Tolkien and Art
J.R.R. Tolkien’s own drawings adorn the pages of The Hobbit and it is easy to imagine him as a boy, long before the invention of television, poring for hours over the images in his favourite volumes - images that helped shape his creation of Middle Earth. Many of his original drawings can be viewed by clicking this button.
Where possible we have selected illustrated editions available in his lifetime. Both texts and pictures have been reproduced, and our books are mostly copies of the editions the professor held in his own hands.
Like the celebrated nineteenth century English textile designer, artist and writer William Morris, we at Tolkien’s Bookshelf reject the notion that illustrated materials are unsuitable for adults. To Morris, who was one of Tolkien’s favourite authors, illustrated books for adults presented an opportunity to integrate literature with design and art.
The illustrated story-books that were so popular during J.R.R. Tolkien's lifetime must have influenced him profoundly. Illustrations and graphic ornamentation add a great deal to the way a story is told. If the pictures were removed, the experience of reading a story would not remain the same. The way we react to pictures is different from the way we react to words. Images can elicit a much more profound and immediate emotional response. They are quickly recognised by a reader’s brain. When we read verbal descriptions we must first decode the written symbols, then convert them into an imagined scene or set of thoughts. We comprehend pictures much more easily and directly. After all, we were looking at pictures before we learned to read. A picture is indeed 'worth a thousand words'!
In essence, a book is itself an artistic creation. Tolkien’s Books celebrates this by embellishing our ‘Illustrated’ series with the original plates (whole page illustrations printed separately from the text), cuts (illustrations printed within the text), borders, fonts, miniatures, and ornamental capital letters, in addition to our own ‘endpapers’ and bookplates.
J.R.R. Tolkien's books - the books he read throughout his lifetime - include titles by notable authors such as William Morris, Lord Dunsany, George MacDonald and H. Rider Haggard.
Each Tolkien’s Bookshelf classic opens with an introduction by fantasy author Cecilia Dart-Thornton, about whose acclaimed Bitterbynde Trilogy Grand Master of Science Fiction Andre Norton wrote: ‘Not since Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings fell into my hands have I been so impressed by a beautifully spun fantasy.’
Literary scholars have studied the texts in the Tolkien’s Bookshelf collection, finding threads and motifs linking them to the professor’s famous works. On reading J.R.R. Tolkien's books - the books he owned or borrowed or lent, the books he loved, the books that shaped his inner world - you will be awakened to that vast library of myth, magic, legend and fantasy whose legacy inspired the great English writer, poet and philologist, J.R.R. Tolkien.