The Bodleian Libraries are describing the most significant gathering for public display of Tolkien goodies – some 200 items – in the 1st June to 28th of October as a once-in-a-generation opportunity. They’re probably right too unless you can get to Paris for late 2019 where the Bodleian Libraries and Bibliotheque Nationale de France will team up for another large display.
Oxford, of course, is a city right at the heart of Tolkien’s own tale. It is in Oxford where he spent most of his life, as a student and then as a professor.
The Bodleian exhibition enjoys the expertise and curation of the library’s Tolkien Archivist Catherine McIlwaine who has set out to explore the full breadth of work from the famous author. That means Middle-earth and his interest in art, poetry, in languages and Tolkien as a medievalist.
What can you expect at Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth?
- Draft manuscripts of The Hobbit showing the evolution of the story displayed alongside striking watercolours, dust jacket designs, line drawings and maps drawn for the publication.
- Original manuscripts of The Lord of The Rings along with dust jacket designs and beautiful watercolours.
- Original manuscripts of The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s very earliest work on the legends of the elves, which was unfinished during his lifetime and then published posthumously by his son and literary executor, Christopher Tolkien.
- Photos and letters from Tolkien’s childhood and student days exploring themes of love, loss and war.
- Letters of appreciation from a wide range of admirers including poet WH Auden, singer Joni Mitchell and author Iris Murdoch.
- Personal objects that belonged to Tolkien including his art materials (boxes of paints, coloured pencils and sealing wax) and his personal library.
- A selection of maps of Middle-earth including a recently discovered map annotated by Tolkien, which was acquired by the Bodleian in 2016.
- A specially-commissioned 3-D map of Middle-earth.
How much does it cost?
Access to the exhibition is free. However, you have to book in advance. That’s easy enough to do online by popping over to tolkien.bodleian.ox.ac.uk and completing the steps.