Every time a new piece of Tolkien memorabilia is unearthed, the literary world – academic and popular – gets excited, and this latest discover is no different. A map of Middle-earth drawn by famed illustrator Pauline Baynes was recently discovered tucked into the pages of her copy of The Lord of the Rings and is now on display at Oxford University. What makes the map unique are the copious annotations in green ink by Tolkien himself. You can see them in the image above.
Among the fascinating bits of information that these annotations provide are the real world parallels for our favorite otherworldly places. According to his notes, Hobbiton was on the same latitude as Oxford where Tolkien taught, and there is the possible implication that the Italian city of Ravenna was the original inspiration for Minas Tirith. You can get an idea of Baynes process from the incredibly awesome notebook pages pictured here.
I don’t know about you, but the maps that Baynes created for The Lord of the Rings are so imprinted on my memory from countless readings and exposure over the years that Middle-earth feels truly real in my brain. Readers spend so many hours lost in fictional worlds, and in the case of epic fantasy like Lord of the Rings and even Game of Thrones, we need the cartographic references to continually refer to, if only to keep journeys straight in our minds. Learning of a discovery like this is so cool because it gives yet another level of detail and depth to a world I already felt I knew inside and out.
If you’re the kind of lucky human who lives near Oxford, I hope you’ll make a trip to see the map that Tolkien provided so many notes for. It’s on display while Blackwell’s works on selling it for upwards of £60,000. Who knows how long it will be on view before it disappears into a private collection. What other worlds from your reading life would you want to see authorial notations on? Tell me in the comments below!
HT & Images: The Guardian