The Largest J.R.R. Tolkien Exhibit in Generations Is Coming to the U.S.: Original Drawings, Manuscripts, Maps & More

“I first took on The Lord of the Rings at the age of eleven or twelve,” writes The New York­er’s Antho­ny Lane. “It was, and remains, not a book that you hap­pen to read, like any oth­er, but a book that hap­pens to you: a chunk bit­ten out of your life.” The pre­teen years may remain the most oppor­tune ones in which to pick up the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, but what­ev­er the peri­od in life at which they find their way in, most read­ers who make the jour­ney through Mid­dle-earth nev­er real­ly leave the place. And it hard­ly requires cov­er­ing much more ground to get from hun­ger­ing to know every­thing about the world of The Lord of the Rings — one rich with its own ter­rain, its own races, its own lan­guages — to hun­ger­ing to know how Tolkien cre­at­ed it.

Now the count­less Lord of the Rings enthu­si­asts in Amer­i­ca have their chance to behold the mate­ri­als first-hand. The exhi­bi­tion Tolkien: Mak­er of Mid­dle-Earth, which runs from Jan­u­ary 25th to May 12th of this year at New York’s Mor­gan Library and Muse­um, will assem­ble “the most exten­sive pub­lic dis­play of orig­i­nal Tolkien mate­r­i­al for sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions,” draw­ing from “the col­lec­tions of the Tolkien Archive at the Bodleian Library (Oxford), Mar­quette Uni­ver­si­ty Libraries (Mil­wau­kee), the Mor­gan, and pri­vate lenders.”

All told, it will include “fam­i­ly pho­tographs and mem­o­ra­bil­ia, Tolkien’s orig­i­nal illus­tra­tions, maps, draft man­u­scripts, and designs relat­ed to The Hob­bit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Sil­mar­il­lion.”

Men­tal Floss’ Emi­ly Pet­sko also high­lights the pres­ence of “orig­i­nal illus­tra­tions of Smaug the drag­on (from The Hob­bit), Sauron’s Dark Tow­er of Barad-dûr (described in The Lord of the Rings and The Sil­mar­il­lion), and oth­er rec­og­niz­able char­ac­ters,” as well as that of Tolkien’s draft man­u­scripts that “pro­vide a win­dow into his cre­ative process, as well as the vivid, expan­sive worlds he cre­at­ed.” You can see more of the things Tolkien­ian that will soon come avail­able for pub­lic view­ing at the Mor­gan in the exhi­bi­tion’s trail­er at the top of the post.

The Lord of the Rings has remained com­i­cal­ly divi­sive,” Lane writes. “It is either adored, with vary­ing degrees of guilt, or robust­ly despised, often by those who have yet to open it.” But after see­ing an exhi­bi­tion like Tolkien: Mak­er of Mid­dle-Earth, even Tolkien’s harsh­est crit­ics may well find them­selves per­suad­ed to acknowl­edge the scale and depth of the books’ achieve­ment, as well as the ded­i­ca­tion and even brav­ery of its cre­ator. As Lane puts it, “The Lord of the Rings may be the final stab at epic, and there is invari­ably some­thing risky, if not down­right ris­i­ble, in a last gasp.” But “Tolkien believed that he could repro­duce the epic form under mod­ern con­di­tions,” the fruit of that belief con­tin­ues to enrap­ture read­ers of all ages more than 60 years lat­er.

If you can’t wait for the exhi­bi­tion, you might want to have a look at Wayne G. Ham­mond and Christi­na Scul­l’s book, J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illus­tra­tor. It’s already pub­lished.

via AM New York and Men­tal Floss

Relat­ed Con­tent:

110 Draw­ings and Paint­ings by J.R.R. Tolkien: Of Mid­dle-Earth and Beyond

Dis­cov­er J.R.R. Tolkien’s Per­son­al Book Cov­er Designs for The Lord of the Rings Tril­o­gy

Hear J.R.R. Tolkien Read From The Lord of the Rings and The Hob­bit

Map of Mid­dle-Earth Anno­tat­ed by Tolkien Found in a Copy of Lord of the Rings

An Atlas of Lit­er­ary Maps Cre­at­ed by Great Authors: J.R.R Tolkien’s Mid­dle Earth, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Trea­sure Island & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (18)
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  • Joanne Doyle says:

    This fan­tas­tic exhib­it. Wait­ing to see this Thank you so much for spon­sor­ing this exhib­it.

  • Victor says:

    HUH?! What?! WHERE can we see this “exhib­it”? No where does it give a sin­gle LOCATION.

    Minor detail, there, huh?

  • Jon Burke says:

    Per the arti­cle, “The exhi­bi­tion Tolkien: Mak­er of Mid­dle-Earth, which runs from Jan­u­ary 25th to May 12th of this year at New York’s Mor­gan Library and Muse­um…”

  • Alice says:

    Only in NY?

  • Crystal Kilmer says:

    Only in New York!? Retired, on a fixed income, sure I can afford New York!? Why can’t they fig­ure out that there are two coasts and a lot of coun­try in between? Seat­tle could host this eas­i­ly.

  • Scott says:

    Because no one in Seat­tle curat­ed it. If some­one there wants to be respon­si­ble for set­ting it up in a space, get­ting the works from across the world togeth­er in one place, and get­ting the insur­ance to pay for it; they can. Often times places like this trade works in their own col­lec­tions of equal worth to pull it off.

  • Matthew Griffin says:

    Right, Scott?

  • annie rae says:

    It’s in the 2nd para­graph.

  • Juan C Rodriguez says:

    New York’s Mor­gan Library and Muse­um!

  • Patricia Risso says:


    Patri­cia Ris­so-what is the cost of admis­sion?


  • Inken says:

    Saw this at the Bodleian in Oxford last year. It’s spec­tac­u­lar. If you can, do go see it. A lot of the items will take your breath away.

  • Amy Wagoner says:

    I wish that a tour of muse­ums had been orga­nized. It seems a shame for such a won­der­ful col­lec­tion to only be seen by a tiny frac­tion of the peo­ple want­i­ng to see it. I may be a slight­ly bit­ter about it.

  • Justin Honaker says:

    Because Seat­tle is cen­tral­ly locat­ed in the con­ti­nen­tal US.

  • Anthony McWilliams says:

    womp womp

    Read­ing is fun­da­men­tal, Vic­tor.

  • Donna Weems says:

    What a fab­u­lous oppor­tu­ni­ty for Amer­i­can Tolkien fans. The WVU Art Muse­um is a fair­ly small but beau­ti­ful addi­tion to the Mor­gan­town, WV com­mu­ni­ty. What would it take to bring the exhib­it here?

  • H. Mauldin says:

    I saw this in Oxford over the sum­mer as well. Fan­tas­tic show! Hope­ful­ly it will tour the rest of the coun­try…

  • Randi Albers says:

    Will the exhib­it be going any­where else in the US before return­ing to its orig­i­nal loca­tion?

    Thank you!

  • Lyndell Falconer says:

    I am won­der­ing where this exhib­it can be seen in the future? Is it per­ma­nent­ly housed in Oxford? I would love to see it when we can trav­el again. Thank you. I do hope you will respond.

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