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The range of J. R. R. Tolkien’s talents is remarkable. Not only was he an accomplished linguist and philologist, as well as a scholar of Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature and Norse folklore, but also a skillful illustrator and storyteller. Drawing on these talents, he created a universe which is for many readers as real as the physical world they inhabit daily.
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth explores the huge creative endeavor behind Tolkien’s enduring popularity. Lavishly illustrated with three hundred images of his manuscripts, drawings, maps, and letters, the book traces the creative process behind his most famous literary works—The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion—and reproduces personal photographs and private papers, many of which have never been seen before in print.
Six essays introduce the reader to the person of J. R. R. Tolkien and to main themes in his life and work, including the influence of northern languages and legends on the creation of his own legendarium; his concept of “Faërie” as an enchanted literary realm; the central importance of his invented languages in his fantasy writing; his visual imagination and its emergence in his artwork; and the encouragement he derived from his close friend C. S. Lewis and their literary group the Inklings.
The book brings together the largest collection of original Tolkien material ever assembled in a single volume. Drawing on the extensive archives of the Tolkien collections at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, which stretch to more than five hundred boxes, and Marquette University, Milwaukee, as well as private collections, this hugely ambitious and exquisitely produced book draws together the worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien – scholarly, literary, creative, and domestic—offering a rich and detailed understanding and appreciation of this extraordinary author.
This landmark publication, produced on the occasion of a major exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford in 2018 and at the Morgan Library in New York in 2019, is set to become a standard work in the literature on J. R. R. Tolkien.
About the Author
Catherine McIlwaine is the Tolkien Archivist at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
“Incredible . . . . A hefty book packed full of gorgeous, fascinating images.”
“Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth aims to demonstrate this link between the evolution of the world of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and the biography of their author. . . . The scope of his world was truly vast, and his desire to populate it impressive in itself. More to the point, the paintings are beautiful.”
— Times Literary Supplement
“Reveals [Tolkien’s] painstaking creative process. . . . Reflect[s] a literary mind almost obsessed with perfecting each and every [detail].”
— New York Times Book Review
“One awesome and lore-packed book. . . . sure to enrich any fan’s appreciation for Tolkien the mortal Man, who despite having left this world has at least left behind another of his own creations. A vast, believable, alien-yet-familiar, and somehow still scarcely inhabited world: Middle-earth, which seems to be half the Earth we know and half an Earth we don’t. One that’s steeped in Faerie.”
“Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth is a pure delight, one that I’ll return to many times in the years to come. . . . I have many more books about Tolkien than I do ones he has written, and this is the best of those about him so far.”
— Fantasy & Science Fiction
“Splendid . . . . Impressive.”
— Toronto Star
“Extensive . . . . Fascinating.”
— Wall Street Journal
“The most thorough treatment of his life and work in decades. . . . Will enlighten even longtime Tolkien fans about the intensely visual and artistic aspect of his creativity.”
— The National Review
“For anyone who grew up in the Tolkien universe, seeing the original artwork—the death of Smaug, for instance, the dragon’s head thrown back, his scales pierced by a black arrow, over the burning remains of the lake town of Esgaroth—will be like meeting an old friend.”
— Country Life
“Incredibly and unexpectedly moving. . . . Colorful and joyful, too.”
— Fine Books & Collections Magazine
"All in all, a treasure-house of images, a perfect gift for yourself or a Tolkien-lover on your list."
"Catherine McIlwaine's large, lavishly illustrated catalog of her recent exhibition of the Bodleian Library's J.R.R. Tolkien holdings is well organized, well written. . . and introduced by six short essays by experts on different aspects of the author's life and work. It opens a window onto Tolkien's imagination and the way it worked, with particular emphasis on the visual element. For any Tolkien scholar, McIlwaine's book will become indispensable."
— Children's Literature Association Quarterly