety. For once it is the calendar this year that really fulfils the brief of unpublished archive material.

Though I appreciate that Tolkienlibrary is a site dedicated to traditional forms of publishing, it is worth mentioning e-books. In April last year we published many of Tolkien's books as e-books for the first time - The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin, Unfinished Tales and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, with the Tales from the Perilous Realm anthology following in the autumn. These have not surprisingly been welcomed by the growing number of adopters of the new technology, with The Hobbit especially a constant presence in Kindle's list of genre bestsellers. 2010 will see more of Tolkien's books available as e-books, most significantly The History of Middle-earth, work on which has been done in tandem with preparing the new hardbacks. I think it's quite important for us as publisher to be championing all forms of publishing, and there's rather a nice symmetry in being able to re-release books in hardcover at the same time as we publish them for the first time electronically. HarperCollins has been ahead of the game in publishing ebooks for some years, a position we are keen to hold on to. Many thousands of books are being digitized and released at the moment, which is why it's very difficult to give exact dates as to when every book will be available, but Tolkien's books are very much part of that programme. We are paying special attention to the Tolkien editions, however, in terms of ensuring that the special characters in the text and the many cross references don't turn into gibberish on the screen, as you will find in many e-books that some companies shovel out. Digitizing the History of Middle-earth has been turning a few people here cross-eyed as a result, but we hope it will be worth it in the end.

[ buy Tolkien Kindle books here ]

TL. Are there any anniversary editions to be expected this year, for example in Beowuld and the Finnsburg Fragment Wrenn & Tolkien’s contributions were included exactly 70 years ago, Poems and Stories was released 30 years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien Artist and Illustrator exists 15 years and deserves some attention, maybe J.R.R. Tolkien’s letters to Rhona Beare which was published 25 years ago by The New England Society could see a reprint by HarperCollins?

DB. I don't think so. I hope that is all helpful.


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