In a mouth-watering coup for hardcore JRR Tolkien fans, a map of Middle Earth, the Lord of the Rings world, heavily annotated by the author himself, has been unearthed in an old edition of the series.
The book in which it was discovered was owned by Pauline Baynes, who, before her death in 2008, worked as an illustrator, most notably for C.S Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia) and Tolkien. The map itself is now on display in Blackwell’s Rare Books collection at the asking price of £60,000.
Described by Blackwell’s as “an important d o c u m e n t , and perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least,” the map served as the basis for Baynes’ map of Middle Earth, which was published by Allen & Unwin.
Tolkien’s annotations provide further evidence of his exacting creative process, and the attention to detail for which he has come to be known. Not just content with correcting place names, Tolkien even made suggestions regarding “the various f lora and fauna or vessels through which the various locations are represented”.
One particular scribble of Tolkien’s is especially attention grabbing for any Oxford student: that about the location of the small town of Hobbiton, which he wrote “is assumed to be approx. at latitude of Oxford.”
Tolkien also used Ravenna, Italy as a reference point for Minas Tirith, a famous city in the third book of the Lord of the Rings. Belgrade and Jerusalem are also alluded to when discussing Middle Earth locations.
Of note, also, are Baynes’ comments about working with Tolkien. Originally describing him as “very uncooperative,”she found that as their working relationship progressed, he came to be “in great form – first names and kissing all round – and pleased with the map.”
“He was tricky to work with, but very rewarding in the end,” said Sian Wainwright of Blackwell’s.
Understandably, many Lord of the Rings aficionados at the University were thrilled with the discovery.
Jonathan Evans, a first-year Mathematics and Philosophy student at Exeter, was more interested in the relationship the manuscript had with Oxford. “Honestly, it speaks to the storied history of Oxford,” he said. Tolkien lived and worked at the University as a Professor of Anglo-Saxon for much of his life.