Laura Bliss is a staff writer at CityLab, covering transportation, infrastructure, and the environment. She also authors MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps that reveal and shape urban spaces (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles, GOOD, L.A. Review of Books, and beyond.
One literary map to rule them all slipped out of an old edition of The Lord of the Rings.
The time has come for the dominion of
men maps, for an incredible rendering of Middle-earth, covered in annotations by J.R.R. Tolkien, has been discovered.
The map could have easily been lost forever, having slipped out of an old edition of The Lord of the Rings belonging to the late famed illustrator Pauline Baynes. Baynes had been using the map to work on her own full-color poster edition of Middle-earth for Tolkien, who in turn, gave her precise and copious notes on the same document. The Guardian reports:
Blackwell’s [Rare Books], which is currently exhibiting the map in Oxford and selling it for £60,000, called it “an important document, and perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least”.
It shows what Blackwell’s called “the exacting nature” of Tolkien’s creative vision: he corrects place names, provides extra ones, and gives Baynes a host of suggestions about the map’s various flora and fauna. Hobbiton, he notes, “ is assumed to be approx at latitude of Oxford”[.]
It’s an amazing find for LOTR geeks (the Hobbiton/Oxford geographical connection has been hotly debated), and for map lovers in general. The map Tolkien scribbled on here is the same one tucked into many an edition of The Lord of the Rings since in the 1950s. Countless LOTR devotees have traced their fingers along this version of Middle-earth, following Frodo’s quest from the Shire through the Misty Mountains and into the fires of Mount Doom.
There may be a lot of literary maps in this world. But now, more than ever, there is one to rule them all.