Map of Middle-earth Annotated By Tolkien Found in Rare Book Shop

The Guardian has a lovely report on a recently discovered map of Middle-earth brimming with annotations by J.R.R. Tolkien himself.

The discovery was made at Blackwell’s Rare Books, which recently acquired the personal library of illustrator Pauline Baynes, the artist behind the now-iconic map of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Existing correspondence between Baynes and Tolkien reveals a prickly working relationship, as Tolkien was very exacting in regards to the locations and environments of the places in Middle-earth, requiring many, many corrections to Baynes’ work. In the end, however, the antagonism simply brought the writer and artist closer together. The Guardian notes that in their correspondence:

The author later apologies for having “been so dilatory”, and a later lunch sees the author “in great form – first names and kissing all round – and pleased with the map”.

Let us just take a moment to imagine J.R.R. Tolkien saying “first names and kissing all around!” in what was most likely a very Bilbo-esque manner. Marvelous.

The annotations reveal certain environmental parallels between Middle-earth and our present day, including that Tolkien considered the latitude of Hobbiton to be the same as Oxford’s, and that the Italian city of Ravenna–the capital of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century–would be the latitude of Minas Tirith.

Tolkien Middle-earth annotated map

The full map and annotations have yet to be revealed, and may never be revealed unless a particularly sharing soul pays the 60,000 pounds at which Blackwell’s has priced the map. Is there more to Middle-earth than we know? Is there perhaps a spirited thumbing of the nose to C.S. Lewis contained in Tolkien’s annotations? We may never know.

You can find more information in The Guardian‘s article.


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