A New Edition of The Lord of the Rings Illustrated by J.R.R. Tolkien Is on Its Way

You can now see the story as J.R.R. Tolkien imagined it.
You can now see the story as J.R.R. Tolkien imagined it. / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Considering that J.R.R. Tolkien invented languages, drew detailed maps, and practically wrote history textbooks in order to make Middle-earth come alive, it’s not exactly surprising that he illustrated scenes from his work, too.

What might be surprising is how good he was at it. Tolkien never took art lessons, and he often downplayed his artistic skills. But a quick glance at one of his watercolor paintings will tell you everything you need to know: If Tolkien didn’t write his own books, he probably could’ve made a career out of illustrating other authors' works.

Tolkien’s drawings, sketches, and paintings have popped up in various volumes over the years. J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, which first hit bookshelves in the 1990s, contains about 200 reproductions of Tolkien’s artworks; and in 2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt released The Art of The Hobbit, with more than 100 of Tolkien’s Hobbit-specific artworks. An exhibition of Tolkien’s varied auxiliary materials—including calligraphy, maps, colored pencil sketches, vibrant watercolors, and more—made the rounds in New York, Paris, and Oxford, England beginning in 2018.

Now, as SYFY WIRE reports, fans will have the chance to read a special edition of The Lord of the Rings that actually has Tolkien’s illustrations printed inside. Plans for the book originated after the recent exhibition proved so popular.

“Among the exhibits was a selection of the paintings, drawings and sketches that Tolkien produced when writing The Lord of the Rings,” Deb Brody, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt vice president and publisher, said in a statement. “Originally intended by him purely for his personal pleasure and reference, after such an overwhelmingly positive response by people to ‘Tolkien the Artist’ it seemed fitting to finally reunite this art with the words it enhances, and we are delighted that in so doing it will allow people to enjoy this masterpiece anew.”

The Lord of the Rings: Illustrated by the Author won’t be released until October 19, 2021, but you can pre-order a copy from Amazon now.


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