John Howe has always been the illustrator to give shape to the Middle-Earth of my imagination. My first copy of The Lord of the Rings was this 1-volume behemoth. As you can see, I wasn't as protective of my books as a teenager as I am today. The famous cover illustration on the dust jacket by John Howe of Gandalf on lush green grass hills was damaged and lost over time during my several re-readings.
The cover was the only illustration I had. No internet for me yet in 1995 to find more of John Howe's beautiful paintings. So the rest had to be done by my own imagination. I think we can all agree that Tolkien's writing provides enough substance to create a rich world by yourself. What I did have in this edition were maps. Lots of them. These have always been my reference maps for other works of fantasy. I was mesmerized by these maps. I think this is why the maps in Malazan Book of the Fallen struck a home-run in me as well. Posting these pictures have me pouring over them again like I did when I was 13 years old.
Now on to the trigger for this post. I have been collecting for several years now. I think many of us recognize the phase where you pre-order everything because of fear of missing out. Last year I broke free from that mindset and put more focus on fantasy and science fiction. Even selling some titles outside these genres or titles I had not read yet and realistically have no time for in the near future. More recently I have put even more focus on collecting first edition first printings of the books that mean the most to me personally. Preferably signed. In this regard I keep an eye out for illustrated Tolkien titles as well, preferably illustrated by John Howe. And lo and behold, I found my John Howe cover! And in a special edition to boot! To my knowledge only one printing was done of these Centenary editions, which appeals to the collector in me of course ;) So this book has found it's permanent resting place in my library. Of course it's not signed by Tolkien, but maybe one day, I'll come across John Howe and find him willing. A man can dream. Enjoy the shots.
Stay healthy, keep reading.