Tolkien’s maps

An map of Middle-earth that was annotated by Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien has been bought by Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries

“J. R. R. Tolkien’s maps, depicting his fictional Middle-earth and other places in his legendarium, helped him with plot development, guides the reader through his often complex stories, and contributes to the impression of depth in his writings. Tolkien stated that he began with maps and developed his plots from them, but that he also wanted his maps to be picturesque. Later fantasy writers often include maps in their novels. The publisher Allen & Unwin commissioned Pauline Baynes to paint a map of Middle-earth, based on Tolkien’s draft maps and his annotations; it became iconic. A later redrafting of the maps by the publisher HarperCollins however made the maps look blandly professional, losing the hand-drawn feeling of Tolkien’s maps. The Hobbit contains two simple maps and only around 50 placenames. In the view of the Tolkien critic Tom Shippey, the maps are largely decorative in the ‘Here be tygers’ tradition, adding nothing to the story. The first is Thror’s map, in the fiction handed down to Thorin, showing little but the Lonely Mountain drawn in outline with ridgelines and entrances, and parts of two rivers, decorated with a spider and its web, English labels and arrows, and two texts written in runes. The other is a drawing of ‘Wilderland’, from Rivendell in the west to the Lonely Mountain and Smaug the dragon in the east. The Misty Mountains are drawn in three dimensions. Mirkwood is shown as a mixture of closely packed tree symbols, spiders and their webs, hills, lakes, and villages. The map is overprinted with placenames in red. Both maps have a heavy vertical line not far from the left-hand side, the one on the map of Wilderland marked ‘Edge of the Wild’. This line represented the printed delineation of the margin of the school paper, which came with the printed instruction ‘Do not write in this margin’. The Lord of the Rings contains three maps and over 600 placenames. The maps are a large drawing of the north-west part of Middle-earth, showing mountains as if seen in three dimensions, and coasts with multiple waterlines; a more detailed drawing of ‘A Part of the Shire‘; and a contour map by Christopher Tolkien of parts of Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor, very different in style. … It had many annotations in pencil and a range of different inks added over the years, the older ones faded until almost illegible. The paper became soft, torn and yellowed through intensive use, and a fold down the centre had to be mended using parcel tape. …”
Guardian: Tolkien’s annotated map of Middle-earth discovered inside copy of Lord of the Rings
W – Tolkien’s legendarium
Celebrating Christopher Tolkien’s Cartographic Legacy

The map provides an amazing insight into Tolkien’s mind – including his observation that Hobbiton is on the same latitude as the city of Oxford. It also suggests that Ravenna in Italy is the inspiration behind Minas Tirith. And it references Cyprus and Jerusalem

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