October 2015 | Nate Pedersen

Found: Tolkien's Annotated Map of Middle-Earth

blackwells tolkien map.jpg
In preparation for the 1970 edition of The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien annotated a map of Middle-earth for illustrator Pauline Baynes who was creating her own colored map for the Allen & Unwin publication. Baynes then added her own notes to the map and tucked it away in her copy of The Lord of the Rings where it lingered for several decades. The map was found earlier this month by Blackwell's, an antiquarian bookshop in Oxford that is selling a number of books and illustrations from Baynes' collection. The illustrator died in 2008.

Blackwell's has priced the map at £60,000 ($92,000), calling it "an important document, and perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least."

The map reveals some interesting details about Middle-earth; Hobbiton is on the same latitude as Oxford and the Italian city of Ravenna was the inspiration for Minas Tirith. Tolkien also offered Baynes a variety of suggestions about the flora and fauna of Middle-earth.

"The map shows how completely obsessed he was with the details. Anyone else interfered at their peril," said Sian Wainwright at Blackwell's in an interview with The Guardian. "He was tricky to work with, but very rewarding in the end."

"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," added Henry Gott of Blackwell's in the same interview. "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."

Image via Blackwell's.