January 14, 2022

Return of the Rings: Worcester hospice flogs filched fantasies


The One Ring: also had a perilous journey, as you may have heard (Peter J. Yost, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a storyline that might have come from the mind of J.R.R. Tolkien himself.

On December 19 it was reported that a thief had made off with rare first editions of the books that form the Lord of the Rings trilogy—The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King—from the St. Richard’s Hospice charity shop in Worcester, UK. The three books in question—comprising first edition texts as opposed to first printings—date from 1957, and were said to be worth in the region of £1495.

Staff at the shop were “saddened” by the incident, and told Worcester News “For this to happen less than a week before Christmas, and during a difficult time for all in the charity sector, is especially upsetting.” They appealed across local and social media for the books’ return. And sure enough, further twists lay ahead…

Ten days later on December 29, it was reported that the books had been returned to a shelf in the store and found by staff as they tidied up; the thief had apparently had a change of heart and returned the loot.

Such was the buzz generated by the story that as soon as the books went back on sale, they were snapped up for their asking price by Martin Clark, a businessman based in Saudi Arabia with family in the UK. “I have been a big Tolkien fan for some 45 years and wanting a set of these books for some time,” he said. “Having seen the BBC coverage on the loss and return of the books, I thought that here’s a set which has a bit of a story behind it and I am very happy to support a worthwhile charity”.

Commercial Director of St. Richard’s Dan Corns said he was “thrilled” by the outcome, which was the shop’s first sale of 2022. “This is a considerable sum towards our hospice care and we are grateful to Mr Clark and also everyone in the community who helped us raise awareness of our appeal to bring the books back.”

Find out more about the work of St. Richard’s Hospice here.



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.