The Lord of the Rings in Translation
My Collection

©2022. John E. McLaughlin. Last updated 30 June. 2022
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Beginnings

Like many young people growing to adulthood in the late '60s and early '70s in the United States, I read J.R.R. Tolkien's classic, The Lord of the Rings, until my three-volume set of paperbacks literally fell apart. (Many of you who first encountered LOTR in those years will recognize the distinctive Barbara Remington covers of the late '60s paperback edition from Ballantine above.) I replaced them with a good one-volume hardback in L.A. in 1992 (English), but I didn't imagine collecting them at that time. It was simply a good reliable friend sitting in a place of honor on my bookshelf.

My collection of LOTR in translation began inadvertently in 2005 in Kecskemét, Hungary at a bookstore in the Malom Központ shopping center. There I saw a one-volume copy of A Gyűrűk Ura for sale and decided that would be a great souvenir of my trip. Later, on another leg of the trip in Poznań, Poland, I picked up my first copy of Władca Pierścieni at a small bookstore on the old city square. That was how it began, thinking that I would collect translations of the places I had visited.

In the spring of 2008, I was in the last months of a Fulbright Fellowship in Ukraine and bought a copy of Володар Перстенів in a large bookstore, Буква, on Vulytsja Khreshchatyk south of Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv. In the fall of that year I returned to Ukraine to accompany my wife back to the U.S. and she had purchased a copy of the Russian Властелин Колец. Хоббит, или Туда и Обратно as a gift. My collection had grown from three to five.

Three years later in the summer of 2011 I was in Prague for a conference and added Pán Prstenů to the collection in Palác knih Luxor, a large bookstore on the Václavské náměstí. In the summer of 2013, my wife was on an overnight layover in Vienna while returning home from Ukraine and found a copy of Der Herr der Ringe. Two years later, in 2015, my sister-in-law in Antwerp got in on the act and sent me In de Ban van de Ring as a gift. I justified adding this and the German translation as "countries I had visited" because of brief layovers at the airports in Munich and Amsterdam in 2005 and 2008. Five had become eight.

Expansion

About this time I discovered the website Elrond's Library and the spark turned into a serious flame for collecting translations of LOTR whether I had actually visited countries or not. One of the most useful features of that site is the list of links to acquiring the translations. I have included my own list here to sites where I have successfully acquired volumes for my collection. At the present time there are 318 individual volumes from 132 editions in 54 languages on my shelves (plus 33 editions of The Hobbit in 18 languages and 20 editions of The Silmarillion in 14 languages).

One of the most important skills that must be mastered when moving into collection beyond personal visits to physical bookstores, is learning to use Google Translate. While it's always possible to make fun of early GT, when used properly it's an indispensable tool for international business. The chat with a Bengali speaker in Bangladesh on the right is a classic example. The key to writing English text that is easily translated into another language? It's simple. That's it--make the sentences simple and don't use idioms or informal, colloquial expressions. Check out the kinds of sentences and vocabulary that I used in the example. If you want to check the process, then translate the translation back into English. It should be very close to what you wrote. If it isn't then try again and simplify the sentences that seemed to be in error.

Here are two of the most productive ways to find international booksellers who have LOTR in their catalogs.

•Search by ISBN number if you know it. Mixed in with random phone numbers that happen to match an ISBN number are websites for booksellers (and libraries) that have the translation you're looking for.

•Search by the translation's title in the script of the title, such as "Władca Pierścieni" (remember to use that barred ł and the accute accent over the ś) or "स्वामी मुद्रिकांचा" (find many native names at the Wikipedia artcle here or on this website). If you're really bold and know the difference between alphabets, abjads, abugidas/alphasyllabaries, syllabaries, and logographic systems, then you can type your own search names at Lexilogos. (Since I have a PhD in Linguistics I tend to use this as a point of pride.) Otherwise, copy and paste from Wikipedia or here.

Once you've found a potential on-line source, find the search box (almost always marked with that little magnifying glass) and type "Tolkien" there. A liberal use of Google Translate can usually take you from there.





If you're also a stamp collector, there are occasional bounties.

The Collection

The volumes are arranged here by alphabetical order of title and by Unicode order for languages that do not use the Roman alphabet. The "Next" buttons take you to the next title in that order. Within languages the volumes are arranged by the order in which they were acquired. The Table of Contents contains lists by language name in alphabetical order and by language family in addition to the ordering by titles. The Table of Contents is especially helpful for finding copies of The Hobbit and The Silmarillion since these are interspersed with LOTR by language and publisher.

The collection is by no means complete and not every translation in every language is represented here. The Mongolian translation has proven to be impossible to find on-line. Except for Mongolian, my collection includes at least one translation of every language that LOTR has been translated into.

I have recently added a copy of the first published edition of the first translation (from 1957 into Dutch) to my collection. Only 3000 copies of the first edition were printed and it was never printed again. While the dust jackets are not in good condition, this is still a treasure.

While I own many of Tolkien's works, both on Middle Earth and Middle English, they're overwhelmingly in English. I've included The Hobbit and The Silmarillion here just because I have translations in a few languages, but I'm not systematically collecting translations of either. If you see an [H] or an [S] following a language name, that indicates a translation of The Hobbit or The Silmarillion and not LOTR. If you're interested in collecting The Hobbit, there is no better site than The Hobbithunter in the Netherlands. Elrond's Library has a graphic display of Silmarillion translations.

Throughout the site I have referred to FR (The Fellowship of the Ring), TT (The Two Towers), and RK (The Return of the King). Tolkien, of course, did not think of his work as a trilogy, but as a single work divided into 6 numbered Books. When needed, I have referred to these six Books as "Books" (with a capital B). Some Japanese and Korean editions follow this pattern and publish each of Tolkien's Books as separate volumes rather than following the earliest English publication which put two Books into each of three volumes (for purely business reasons). This three-volume pattern is the most common publishing standard, followed by the one-volume pattern. Some early Eastern European editions, such as the first Bulgarian and Russian editions, divided the six Books into two volumes. Since the number of pages of Books three through six is not significantly more than that of the first two Books, FR is the first volume and TT and RK are the second volume. This pattern is not followed in any 21st century editions, however. The Russian edition also bundles The Hobbit in the first volume. Some editions, such as Georgian B, have FR broken into two volumes. The Appendices are not always present, but when they are they are most commonly bound with RK. In some editions, such as Dutch E and Japanese B, they are bound as a separate volume, but this is not common. A particularly interesting pattern is found in Russian L, where the Appendices are published as the Prologue to FR in the first of two volumes. At the bottom of the Table of Contents is a chart to illustrate the different publishing formats found in my collection.

When needed, I refer to the number of "volumes" as being the number of physical, individually-bound units in a particular edition. I use the term "edition" to refer to a single volume or set of volumes (from two through nine) that comprise a single published product.

I hope you enjoy your visit to my site.

John McLaughlin

If you have a lead to a translation or an edition for sale that's missing here, please feel free to write me at nuwitaivottsi@yahoo.com or john.mclaughlin@usu.edu. Make sure you put "LOTR" or "Tolkien" in the subject line--sometimes I get overzealous in deleting mail that I don't recognize. But then don't we all?

Before sending you off, I must give a note of appreciation to The Tolkien Shop in Leiden, Netherlands. I have purchased nine different editions there during the years that I've been collecting and Rene van Rossenberg, the proprietor, has always provided outstanding service. If you love Tolkien and his life's work, give Rene's website a visit. He has much more than just books in his shop.