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First U.S. editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy returned to OBU nearly 50 years after taken

SHAWNEE, Okla. - A set of rare books are now back on Oklahoma Baptist University's library shelves after being stolen half a century ago.

“They could have been considering selling these or keeping them a secret but for whatever reason, they decided to return them,” said Julie Rankin, OBU Director of Library Services.

First U.S. edition copies of the Lord of the Rings trilogy are considered precious, by any J.R.R. Tolkien fan. The books tell the story of how one magical ring holds the fate of all creatures living in Middle Earth.

“This is an 11th printing of. It’s still the first U.S. edition,” Rankin said.

Gone missing from the shelves at Oklahoma Baptist 47 years ago, and now returned after a thief had a change of heart.

“It really makes you wonder about this person’s story. Were they just cleaning out their house and found them? Or have they felt guilty all this time? You don’t really know but we’re thankful that they sent them back,” Rankin said.

The library said a mysterious package was delivered a few weeks ago. Inside they found the trilogy, with a typed note from the thief, saying they had removed the books from the library all the way back in 1972.

Hundreds of miles away the book thief struck again, returning another rarity. This time it was an original U.S. copy of The Hobbit, stolen from the University of North Texas a few years after OBU’s trilogy was taken.

The book was mailed to UNT's library with a similar typed letter attached.

“Obviously this person must really love Tolkien,” Rankin said.

As for the thief's reasoning, the letter said, "I have no excuse for my action, other than a desire to have one of the unrevised editions in my collection."

Just like as the fellowship said, “Not all those who wander are lost.”

“Thank you for returning the books. We really appreciate it,” Rankin said.

OBU said they believe they know who had the books all along but no harm no foul.

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