Popular Culture

Tolkien’s Annotated Map of Middle-earth Discovered Inside Copy of ‘The Lord of the Rings’


Lord of the Rings fans are all freaking out right now, and it’s easy to see why.

The drawn map of Middle-earth is perhaps one of the most recognized pieces of art for the LotR fandom, or anyone for that matter. The original version was drawn by Pauline Baynes, who collaborated with Tolkien on the details of the poster map. But the new details make clear that Tolkien had a huge hand in perfecting the details of her map.

Found loose in a copy of Baynes’ Lord of the Rings book, the map shows copious annotations made by Tolkien in green ink and also in pencil. Baynes also contributed notes to the document as she worked on a color map of Middle-earth for the acclaimed author.

Blackwell’s is selling the map for a whopping £60,000, where it is also currently on exhibition in Oxford. Blackwell’s called the discoer of the map “the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least.”

Not only does the map show what Blackwell’s called the “exacting nature” of Tolkien’s vision, but it also gives insight into the actual geographical locations of places like Hobbiton and Minas Tirith. Apparently, Hobbiton is “is assumed to be approx at latitude of Oxford,” according to Tolkien’s annotations. The placement of the places on the map also suggest that the inspiration for Minas Tirith is the Italian city of Ravenna.



Other reference points on the map include Belgrade, Cyprus, and Jerusalem. Clearly, Tolkien had an image, and wanted to make absolute sure his vision was realized.

As well as being an interesting bit of ephemera, and a must-look for any LotR/Tolkien fan, the map also reveals to what degree the map was a collaborative effort. The evidence shows that Tolkien was demanding when it came to the details included in the map, the art itself, and how it was all to be portrayed:

“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.”

The map reveals what may have been a tense relationship between author and illustrator. Sian Wainwright at Blackwell’s stated:

“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 map reinforces what was apparent in the correspondence between Baynes and Tolkien: a push-and-pull between Baynes and Tolkien. Baynes called Tolkien “uncooperative” when she visited the author in Bournemouth in 1969.



Tolkien, for his part, apologized to Baynes for being so “dilatory” and in the end, was “pleased with the map.”

So are we, Tolkien. So are we.

Lisa Lo Paro
Lisa is a freelance writer and bibliophile living on the outskirts of New York City. She likes 2 a.m. with a good book, takes cream in her coffee and heavily filters her photos. Check out her blog The Most Happy, her Instagram, and Twitter.

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