Rayner was Tolkien's publisher and friend for many years at George Allen and Unwin and Unwin Hyman. As well as philathropic contributions to the book trade, Rayner Unwin was unfailingly supportive to Tolkien's readers and fans, turning up at regular intervals at conferences and festivals to talk about the history of Tolkien's published works. In 1999 he published his own book George Allen & Unwin: A Remembrancer, which also covered the Tolkien years.
As publisher, he was one of the last and most understanding of links between Tolkien the author and his reading public, and his death has come as a surprise and a shock to us. We offer our sympathy and condolences to his family.
Lars-Terje Lysemose, webmaster for the Danish Tolkien Society, sent the following (the original is in Danish).
"Rayner Unwin was always keen on anecdotes and a friendly soul and he participated a number of times at the annual Oxonmoot arranged by the English Tolkien Society. For instance when in 1998 he told the Danish participants the thrilling story of how the special edition of The Lord of the Rings illustrated by Ingahild Grathmer came into production in 1977:
'Would you believe it, when we met with Her Majesty to have the designs for the book approved, she exclaimed: 'But why did you turn one of my drawings upside down?' I have never been so embarrassed, my face turned all red. Imagine, I just couldn't see what was up and down on her drawing," he acknowledged and gave a big smile of the funny episode.
Ingahild Grathmer is the pseudonym used by H.M. Queen Margrethe II at the time of publication in 1977."
HarperCollins Publishers in the UK have re-issued The Lord of the Rings deluxe edition, one volume with appendices included, clothbound, leather spine, fine paper, gold blocking, red and black maps and gold leaf edged pages, at the rather ouchsome price of UK £100.00.
The November 2001 printings of this sold out quickly and were followed by further printings in the following years. These editions have been "limited printings" of around 1000, rather than numbered limited editions. A De Luxe Hobbit and a three-volume set incorporating The History of Middle-earth Vols 1-12 followed.
Find current information at the website: www.vfpltd.com
The Hobbit at The Theatre Royal - Bath, England (June 3rd 2000). This turned out to a very good stageplay. At 7.30 up went the curtain and we were launched into a very fast-paced adaption of the story. Apprehensions that the play might not live up to expectations or even lose what Tolkien had created soon faded. Although fast paced it did adhere to the plot very well. The dialogue used was often straight from the book which for a Tolkien fan like me made the play an absorbing experience.
"The Stage was cleverly used to glide and effortlessly transform from Bag End to forests like Mirkwood to Laketown and the Wood Elf prison. The escape of the Company down the river was well executed with the barrels tipped from high on the stage away from the audience but quite realistic with sound effects. Finally the stage adapted to Erebor and The Lonely Mountain. Michael Geary was well cast as Bilbo with a good fumbling but likeable character. Gandalf was perhaps not as wise and too much of a typical wizard. At times he seemed like an angry wizard - the crowd might take a dislike too. Gollum was good with the right voice. The remaining actors were also well cast and played good parts. The most amusing memory however has to be the bright and ear piercing thunder flashes. During the interval it was obvious that quite a few people wanted to sit further back where they felt to be at a safer distance. So for the second half the front rows of the theatre were almost empty. I was sitting in the fourth row and my ears rang !
"All in all a good adaption which my wife also enjoyed. She might even read the book now. I now wait in eager anticipation for 2001 and the start of The Lord of The Rings film trilogy. "
"I was tempted to say that Michael Geary as Bilbo and Clive Kneller as Gollum were very good and leave the rest to your imagination. However that would be a little unfair to the production team who have put a lot of effort into producing a show that many people will enjoy
"Glyn Robbins' adaptation included as many aspects of the story as possible in two one-hour acts, keeping the pace flowing well. There were some glaring discrepancies, such as referring to the Necromancer as Melchor, and one of the (male) elves of Elrond's household as Arwen! Gandalf is clearly described in the book and has been illustrated numerous times, so I was surprised to see him, not with his familiar hat, but with a cone-shaped helmet with his hair pulled through the top and a long narrow old Egyptian-style beard. Andy Williams played the part well enough, but the appearance detracted from it. As for the elves - there has been discussion about whether or not they had pointed ears. Well, forget the ears - the elves in this production have pointed heads!
"On the whole this is a good attempt, but it lacks the "wow" factor that the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had."
Damian Rowland - March 2000:
"I took my 11-year-old granddaughter with me to the Manchester Opera House, and she was over the moon about it. She said the special effects made her nearly jump out of her skin, and thought the performance as great! I myself however would tend to agree about Gandalf and Bilbo - I actually thought that Bilbo looked very much like the Bilbo illustrated in my copy of The Hobbit which I aquired last year from World Books - and would like to add that one of my favourite characters in the whole of the Hobbit and Ring saga is Gollum and one of my favourite scenes in The Hobbit is the riddle competition ('whats it got in its pocketses'). I was in my element when the scene started at the Opera House and I heard the actor's first hiss. His performance for me was excellent. As for the production on the whole, I thought it was very entertaining but lacked the excitement you get when you read the book or listen to the tapes (even after the umpteenth time), but it was well worth going to see.