George R.R. Martin just donated a super-rare Tolkien book to a university library

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Mar 5, 2015, 5:47 PM EST

Over the past few years, George R.R. Martin's become a household name thanks to the overwhelming success of Game of Thrones, the hit HBO series based on his epic fantasy saga A Song of Ice and Fire. Now that the show's a success, Martin's a recognizable face even to those who haven't read his books, a frequent talk show guest and one of those genre icons who can't walk through the exhibit hall at San Diego Comic-Con without getting mobbed by fans.

It took 15 years for Game of Thrones to make it to TV after the first book was published, and even before that, Martin was a giant in the world of genre writing. Thanks to his numerous contributions to sci-fi and fantasy in the realms of novels, short fiction, fanzines, conventions and TV writing, he's been a major player among diehard fans for decades, and he's earned that status not just because of his work, but because of his own personal fandom. He loves this stuff, just like we do, and that came through well before he was rich or famous.

Among his many other convention appearances over the years, Martin's been a regular attendee at AggieCon, the oldest student-run convention in the U.S., which has been operating since 1969. Martin has such a close relationship with the con and its host site, Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, that he's donated his papers to the university's Cushing Library, and last month he added another gift to his Texas A&M contributions: a first edition of The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. 

The edition was one of only 1,500 printed, and was purchased by Martin as the university's 5 millionth volume in its extensive library collections. Martin traveled to Texas to present the book, and spoke about both the effect Tolkien's had on his life and work (he's often been dubbed "The American Tolkien" by literary critics) and the importance of fantasy literature to readers.

“There’s no doubt his effect upon me was profound and I take a strange pleasure in seeing him included in a library like this, to be a five millionth book with Cervantes and Walt Whitman,” he said. “It represents an acceptance of fantasy into the canon of world literature which I think is long overdue, frankly.”

Martin also addressed the continued importance of libraries to literature, calling them "fortresses" that preserve stories, and noted that he believes all culture should be preserved for posterity.

“All of it should be preserved,” Martin said, according to the Battalion. “Not just the stuff that we deem high culture, but popular culture and ordinary culture and ephemera and juvenilia, preserve all of it because we don’t know what we’ll want 50 years from now, what’s going to be important 100 years from now, or whether indeed 1,000 years from now, Stan Lee will stand next to Shakespeare.”

We would expect nothing less from a man who's as much a literary giant as he is a kid from New Jersey who obsessed over the Fantastic Four.

(Via The Guardian)