I just read about the book The Silmarillion and thought I'd like to buy it, but I'm a little confused about the different versions that I found.

On amazon I found foremost these two versions (I hope it's okay to include links here)

On the German site (where I'd like to buy), they are directly available from amazon, but at greatly different prices (26.10 Euro vs. 9.50 Euro). I cannot see any difference whatsoever except of the Hardcover/Paperback thing.
Is it really the same book (only with a different cover) or are there differences? Is there any point of buying the expensive one or can I be scroogy?

  • 7
    If it is the hardcover that is more expensive, this is because hard cover binding is more expensive to produce than paperback binding. If there are no other editions (ie first edition, second, etc) then there shouldn't be any differences in the harcover vs softcover versions. Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 4:18
  • I know it's more expensive, but 2.75 times as expensive? Seems a lot to me. Also, I don't know if there are different editions or not (after all it was released after Tolkien's death), that's just what I'm trying to find out. But according to the votes questions about books (note that this question is about the content of a book, at its core) are off-topic here (I find this more than odd, but okay).
    – bitmask
    Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 4:23
  • 1
    At its core, this question is about book prices. Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 4:27
  • 1
    @OghmaOsiris: Nope. All I want to know is, if they have the same content (the reason I want to know this, is so I can buy the cheaper one if there are no differences).
    – bitmask
    Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 4:31
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    You could always check out your local book store(s), to see if they have both and compare them directly. Then buy the one you want where ever it is cheapest.
    – Xantec
    Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 12:03

4 Answers 4


There have been several publications of The Silmarillion over the years, in a first and second edition. Both of those appear to be the second edition from what I can tell. The price difference is because of the different binding and size, and perhaps the quality of illustrations. That price ratio is typical of hardcover vs paperback books in the US.

As far as the content, I'm not aware of any major textual changes between the first and second edition. Christopher Tolkien revised his father's fragmented notes considerably to publish this book in the first place, and much of the source material was later revised further for The History of Middle-earth. Inconsistencies between this and other books would surely be more significant than differences between the first and second editions.

TL;DR: Those are the same book. You're safe buying the cheaper one.

  • 2
    Agreed, they're going to be the same; I have three different copies, one the 1977 "George Allen and Unwin" 1st edition (?) printing, a 1990 2nd edition with a Library binding, and 2001 Harcourt edition (purchased because the cover art fits with the rest of the "History of Middle-Earth" books.) None of them have had any noticeable differences in the body text (although I've never done a word-by-word comparison).
    – TML
    Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 23:11

The more expensive one is a "sumptuous, oversized hardback beautifully presents a revised and reset edition of The Silmarillion, illustrated by way of almost 50 full-colour paintings by celebrated Tolkien artist Ted Nasmith", according to the book description.


Typically, unless one is a newer publication (ie Years newer) than the other one, and they're both by the same publishing company, the hardback and paper back should be the same.


The main differences between the two editions are the type of binding and the number of illustrations.

The first book that you linked is the 2004 HarperCollins hardcover illustrated edition. The second is the 2008 HarperCollins paperback illustrated edition.

Both of these use the 2nd edition text, include the new forward by Christopher Tolkien (quoting from Tolkien's Letter to Milton Waldman), and are illustrated by Ted Nasmith.

Here are the differences:

2004 HarperCollins hardcover illustrated edition

  • Hardcover with dustjacket
  • larger dimensions and weight
  • The Map of Beleriand and the Lands to the North is colored by H.E. Riddett, and printed on the endpapers. (In the first impression of this edition it was a fold-out, but I'm assuming if you're buying it now, you're getting the later impressions.)
  • 45 color illustrations from Ted Nasmith are included

2008 HarperCollins paperback illustrated edition

  • Paperback
  • smaller dimensions and weight
  • The Map of Beleriand and the Lands to the North is printed in its original black and white and spread over the final pages.
  • 16 color illustrations from Ted Nasmith are included

It is now nearly ten years after you've asked this question, but if you still haven't made your decision by now, I'll say that the hardcover edition is a nicer book, but otherwise is effectively the same thing and so if you just want to read it for cheap you'll be fine with the paperback.

(Also the 2021 Hardcover illustrated edition is superior to the 2004 one, so if your goal is to have the nicest copy just skip that edition.)

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