HuanCry from England wrote to the project director of Harper Collins to find out….
“Here is HarperCollins UK response to my query Re: what are the true total sales figures of LotR ….following my irritation at the outdated figures of ‘ 50million copies in 25 languages ‘ ALWAYS being used in newspaper/magazine articles over last 10 YEARS or so!”
“Thank you for your enquiry. It is difficult to ascertain exact sales, not least because the book is sold in single- and three-volume editions across the world. A figure of 50 million copies and 25 languages was researched and declared for the Tolkien Centenary in 1992, and the press always hark back to this. Patrick Curry conservatively updated the figures for his book (“Defending Middle-earth”,) but we think that we’re well on the way to 100 MILLION COPIES WORLDWIDE ACROSS 40-50 LANGUAGES.
We hope to have more accurate figures soon, as we are working on this question for New Line Cinema, although much of it has to remain educated guesswork. I suspect that Bookworm’s claim (BBC programme aired in 1997) of 5 million per year rather exaggerates the truth about “The Lord of the Rings,” although if you included The Hobbit and the other Tolkien books it probably wouldn’t be far out.”
Thanks to David Brawn at Harper Collins, and HuanCry!