Discovery of Tolkien's signature sees copy of The Hobbit fly past auction estimate

A signed copy of The Hobbit has sold for £23,000 in a county auction.

Gemima Brettell with the signed copy of The Hobbit
Gemima Brettell with the signed copy of The Hobbit

Auctioneer Gemima Brettell was the one who discovered that the JRR Tolkien classic, submitted with a host of others after a house clearance, was in fact signed by the author.

Looking through the 1937 second impression of the Lord of the Rings forerunner she was astonished to see it bore the signature of the great man himself – instantly making it a hugely sought after version of the classic children's book.

The auction at Brettells in Newport took place on Tuesday and saw fierce competition for the book, with the final bid eventually seeing a British collector winning out for the price of £23,000, way past the estimate of £3,500.

JRR Tolkien's signature in the book

Ms Brettell said she believed it was a record for a sale of a copy of The Hobbit in the UK.

She explained that it had been dropped off at the auction house by a dealer who does house clearances in South Wales, and had arrived with a number of other books.

Ms Brettell decided to put them in a special book sale for the weekly auction but then made the astounding discovery when searching through the contents.

The copy of The Hobbit sold for £23,000

She said she knew it was special, being an early version of the book, but had no idea what was awaiting inside.

She said: "I turned to the first or second page and it was signed – I almost fainted. I have never felt so star struck in my life. I have met some significant people but this just had me in awe."

Ms Brettell said they had been thrilled to see the demand for the book, added: "We expected it to make money, maybe a bit more than the estimate, but not £23,000. I think it is a record in terms of The Hobbit sold at auction in the UK."

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