October 24, 2015

Middle-earth Map Annotated by Tolkien Discovered!

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In what's being called "the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years," a small bookstore has uncovered a rare treasure, a map of Middle-earth annotated by Tolkien himself...

Blackwells Rare Books in Oxford, England recently acquired an old copy of The Lord of the Rings that used to be owned by the famed Middle-earth and Narnia illustrator Pauline Baynes (1922-2008).  While that is neat in and of itself, what a specialist at the store discovered just inside was much more interesting.  Within the volume lay a loose map of Middle-earth with detailed annotations by Ms. Baynes and Tolkien himself.  The comments by the two are incredibly insightful into their collaborative process and Tolkien's vision and inspiration for his world.  He cites numerous "real" cities such as Oxford, Jerusalem, and Ravenna as guides for topography, climate and relative distance and provides many more names and details that do not appear in his published maps or texts.

Ravenna, Italy - the approx. latitude for Minas Tirith and a
possible inspiration for the city itself.
The existence of such a map and Tolkien's creative relationship with Baynes is well documented by Tolkien historians and fans, but this is the first time (as far as we know) when the map has been seen by others. Visitors to Blackwells in Oxford can see the map on display (along with a number of other works by Baynes) and even buy the it for the steep price of £60,000 (roughly $92,000).  But, for those of us who don't live in England, photos and more details about the find please can be found on The Guardian and the Tolkien Society websites below.



A Map of Middle-earth by Pauline Baynes (1970)

Update: And, since it's been debated by Tolkien fans for years, it should be noted that Dorwinion is marked as appearing on the north-western side of the sea of Rhun on this map, confirming the idea that Tolkien approved its location for Baynes's final illustration.

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