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Bodleian acquires map of Middle-earth annotated by Tolkien

The Bodleian Libraries has acquired the map of Middle-earth annotated by Tolkien and renowned artist Pauline Baynes.

The map was widely described as being “discovered” back in October 2015. As we reported at the time, however, it has been known to exist since at least the time of Baynes’s death in 2008.

In the late 1960s, Baynes collaborated with Tolkien to produce a poster-map — known as “A Map of Middle-earth” and first published in 1970 — based on the map of Middle-earth found in most copies of The Lord of the Rings.

This map — pulled out from one of Baynes’s copies of The Lord of the Rings — was re-discovered when Blackwell’s Rare Books in Oxford acquired a large number of items from Baynes’s collection. With an initial asking price of £60,000, the map was purchased by Bodleian with the assistance of Victoria & Albert Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the Bodleian.

It now joins the Bodleian’s extensive archive of Tolkien’s papers, which it has held since 1979, and complements their collection of Baynes material, which includes the paste-up and the original watercolour of her poster-map of Middle-earth.

Chris Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian, said:

The creation of maps was central to Tolkien’s storytelling and this particular map provides a glimpse into the creative process that produced some of the first images of Middle-earth, with which so many of us are now familiar

We’re delighted to have been able to acquire this map and it’s particularly appropriate that we are keeping it in Oxford. Tolkien spent almost the whole of his adult life in the city and was clearly thinking about its geographical significance as he composed elements of the map. It would have been disappointing had it disappeared into a private collection or gone abroad.

The Bodleian aims to include the map in a public exhibition in the near future.

Visit the Bodleian Libraries website for the full story.

Further reading

Map annotated by Tolkien found in Pauline Baynes’s copy of The Lord of the Rings“, The Tolkien Society, 24 October 2015

Tolkien’s annotated map of Middle-earth transcribed“, The Tolkien Society, 10 November 2015

Tolkien annotated map of Middle-earth acquired by Bodleian library“, The Guardian, 3 May 2016

JRR Tolkien’s annotated Middle-earth map at Bodleian“, BBC News, 3 May 2016

About the Author: Daniel Helen
Daniel is an Officer without Portfolio and Trustee of The Tolkien Society. Elected in 2014, he is mainly responsible for the Society's digital operations, including this website.