Benjamin Harff has produced an unbelievably lovely bound and illuminated copy of the Silmarillion! A student at the Rhein-Sieg-Akademie für realistische bildende Kunst und Design in Hennef, Germany, Harff created the book as his thesis project in Illustration and Graphic Design. He wanted to work on a thesis project that allowed him to learn calligraphy, and for his source text he turned to Tolkien because of some distinct childhood memories:
…in about 1991, when I was eleven years old. I was camping with some friends in the woods and we used to read to each other at the fireside, first from the Hobbit, then from the Lord of the Rings. These were experiences which left a very strong impression on me.”
After six months of research, Harff devoted another six months to designing and illuminating the text by hand, then worked with a binder to create a single copy:
Harff spoke about the process with the Tolkien Library, and it sounds about as intensive as you would expect. He chose to work with the Silmarillion first because he found that Peter Jackson’s films were encroaching on his own visual style when he looked at the LOTR books, and also because he thought the style of medieval calligraphy worked well with the book’s mythological content. His favorite single page is that of the title, pictured above, but we also liked:
Tolkien Library: What were the biggest problems you faced in making this book?
BH: I had a lot of problems, but the main problem was my strict limitation in time and money. Looking back I cannot understand how it worked! For my exam it would have been enough to do calligraphy for only one or two chapters. But I didn’t want to have a book with maybe twenty printed and 380 empty pages! That would not have been worthy for a Tolkien-work and I had better done a short story or so. But I thought: “This is your exam and maybe the last time that you can do what you want as an illustrator!” So I did it, and couldn´t have done it with that fire, wouldn’t it have been a Tolkien-work. And although this was extremely hard, the fire did not cease.
Harff is also something of a philosopher, as you can see:
My father is a tiler, so I early realized that pure inspiration is useless without skill, knowledge and hard work. So my approach to art is very close to earth. You can compare this to a tree: Only with strong roots the tree can grow and unfold its beauty. You grow in two directions – to the darkness of the earth and the light of the sky. But your contact to earth is always closer than to the sky.
We’re kind of in love with this guy. You can read the full (really cool!) interview with Benjamin Harff over at the Tolkien Library!