'Hobbit' first edition sold for auction record

LONDON - One of the first editions of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic The Hobbit was sold for a record 60,000 pounds (NZ$148,856) at auction in London.

Auctioneers Bonhams said the book, signed by Tolkien and dedicated to his close friend Elaine Griffiths, was bought by a telephone bidder who wished to remain anonymous.

It said the price - twice the pre-sale estimate - was a record for a signed copy of the novel, published in 1937 and featuring a range of black and white sketches.

Tolkien first wrote The Hobbit for his children but after reading the transcript, Griffiths thought it was so good she handed it to publisher, George, Allen and Unwin.

The story, which follows the quest of Bilbo Baggins to reclaim stolen treasures from the dragon Smaug, went on to sell more than 100 million copies in nearly 50 languages.

Just 1,500 copies of the first edition were printed.

The Hobbit is expected to be turned into a Hollywood film.

It was the precursor to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy which went on to become a cinema blockbuster.

- REUTERS

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