Last week marked the 60th anniversary of The Return of The King's first publication, J.R.R. Tolkien's final novel in his beloved Lord of the Rings novel trilogy. Just a few days after this anniversary passed, Blackwell's Rare Books in Oxford made a surprising discovery, a map of Middle Earth with handwritten annotations from author J.R.R. Tolkien himself. The map was found in illustrator Pauline Bynes' copy of The Lord of the Rings, who had worked with the author on a color map of Middle Earth that was published in 1970.
Blackwell's is selling the map for 60,000 British pounds ($92,118), with the company calling this discovery, "perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least." The author's hand-written notes reveal that Hobbiton is on the same latitude as Oxford, which is fitting since J.R.R. Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at the prestigious Oxford University. He also uses other locations such as Belgrade, Cyprus, and Jerusalem as reference points in the map, with Blackwell surmising that Middle Earth city of Minas Tirith was inspired by the Italian city of Ravenna. Here's what Blackwell's Sian Wainwright had to say in a statement to The Guardian.
"The map shows how completely obsessed he was with the details. Anyone else interfered at their peril. He was tricky to work with, but very rewarding in the end."
The book where the map was found was handed in to the shop, which is also selling a series of Pauline Bynes' work, who also collaborated with The Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis. Blackwell's also has correspondences between Bynes and Tolkien, where she describes the author as "uncooperative," although he later apologizes for being so "dilatory." Here's what Henry Gott, modern first editions specialist at Blackwell's Rare Books, had to say in his statement.
"(It's) an exciting and important discovery: new to scholarship (though its existence is implied by correspondence between the two), it demonstrates the care exercised by both in their mapping of Tolkien's creative vision. Before going on display in the shop this week, this had only ever been in private hands (Pauline Baynes's for the majority of its existence). One of the points of interest is how much of a hand Tolkien had in the poster map; all of his suggestions, and there are many (the majority of the annotation on the map is his), are reflected in Baynes's version. The degree to which it is properly collaborative was not previously apparent, and couldn't be without a document like this. Its importance is mostly to do with the insight it gives into that process."
Lord of the Rings star Ian McKellen, who played the iconic Gandalf in the movie trilogy, also showcased the find on his Twitter page yesterday. Take a look at a photo of the map, along with the author's notebooks below. Would you shell out $92,218 to own a piece of Lord of the Rings history? Let us know what you think, and stay tuned for more on this historic discovery.