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Bodleian to explore Tolkien’s unique literary imagination with major 2018 exhibition 1

a watercoour of a small figure straddling a barrel as it flows down a river through a forest towards the sea

Bilbo comes to the huts of the Raft-elves, a watercolour Tolkien painted as an illustration for the first edition of The Hobbit, published in 1937. It went on to be included in numerous other editions of the book. © The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937

Bodleian Libraries to explore Tolkien’s creative genius with major 2018 exhibition

Draft manuscripts, stunning artworks and personal letters are among the unprecedented array of Tolkien materials from the UK and the USA to be reunited in Oxford in 2018 and displayed together at the Bodleian Library for the first time since the 1950s.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth will explore the full breadth of Tolkien’s unique literary imagination – from his creation of Middle-earth, the imagined world where The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and his other works are set – to his life and work as an artist, poet, medievalist and scholar of languages.

Featuring rarely displayed treasures from the Bodleian’s extensive Tolkien Archive, the Tolkien Collection at Marquette University in the USA and several private collections, the exhibition promises to “take visitors beyond what they may already know about this extraordinary author”.

The Bodleian Libraries houses the largest collection of original Tolkien manuscripts and drawings in the world and the collection will be used to examine the scholarly, literary, creative and domestic worlds that influenced Tolkien as an author and artist to “allow visitors to engage with his works as never before”.

a watercolour of mountains and forests and the words The Hobbit

Tolkien’s final design for The Hobbit dust jacket. © The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937

a hdn drawn map showing middle eath with drawn in mountains and other topographical details and annotations

A map of Middle-earth, annotated by JRR Tolkien and Pauline Baynes. This was the working document that the author and artist used during their collaboration on the production of Baynes’ iconic poster map of Middle-earth, published in 1970. © The Tolkien Estate Limited 2016

a small watercolour showing a mountain scene

The Shores of Faery. Tolkien’s illustration for his book The Silmarillion. © The Tolkien Trust 1995

He may be best known today as the author of The Lord of the Rings but during his lifetime Tolkien was chiefly known as a scholar of Old and Middle English and a philologist intimately concerned with the creation of language. He was also a devoted husband and father of four children for whom he created stories for pleasure.

“Draft manuscripts of The Hobbit will show the evolution of the story alongside striking watercolours, dust jacket designs, line drawings and maps”

This vast spectrum of Tolkien’s creative and scholarly output will be on display ranging from his early abstract paintings in The Book of Ishness to the metrical brilliance of his poem Errantry and the touching tales he wrote for his children.

Objects will include original manuscripts of his popular classics as well as lesser-known and posthumous works and materials, some of which will be seen in public for the very first time.

Draft manuscripts of The Hobbit will show the evolution of the story alongside striking watercolours, dust jacket designs, line drawings and maps drawn for the publication. Original manuscripts of The Lord of The Rings will also be shown along with dust jacket designs and watercolours.

a wateroloour of a dragon lying on a pile of gold in a dungeon

Conversation with Smaug, a watercolour painted by Tolkien in 1937 as an illustration for the first American edition of The Hobbit. © The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937

an watercolour of an underwater scene with fish swimming about

The Gardens of the Merking’s palace, an illustration that Tolkien completed for Roverandom, a bedtime story that he originally told to his children in 1925 about the adventures of a young dog. © Tolkien Trust 1992

Manuscripts of The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s very earliest work on the legends of the elves, which was unfinished during his lifetime and published posthumously by his son and literary executor, Christopher Tolkien will also be on show together with photos and letters from Tolkien’s childhood and student days exploring themes of love, loss and war.

Letters from from a wide range of admirers including poet WH Auden, singer Joni Mitchell and author Iris Murdoch will join personal objects that belonged to Tolkien including his art materials (boxes of paints, coloured pencils and sealing wax) and his personal library.

The Bodleian’s map annotated by Tolkien, acquired by the library in 2016 will also be displayed together with a specially-commissioned 3-D map of Middle-earth.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, The Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford 1 June – 28 October 2018, Free Admission.


Bodleian Library

Oxford, Oxfordshire

The Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford is the largest university library system in the United Kingdom. It includes the principal University library – the Bodleian Library – which has been a legal deposit library for 400 years, as well as 27 libraries across Oxford including major research libraries…















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