While the price of this book is steep, this is easily the best version of this book in print. The gilded pages and high-quality leather look, smell and feel wonderful. This is not the questionable quality leather used on previous versions, this is the real deal. More importantly, this version has, as J.R.R. recorded in letters, reproductions of the Book of Marzubul. These are the pages from the Dwarven book found in the Mines of Moria by Gandalf and the Fellowship. In the begining and ending of the book are also included maps that fold out to render Middle-earth for the reader, again as the author originally wanted.
This is the book that Tolkien dreamed of having published but couldn't due to the realities of post-WWII publishing costs and questions about a 400,000 word publication.
For me, there is an emtoional response to this book for two reasons. One, it is as fine or better than the book the author originally wished to have published and two, it is a beautiful piece of art all on its own, suitable for display. If you love books or love Tolkien or both, this is a must have and the centerpiece of any worthy collection.
(Some are commenting that the book isn't actually leather. Be sure to check your version as there are others available, but the information provided to me stated my copy was leather and if it is fake, it fooled me.)
This is not a review of Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings". Its having been voted "The Greatest Book of the Millenium" here on Amazon.com says more than enough about the worth of Tolkien's work. Rather, it is a review of the several hardcover editions of this fantastic story. There are for major hardcover editions of LOTR, all published by Houghton Mifflin Co. They are essentially the same price, so I will not take that into consideration. The best of the editions (5 stars) is the blue Alan Lee illustrated version printed in Nov 1991. I have owned this book for several years, and read it three times. It is durable, beautiful, and has no flaws that I have found. The illustrations are wonderful, though most Tolkien fans will have seen these pictures before. The red edition printed in Nov 1974 is also a solid edition of the book (4 stars). It is every bit as good as the blue version, but does not have the illustrations. If you are the type of reader that prefers to leave everything to your imagination, this is the version for you. Both the blue and red versions have matching editions of "The Hobbit" (Houghton Mifflin, Sep 1997 or Oct 1973, respectively). I found both of these editions to be satisfactory. The other two major editions of LOTR - the white three-volume edition from Oct 1988 and the black seven-volume edition from Jan 2000 - are not recommended (2 stars). The print quality in both is poor, and the durability is less than that of the red and blue versions. The only advantage of these editions is portability, as the red and blue versions are single-volume and quite hefty. Ramble on....
Everyone knows the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings are wonderful stories, and I fully agree. The reason for my bad rating of this PARTICULAR edition of JRR Tolkien's works is that the books are riddled with typographical errors, some so severe that they change the meaning of sentences, effectively reversing the author's intent. One example: "The Breelanders locked their doors at night, which was also not unusual in the Shire." The word "unusual" should have been "usual"--i.e., the Shire Hobbits don't usually lock their doors at night. But exactly the opposite idea is conveyed by this typographical error! And there are many more errors where that one came from. I counted THREE errors on ONE PAGE! AVOID THIS EDITION at all costs!
As someone else mentioned, we all know the Lord of the Rings to be by the far one of the greatest works of writing of the 20th century. It is all a game we play with Tolkien, for he too took it much more seriously then any other Fantasy of Science Fiction writer ever has. He made up languages that existed in relationship to languages and dialects that we have in english, and thus created a nightmare for Translators. He told stories of all sorts of perils of creation, and made sure everything was done right. Thus, when an edition like this comes out, it is truly painful. For one, originally, Tolkien created some of the most beautiful maps of Middle Earth, spending time making sure that all of the proportions were accurate. He didn't just jumble down some lines for the coast line, for example. He spent many hours making sure everything was proportinate and made sense. However, sometime after 1988, Ballantine started to release editions of the triliogy with completely new maps, all signed by some Shelly Shapiro. In either case, these new maps were plauged with problems, from being too cartoony and unproportinate to having names of locations from the original maps done away with. The maps, from the very beginning, have been essential to the LoTR books, and having cheap maps made is annoying beyond belief. It shows a sign of disrespect from the editors. To me, it says, "People won't notice anyway. Lets make a smaller sized book with less detailed maps and save some money." If you truly want to expierience this epic (or history, more accurately) as Tolkien envisioned it (not some editor at Ballantine), spend some extra cash and either get a different edition or buy a good map (there is currently an excellent one made by Christopher Tolkien, which is much larger and detailed). Of course, were the map adequate, this edition still suffers from annoying miscopies and misprints and so on. Don't sell out for cheap editions. You've been warned.