This listing was ended by the seller because the item is no longer available.

Posts to:
Please allow additional time if international delivery is subject to customs processing.
Posts to:

Details about  J.R.R Tolkien, Original Ballantine Book Cover Concept Art, By Barbara Remington

See original listing
J.R.R Tolkien, Original Ballantine Book Cover Concept Art, By Barbara Remington
Item Ended
Item condition:
--not specified

Please ask for full catalogue.

05 Jan, 2015 11:01:49 GMT
£30.00 Royal Mail International Economy | See details
International items may be subject to customs processing and additional charges.  help icon for delivery - opens a layer
Item location:
Machynlleth, United Kingdom

More chances to get what you want


Feedback on our suggestions

See what other people are watching


Feedback on our suggestions


eBay item number:
Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing.
Last updated on  19 Dec, 2014 00:11:20 GMT  View all revisions
htiaF kraM
fasI goideochclwB
ddyweC mwC
EE9 02YS
modgniK detinU

:enohP923135 05610

Item specifics

Seller notes: Please ask for full catalogue.
Original/ Repro: Original Date of Creation: 1950-1969
Medium: Gouache

Not since we supplied most of the important pieces to a Tolkien museum in Switzerland has such a key piece come on the market.  The importance of this now iconic artwork to Tolkien’s huge popularity should not be underestimated. It was the cult status Tolkien first achieved in America and not Britain, that would make him world famous. Keep reading if you want to know the whole story.  If you would like to receive a pdf of this and photos, please email

We are pleased to offer for sale, perhaps the most important original Tolkien related art piece.  It is truly deserving as a museum piece representing a key point in the history of Professor Tolkien works. This is the original concept art submitted to Mrs Betty Ballantine for the 1965 Ballantine paperbacks of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books. It was also used for the promotional posters and banners for these very popular editions. It was produced by artist Barbara Remington as a concept proof before the final colour versions were produced. The medium is gouache on card, glued on illustration board with the original Ballantine stock sticker on the reverse, art piece 11 x 11 inches in size plus frame and matt width. It comes with a personal COA letter from Betty Ballantine. The original concept art for the 1965 Ballantine paperbacks produced by Barbara Remington. Comes with two custom made frames, one for the art and one for the letter. Art frame has plexiglass panel on the reverse so you can see the Ballantine stock sticker. It also includes a poster- Come to Middle-earth which is the same artwork in color as well as used on the cover of Fellowship of the Ring. This iconic illustration also has a slightly infamous reputation as Tolkien did not like it, but this does not alter its importance to Tolkien lore as we know it today.

The History

In 1965 Ace Paperbacks in America released unauthorised editions of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the first time in paperback. This was due to a loophole in US copyright. The rush was then on for Houghton Mifflin, Tolkien’s US publisher in collaboration with Ballantine books to release authorised paperbacks of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. To close the copyright loophole, a new version of the LotR text was needed, in which Professor Tolkien set out to make changes in 1965. As was his way, these revisions were quite delayed, forcing Ballantine Books to rush out a new edition of the Hobbit instead and using Barbara Remington artwork, when she had never actually read the books.

During an interview with N Marion Hage and Andwerve, Barbara said-

“I worked for Ballantine, and as a practice, always read the books before doing the artwork. I didn’t have this luxury with the Tolkien Books, something I wish I could have changed. Ballantine was in a hurry to get these books out right away. When they commissioned me to do the artwork, I didn’t have the chance to see either book, though I tried to get a copy through my friends. So I didn’t know what they were about. I tried finding people that had read them, but the books were not readily available in the states, and so I had sketchy information at best.”

(As noted above, Barbara did make sketches relative to the books, afterwards, but she couldn’t get the publishers to see the point, something which is very regretful). Professor Tolkien was not impressed with the new Hobbit book cover.

In a letter to Rayner Unwin, 12 September 1965, Tolkien wrote:

I wrote expressing (with moderation) my dislike of the cover for the Ballantine edition of the Hobbit. It was a short hasty note by hand, without a copy, but to this effect: I think the cover ugly: but I recognize that a main objective of a paperback cover is to attract purchasers, and I suppose that you are better judges of what is attractive in the USA than I am. I therefore will not enter into a debate about taste- (meaning though I did not say so: horrible colours and foul lettering) - but I must ask this about the vignette: what has it got to do with the story? Where is this place? Why a Lion and emus? And what is the thing in the foreground with the pink bulbs?’

He would go on in his letter to be less than complimentary in his letter as Mrs Ballantine would appear to have put her foot in it during the conversation forgetting she was speaking to the author. Later, it would seem they made up and became friendly thanks no doubt to the huge success of those editions. Whether he truly disliked the art or not, his main objection was accurate; what did it have to do with the story and clearly whoever produced it hadn’t read the story!  However the colour finals became iconic with the first paperbacks whose sales were soon to reach over a million copies.  This compared to only a few thousands sold a year in hard back prior to this. Although Tolkien’s own art appears on later editions of the Ballantine paperbacks, older fans will identify with the Remington covers as the first copies they ever read. Even today as book and art dealers, we find the Remington art the most recognisable of all the book covers despite Tolkien’s original dislike. There were numerous artists since, but during our exhibitions, the Ballantine covers remain the most familiar and most nostalgic to book fans.

Sales boomed in America in 1965 due mainly to the response of American college students who supported Tolkien’s appeal printed on the book’s back covers: “buy only the authorised versions”. The Ace versions were 20 cents cheaper and still selling well, but the appeal worked and Ballantine copies were flying off the shelves much faster. Professor Tolkien expertise did not extend to business matters given his serious delays to revisions. Had Ballantine Books not acted hastily in getting the paperbacks to the market quickly, Tolkien’s popularity and influence might be very different today.  

The Lord of the Rings became an America campus cult. Middle-earth was sweeping America helped by the formation of the first Tolkien societies, long before British counterparts, as well as helped by the hippie movement who identified with the anti-industrial themes in the book. This cult status would eventually spread throughout the world and quickly. However, Tolkien himself had different feelings and referred to the rising popularity as “my deplorable cultus”.  When a reporter asked him about his favour with young Americans, he replied “Art moves them and they don’t know what they are moved by and they get quite drunk on it”.   Whatever moved them, sales worldwide would exceed 3 million copies by the end of 1968 thanks to the release of Ballantine paperback edition with Barbara Remington’s “misinterpretation”. This concept painting did in fact start it all!

At the time, Tolkien’s works were still only beginning to achieve recognition in academic circles in America, but hardly at all in his Oxford circles. Despite the fact that we now view Tolkien works as masterpieces and perhaps contrary to how the British would like it to be remembered, it was popular American cult and availability in Ballantine paperback that truly propelled Tolkien to the timeless iconic status that his books still command today. 

The common debate raging today is whether its popular cult or creative merit that makes something great, is one that will not be easily agreed. Surely though, without popularity in the first place, there would be far fewer people aware and thus willing to take the time to assess merit? They in fact go hand in hand whether we like it or not. Certainly today many people would agree there is much popular literature and art not worthy of the merit attached to it. Barbara Remington’s art may or may not have merit or have been accurate to the books, but there is no denying its popularity then and now, as it is still very important among today’s Tolkien fandom. Indeed, it is not hard to imagine what would have happened without it? 

Own a piece of history.


Sources: J.R.R. Tolkien, A biography by Humphrey Carpenter 1977.  The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 1981. Remington interview published in Andwerve.


Business seller information

Festival Art and Books

Returns policy

After receiving the item, cancel the purchase within
Return postage
14 days
Buyer pays return postage
The buyer is responsible for return postage costs.
Return policy details
Please contact us regarding returns in all instances. Shipping costs are not refund, sorry.
Most purchases from business sellers are protected by the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 which give you the right to cancel the purchase within 14 days after the day you receive the item. Find out more about your rights as a buyer - opens in a new window or tab and exceptions - opens in a new window or tab.

Questions and answers about this item

No questions or answers have been posted about this item.


Submit bid

Time left:
Current bid:
(Approximately ##1##)
Import charges:
Your maximum bid:
Your maximum bid:
Please read the full listing. By clicking Confirm bid you commit to buy this item from the seller if you are the winning bidder. You will enter a binding contract.
By clicking Confirm bid, you are committing to buy this item from the seller if you are the winning bidder and have read and agree to the Global Shipping Programme terms and conditions - opens in a new window or tab. Import charges previously quoted are subject to change if you increase you maximum bid amount.
Resume bidding, if the page does not update immediately.
Submit bid
Review and confirm your bid
Bid confirmation
Free P&P
See item description
(Approximately ##1##)
(Enter ##1## or more)
(Enter more than ##1##)
Your maximum bid:
Increase maximum bid
Submit bid
Confirm bid
Increase maximum bid
Change bid
, you've been outbid. Don't let it get away - bid again.
, you're the highest bidder on this item. Hope you win it.
, you're the first bidder. Hope you win.
, you're currently the high bidder, but you're close to getting outbid.
, this auction is almost over and you're currently the high bidder.
, you're the high bidder, but the reserve price hasn't been met.
Please enter your bid again.
Please enter a valid number as the bid price.
Enter an amount that is equal or greater than the minimum bid required. This can be found under the bid entry box.
Maximum bids can't be lowered once they're submitted.
This seller requires the buyer to have a PayPal account to purchase this item. Get a PayPal account here .
Your bid is greater than or equal to the Buy it now price. We recommend you purchase this item via Buy it now. If you still wish to bid, you may do so below.
Time left:
Current bid:
(approximately ##1##)
Your maximum bid:
(approximately ##1##)
Increase your maximum bid:
By clicking 1 Click Bid, you are agreeing to buy this item from the seller if you're the winning bidder. Learn moreabout 1-click bid - opens in a new window or tab
(approximately ##1##)
Winning bid:
Starting bid:
Congratulations The auction has ended and you're the winner.
The auction has ended, but the reserve price was not met.
Sorry, the auction has ended and you were outbid.
Good news, you're the highest bidder.
Sorry, you've been outbid.
You're the highest bidder, but the reserve price has not been met.
Please enter a higher amount than the current bid.
Maximum bids cannot be lowered once submitted.
Please enter a valid number.