Blackwell’s Rare Books in Oxford, England is exactly the sort of place you would hope to find a piece of literary treasure. So it is fitting that a special map has recently been discovered within an old book here – a map that ties a fantasy place that we have seen envisioned in books and on screen, with reality.
J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle-earth is an intricate fantasy universe where his novels (The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy) take place. The discovery of this map is particularly significant because it has been annotated by the author himself, his edits giving an insight into his inspiration for these vast lands he described so vividly.
Tolkien’s Middle-earth novels were published between 1936 and 1955 and quickly came to be regarded as classics, appealing to both child and adult readers. Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of the books brought new life to the stories in this century, as advances in CGI allowed the range of fantasy creatures and epic locations to be created with justice on screen. It is the illustrated maps of Middle-earth featured within the novels that aid understanding of the geography described within the works – a vital guide to these stories about legendary journeys across continents.
Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf in Jackson’s Middle-earth movies, has posted a pic of said annotated map online (see below):
The annotated map was discovered tucked into a copy of Lord Of The Rings that belonged to illustrator Pauline Baynes – who had been commissioned to create the map in color for an edition of the books to be published in 1970. Both Tolkien and Baynes have annotated the map and their notes reveal that some Middle-earth locations were in fact based on real places.
The Guardian has reported that ‘Hobbiton’ shares a latitude with Oxford (where Tolkien taught at the university). In addition, Jerusalem, Belgrade and Cyprus are referenced and it seems Ravenna, Italy inspired the Middle-earth city ‘Minas Tirith’. In addition to these details, the map conveys the exacting nature of Tolkien’s design and working process. Blackwell’s (which is exhibiting the map in Oxford) has been quoted, clarifying the implication of their discovery:
“Before going on display in the shop this week, this had only ever been in private hands. One of the points of interest is how much of a hand Tolkien had in the poster map; all of his suggestions, and there are many, are reflected in Baynes’s version……. The degree to which it is properly collaborative was not previously apparent, and couldn’t be without a document like this. Its importance is mostly to do with the insight it gives into that process.”
Check out a portion of the annotated map, below:
Tolkien’s extensive mythology indicates a mind that was as exacting as it was creative. The collaboration with Baynes (who also worked with Tolkien’s long-time friend and author C.S. Lewis) proved to be paramount in creating the iconic illustrations we all associate with the Middle-earth novels. This discovery is important from an academic point of view but also a marvelous gift to fans of both the books and the movies alike.
The map can be viewed through Blackwell’s if you are in the UK, or purchased… if you care to part with $92,118, that is.
The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings movie trilogies are now available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD.