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New Tolkien Projects, Part Two

November 3, 2014

Art of Lord of the Rings trial bindingWell, we’re back. Our apologies to those who have been waiting nearly ten months to read Part Two of this thread (Part One is here), and five months for a new post. Only now can we say that our latest Tolkien project – which has occupied much of our time this summer and early autumn – is The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. With the 60th anniversary of the first (U.K.) publication of The Return of the King coming next year, HarperCollins asked us for a Lord of the Rings companion to our successful Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. We quickly agreed, then took time to think about what the new book should contain and how we should approach the subject.

The Lord of the Rings is of course a much longer and more complex work than The Hobbit, and has a different nature and history. It was written over a greater length of time, and with more false starts and wrong avenues; and it never had drawings or paintings made for publication, or to include in a ‘home manuscript’ the author could show to friends, except for a few maps and ‘facsimile’ inscriptions. Instead, the bulk of the art behind The Lord of the Rings consists of sketches, plans, and maps which Tolkien made to aid him in his writing – more numerous, more miscellaneous, and usually less ‘finished’ than the Hobbit art – and because these images were made as the story was conceived and revised, we needed to relate them not to a comparatively short text like The Hobbit, and not only to the published Lord of the Rings, but also to Tolkien’s drafts as published in The History of Middle-earth or, more directly in a few instances, as preserved among his papers at Marquette University.

In discussion with HarperCollins, we chose to document Tolkien’s art for The Lord of the Rings in its entirety, as we had earlier his art for The Hobbit, to the extent that it survives and is known to us or to its curators. It was always clear that The Art of The Lord of the Rings would be a longer book than The Art of The Hobbit, though when we began we couldn’t guess how long it would be, and as we worked, more images came to light than were on our initial list. Our new book will be 240 pages long, compared with 144 pages for The Art of The Hobbit, and will contain 182 pieces of artwork (plus 11 details), all of it in colour, versus 104 pieces (with 2 sets of details) for our earlier book. In appearance, the new volume will be similar in design to The Art of The Hobbit, in a large square format, but this time with no gatefolds as they didn’t seem warranted. HarperCollins are working on a handsome binding and slipcase design, shown here in mockup.

Of the art in the new book, 101 images are previously unpublished, and of the other 81 pictures, 42 will be published in colour for the first time. These range in size from a tiny coil-like drawing within a manuscript, just two lines of script high, which depicts the overlapping walls of Caras Galadhon, to the ‘First Map’ of Middle-earth, an elaborate working copy made with several sheets glued together and measuring 455 × 499 mm. The resolution of the scans we received from Marquette and from the Bodleian Library, Oxford – the two primary collections of Tolkien’s art – is uniformly high. And since we tend to show artwork in context, our reproductions will present new examples of Tolkien’s handwriting, of the Elvish languages, and of variant inscriptions in Tengwar and Cirth.

We do not yet have a date of publication for The Art of The Lord of the Rings, other than it will be in 2015.

Image: Not the final art: trial binding and slipcase prepared by HarperCollins.

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8 Comments
  1. Andrew permalink
    November 3, 2014 11:10 pm

    Very exciting! My talking purse is screaming against all these things I want to get! 🙂 Will there indeed be an updated version of the LotR Reader’s companion available in the US?

    • November 4, 2014 2:21 pm

      Sorry, Andrew, we haven’t heard that there will be an updated American edition of the Reader’s Companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt seem satisfied to reprint the original edition. (The one currently available from HarperCollins is actually the third edition, or the second revision.)

      • Andrew permalink
        November 4, 2014 9:55 pm

        OK, thank-you very much for the reply!

  2. November 4, 2014 1:14 pm

    Really looking forward to this! Thanks for sharing the news, Wayne and Christina.

  3. November 4, 2014 1:15 pm

    Looks great! I still have yet to obtain The Art of The Hobbit (Christmas is coming) but this does look amazing. I hope the image used is how the final product will look. If not that, then hopefully The Two Towers artwork.

  4. Drew Foster permalink
    November 4, 2014 7:11 pm

    I am v. glad you are back.

  5. November 7, 2014 9:54 am

    Dear Christina and Wayne! Thanks a lot for your works! Can I ask –

    do you have access to this manuscript?

    Essay, written in response to seeing Pauline Baynes’ depiction of various characters from The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien described each member of the Fellowship of the Ring and some other persons as he pictured them — an invaluable aid to any illustrator of his work. [Bodlean Library, Oxford: Dept. of Western Manuscripts, Mss Tolkien A61, fols. 1—31.]

    If yes – Is it permitted to be cited, at least?

  6. November 7, 2014 2:22 pm

    Such exciting news! Congratulations — and many thanks for letting us know!

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