The Art of The Hobbit
Those among you who looked forward to The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide and grumbled as it went past its announced publication dates, appearing at last three years after it was first expected (but also at twice its original projected length), will find it ironic that we are having to complete our latest book by early June 2011, less than five months after it was begun.
The book, we are now able to say, as it will be promoted this week at the London Book Fair, is The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. This large-format, full-colour volume will contain more than 100 paintings and drawings produced by Tolkien to illustrate The Hobbit, or made by him for other purposes but which served as models or inspiration for his Hobbit art. More than two dozen of these pictures are previously unpublished, and many have never before been printed in colour. We will provide an introduction and brief explanatory texts, as well as lay out the art and captions.
HarperCollins U.K. approached us with this commission towards the end of January, and we got to work right away. The project is time-sensitive, as it will be part of a larger publishing initiative commemorating the 75th anniversary of the first publication of The Hobbit in 1937. More specifically, it is meant to celebrate the author’s own enduring visions of Bilbo Baggins, Smaug, Bag-End, the Misty Mountains, and other characters and places known to readers around the world.
We have, of course, already written about Tolkien’s art for The Hobbit in J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator (1995), and reproduced many of the related pictures; and we wrote about The Hobbit also in the Companion and Guide. So we have a base of knowledge to work with, which HarperCollins and the Tolkien Estate appreciated when they gave us this opportunity. But always, when looking at Tolkien’s work, we see further aspects, and will bring some fresh thoughts to our latest text.
We have not yet heard a definite publication date from our editors in London, nor are the design of the book and its number of pages absolutely firm at this point. We’ll post further details as soon as we have them.
Image: Detail from Tolkien’s dust-jacket design for The Hobbit (copyrighted, all rights reserved).