Today In Literary History
It was on this day in 1937 that The Hobbit was published with a printing of 1,500 copies. A few years earlier, a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, a man named J.R.R. Tolkien, was grading papers and he turned one of those papers over and wrote, "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit." He didn't really know what that meant, or what a hobbit was. But in the next few years, he drew a map of the sort of world he thought a hobbit would live in, and then he started to write a story about a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Tolkien only managed to finish the story because he was encouraged by friends. It was passed around and eventually got to the publishing house of Allen & Unwin. Mr. Unwin gave it to his 10-year-old son, told him he would pay him a few pennies in exchange for reading it and giving him a report, and the boy was so enthusiastic that Allen & Unwin agreed to publish it. The Hobbit was so popular that they immediately issued a second printing. But since paper was rationed during the war, it was frequently unavailable for the next 10 years.