New map of Tolkien’s Middle Earth discovered

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An extremely rare map of Middle Earth, annotated by JRR Tolkien, has been recently discovered and is now on display in Blackwell’s Oxford.

The copiously annotated document reveals a wealth of new detail including the unsurprising fact that Hobbiton is assumed to be on the same latitude as Oxford.

The map is actually the working material of illustrator Pauline Baynes whose annotations and textual references are also present on the manuscript. It was discovered in her own copy of the 1955 edition of one of the books and was passed on to the Rare Book Department of Blackwell’s.

The map, currently on sale for £60,000, was heralded by Blackwell’s as “perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least”.

Tolkien, who was a professor of Anglo Saxon at Oxford, was highly involved in creation of the map and it shows what Blackwell’s calls “The exacting nature of his creative vision”. In a bright green ink or pencil he covers a wide range of comments, even adjusting incorrect place names in the original: “ENEDWAITH for ENEDHWAITH”.

As Henry Gott, modern first editions specialist at Blackwell’s Rare Books, said the map was “An exciting and important discovery…it demonstrates the care exercised by both in their mapping of Tolkien’s creative vision’

Correspondence between the two and Baynes’ unpublished diary entries also uncover how the occasionally difficult Tolkien didn’t initially make life easy with his involvement. Baynes, after visiting Tolkien and his wife in Bournemouth, records in an August 1969 entry “he is very uncooperative”.

Tolkien later excuses himself for having “been so dilatory” and Baynes records at a lunch in the Miramar Hotel in November: “He [sic] in great form – first names and kissing all round – and pleased with the map”. The map was completed soon after.

Other gems in the document reveal the use of Ravenna, Belgrade, Cyprus and Jerusalem as reference points on the map and show how Tolkien suggests not just positioning but the flora and fauna to be used in certain areas.

The manuscript is currently on display in Oxford Blackwell’s Norrington room as well as a large collection of material in relation to Pauline Baynes and her involvement with Tolkein and Lewis.

Image: Galaxy fm