When The Lord of the Rings debuted in 1954 it featured two of author J.R.R. Tolkien‘s illustrations: the Doors of Durin and the Inscription on Balin’s Tomb. None of the numerous editions published since then have included any of Tolkien’s art. Instead they’ve featured the work of artists such as Alan Lee. But, as we learned from The Guardian, that is no longer the case. The Tolkien estate has granted HarperCollins the rights to publish a new edition of The Lord of the Rings with Tolkien’s art accompanying the text. It’s the perfect news to get considering that it’s Tolkien Reading Day.
It’s not the first time we’re ever seeing these illustrations. Other tomes have collected Tolkien’s drawings in the past. Exhibitions put them on display in 2018. However, it’s altogether different to see the author’s creations alongside his text. He created maps and sketches as he wrote. However, he largely kept them private and dismissed his skills as an artist. The general public didn’t see the brunt of Tolkien’s art until after his death.
HarperCollins deputy publishing director Chris Smith told The Guardian,
“Like many young readers, I was enthralled by his charming and evocative illustrations that accompanied The Hobbit. These paintings, particularly the now-iconic image that appears on its cover, have become as beloved as the story they accompany. Yet the author himself was characteristically modest, dismissive of the obvious and rare artistic talent he possessed despite having had no formal training. This modesty meant that relatively little else of his artwork was known of or seen during his lifetime, and generally only in scholarly books afterwards.”
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The art Tolkien once made only for his reference and joy will be available to all of us. This new edition will arrive in October 2021.