The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, First US Edition, Third State, 1938

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit or There and Back Again. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1938. First U.S. edition, third state. Octavo. Rebound in full Moroccan green leather with gilt stamps, raised bands, gilt titles and tooling to the spine, new endpapers, all edges gilt, and housed in a custom slipcase.

This is the first American edition, third state, of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit or There and Back Again. This printing was published in 1938, only one year after the British edition. The first American edition included the addition of Tolkien’s color plates, while the British first edition had none. This novel has been beautifully rebound in full Moroccan green leather, with an illustration of “Smaug” gilt embossed onto the front board. The spine has raised bands, girl titles, and tooling. The book has new marbled endpapers and it is presented with a new archival matching slipcase.

The Hobbit follows the quest of the main character Bilbo Baggins as he ventures to win a treasure guarded by Smaug the dragon. The story is told in the form of an episodic quest with the introduction of new characters as Bilbo journeys through unknown territories. The book focuses on the character’s personal growth and a developed sense of heroism. Critics believe the themes and story line to be developed from Tolkien’s own experiences during World War I.

Upon its first release, the novel was met with unwavering praise. C.S. Lewis called the book a “marvellous” classic-in-the-making, and the New York Times called it “freshly original and delightfully imaginative.” Following financial and critical success, Tolkein was encouraged to write a sequel, The Lord of the Rings. To accommodate the story building in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkein made significant changes to The Hobbit in the second edition of the work. To this day, The Hobbit has never gone out of print and remains a prominent work in the genre of high fantasy, especially following cinematic adaptations.


Overall, very good condition. The book has been professionally rebound in full green Moroccan leather with gilt embossed “Smaug” design to the front board. The spine features raised bands, gilt titles, and gilt stamps. New green marbled endpapers.  The book is housed in a new, matching archival slipcase. 

First U.S. edition, third state, with seated flute player on title page, maps at endpapers listed in correct order in list of illustrations, Chapter VII labeled correctly on page 118; without the type flaws that appeared in subsequent printings. Interior pages are healthy. Four color plates including frontispiece, plus other plates and illustrations in the text. Professional conservation repairs to the half title page. 

Book Dimensions: 8 3/8"H x 6 1/4"W x 1 3/8"D. Slipcase Dimensions: 8 3/4"H x 6 1/2"W x 1 3/4"D.

Related Items