The Hobbit Dust Jacket Artwork By J.R.R. Tolkien


This is the dust jacket of the classic children’s book, “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. This is my pocket-sized, 75th anniversary edition which replicates the original first Edition Hobbit cover artwork. The wraparound painting was designed around the “long road” which stretches up the spine and follows the forest leading to Lonely Mountain. The front face of the jacket depicts a hopeful, daytime scene with the rising sun and heroic eagles which contrasts heavily with the reverse, which shows dark, night scene, with the evil dragon Smaug, souring around the Lonely Mountain.

The illustration was actually done by Tolkien himself, who was an amateur artist. Who better to visually bring to life the world they created than the author them self. I’ve always admired this dust jacket because the artwork evokes a natural, earthy, woodblock print style, that fits the book’s themes of nature and adventure perfectly. The curved trees and spiked mountains contrast so well visually and the soft colour tones make it an inviting book for that older child demographic Tolkien was writing for. I was lucky enough to have my Dad read my sister and I the Hobbit as children and we both loved it. It’s so distinctive and unlike any other book jacket out there. Whenever I glimpse it on my shelf I get a little happy jolt as I remember what felt like a real-life adventure the three of us took together all those years ago.

Tolkien’s illustration was coloured and then printed using just 3 tones: blue, green and black. Tolkien intended the sun and Smaug to be red, but this was originally dropped because of the printing cost. However, a few editions later, once the book started to take off, Tolkien pushed again for the red to be added and his wish was granted. This 75th anniversary edition honours Tolkien’s vision. Today in 2021, Hobbit has been translated into over 50 languages and has sold 100 million copies worldwide.

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