Jemima Catlin's delightful illustrations bring The Hobbit to a whole new generation of readers...

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J R R Tolkien: The Hobbit (Illustrated by Jemima Catlin)

[Harper Collins HB]



The first new illustrated edition of The Hobbit for more than 15 years contains 150 brand new colour illustrations. Artist Jemima Catlin’s charming and lively interpretation brings Tolkien’s beloved characters to life in a way that will entice and entertain a new generation of readers. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable and quiet life. His contentment is disturbed one day when the wizard, Gandalf, and the dwarves arrive to take him away on an adventure. "Smaug certainly looked fast asleep, when Bilbo peeped once more from the entrance. He was just about to step out on to the floor when he caught a sudden thin ray of red from under the drooping lid of Smaug’s left eye. He was only pretending to sleep! He was watching the tunnel entrance!" Whisked from his comfortable hobbit-hole by Gandalf the wizard and a band of dwarves. Bilbo Baggins finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon…


Rather like an illustrated manuscript, this superb new edition of The Hobbit is both timely and welcome - it confirms the book as one for children but at the same time makes for a genuinely pleasant reading experience for anyone with a passing interest in anything to do with J R R Tolkien. The binding is handsome, richly done and has the look and feel of something collectable and expensive, whilst the printing of the actual story and the illustrations is second to none. This is a real collectors' item already, and a welcome addition to anyone's collection of Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books. Superb.


 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Chronicles


For the last two decades, possibly longer, with every mega-movie, there have been books to accompany them. Even now it's posisble to get huge art books about the original three Star Wars movies, and there's a burgeoning library of books about the Batman movies, the Star Trek movies etc., etc. When the Lord of the Rings trilogy was released a decade or so ago, there were several movie tie-in publications, many of them glossy books about the characters, the weaponry and so on. With the release of the first of the three planned Hobbit movies, An Unexpected Journey, Harper Collins have already produced the same range of tie-ins as for Lord of the Rings. But with the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, they've gone one better (or rather, two better) and produced two "Chronicles". People rave about first editions, they rave about illustrated manuscripts too, of course, and rightly so, and I'll come to that later. It's not often you come across a series of books that you think may excite collectors in years to come in the same way that first editions and illustrated manuscripts do. These two "Chronicles" are collectors' items. Already. There are millions of people who earnestly believe that Peter Jackson's Tolkien-based films are the finest ever made. I'm one of those people. Obviously, you're always waiting for something to come along that will replace your current favourite movie(s), and if, eventually, they get around to making A film version of Stephen King's Dark Tower septology, depending on the quality of that project, it may replace my current favourites, LOTR and the Hobbit movies. I have a confession to make - I don't go to the cinema - (a) because it's too expensive [I'm a very poor OAP] and (b) we don't have a decent cinema where we live, which only makes it even more expensive. I do have a decent home cinema system and I'm happy to wait for the film to come out on DVD. I know the three Hobbit movies will join LOTR as my all-time favourites, because I trust Peter Jackson and I have all of these wonderful books from Harper Collins to show me just how good they are going to be when I eventually do get to see them - not long now, the first film is released on DVD on 8th April...


But what I'm looking at now as I type this, is two of the finest movie tie-in books that have ever been published. Leaving aside the wonderful pull-out map in the front of Chronicle 1 and the pull-out replica Burglar's Contract inside the back cover, these books are just fantastic to hold. I mentioned first editions and illustrated manuscripts earlier - these are first editions, of course, and because they are transitory, in the sense that the films, though not forgotten, will not engender the same fervour in later years as they do now, these will in all probability be the last editions as well, which makes them even more valuable. They're not illustrated manuscripts, but they are the modern equivalent. I raved about the two other Hobbit tie-ins when they were published late last year - the first Chronicle was published at roughly the same time but only came my way this week, in company with the second, which is published very soon. But these two volumes are sensationally good. The front cover of volume 1 is embossed, the dark areas you can see in the image above are reliefs of the territories of Middle Earth. The Hobbit name is embossed in gold lettering, and the whole thing gives the look and feel of a leather-bound volume, something very special and very valuable. Before I move on to the actual content of the two volumes, I have to tell you that it is my understanding from my contacts at Harper Collins and from the way the author writes, that there will be further Chronicles when the second two films are released. This will probably represent the most comprehensive collection of film tie-in memorabilia ever published. Or at any rate, the set on which has been lavished the most care and attention. Now to the content.


Daniel Falconer: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Chronicles - Art and Design [Published by Harper Collins HB]


The ultimate celebration of the first Hobbit movie reveals the full creative vision of the art and design teams with more than 1,000 exclusive images and photos, including designs and concepts that never made it to the big screen. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles – Art & Design is packed with more than 1,000 images of concept artwork, photographs and development paintings by the artists working behind the scenes to bring Middle-earth to life, each of whom provides detailed and entertaining commentary that reveals the story behind the vision. As a bonus feature unique to this book, there is a special fold-out map printed in glow-in-the-dark ink and a three-page fold-out replica of Bilbo’s contract. Compiled by Weta Workshop senior concept designer Daniel Falconer, this is the first in a series of lavish hardback books written and designed by the award-winning team at Weta, who are working closely with the production team to guarantee that these books will be bursting with insider information and stunning visual imagery.


BOOKS MONTHLY SAYS: As mementoes of great films go, these two books rank among the very finest - I remember seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey in London in Cinerama when it was released, and the mementoes were 3D postcards. We had to order our copies of the film tie-in novels from the United States, and I remember waiting some eight weeks for them to come. You won't find these beautiful volumes on sale in the cinemas where you go to see the first of the three Hobbit films, and the chances are, if you like in a rural backwater like I do, where the only decent bookshop is a small branch of WHS not much bigger than the ground floor of my house (of which a third is for storage and deliveries), then you probably won't find these books. I'm still waiting for them to stock any of the fifty-odd new versions of Stephen King books that I reviewed during the course of last year, though I have seen the paperback version of The Wind Through the Keyhole... These books will get learned about by way of bloggers and online magazines like Books Monthly, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. John Howe and Alan Lee were the consultant artists on the original LOTR trilogy and they were drafted back in to assist with the Hobbit project. To my mind they have been busier than ever. Not only that, these books reveal a whole army of extremely talented artists working on concepts and designs for the three films. Page after page of exquisite drawings and paintings adorn these books - we get to meet the Hobbits and learn of the painstaking time-consuming efforts to retain the characters of each of the actors whilst moulding them into dwarves. We learn about the new method of creating Hobbits' feet, using pull-on PVC wellington boots which take a fraction of the time it took to apply hobbits' feet in the LOTR trilogy. We see the thinking behind the unique and personal weaponry of each of the dwarves and the accountrements each one carries. We learn about the process of designing and creating the materials for Bilbo's costumes. We learn of the return of Old Bilbo in the form of Ian Holm, the return of Saruman as head of the council of wizards before he turned to the dark side. In short, this is unique and comprehensive memorabilia of a standard I've never seen before. Stunning reproduction of film photography and set and prop designs keep you engrossed from the moment you open the book to the moment you finish it. I've read both books from cover to cover and will return to both volumes time and time again - they've inspired me to revisit LOTR and The Hobbit; they've inspired me to watch again the original trilogy. Above all, they've inspired me. Devotion to film-making of this supreme order is rare, and what comes across more than anything is the awe in which actors and film-makers alike hold director Peter Jackson in. IT is unlikely The Hobbit movies will get anything but preipheral Academy Awards. Popular films are rarely recognised in that sense, and it was touch and go whether or not Return of the King received the accolades it eventually garnered. But if there were Academy Awards for Movie Memorabilia, then these books should win them. They are, as I said, very special, and I just hope that by raving about them in Books Monthly I can bring them to a wider audience than they will otherwise receive. If you only buy one book this year, make it one of the Chronicles. And then save up for the second one. They're indulgent, luxurious, sumptuous, superb, and inspirational.


Daniel Falconer: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Chronicles - Creatures and Characters [Published by Harper Collins HB]


The ultimate celebration of the first Hobbit movie reveals the culmination of the creative vision for the film through exclusive interviews with the designers, cast and crew, and more than 500 previously unpublished photographs, written and designed by the team at Weta Workshop. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles – Creatures and Characters explores the amazing cast of heroes and villains, beasts and beings that populate Middle-earth in the first chapter of Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Richly illustrated with behind-the-scenes photographs, digital renders and film stills, this comprehensive book goes species by species, character by character, through the film’s huge ensemble of characters and bustling menagerie of creatures, both physical and digital, telling the stories of how each came to be realized for the film. In first-hand quotes from the actors, make-up artists, digital effects artists, dialect coaches, prosthetics technicians, movement coach and many other crew, the stories of the production unfold, processes are described and insights into characters shared. As a bonus feature, unique to this book, there is a special fold-out Character Size Chart, which compares all the major creatures and characters of the film, from Radagast’s hedgehog friend to the towering Stone Giants! Compiled by Weta Workshop designer Daniel Falconer, and featuring a wealth of stunning imagery, this book puts the reader face to face with the Dwarf heroes of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the dark denizens of Middle-earth, such as Orcs, Goblins, Trolls and Wargs, and of course, the hobbit himself, Bilbo Baggins. is published by Paul Norman on or before the first day of every month. Contributions in the form of reviews, feature articles or short stories are always welcome, use the "CONTACT ME" link in the menu to get in touch.