Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth at The Morgan Library & Museum, January 25 – May 12, 2019

“The Morgan Library & Museum offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to see a remarkable collection of materials related to one of the world’s most beloved authors, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892–1973). Tolkien’s adventurous tales ignited a fervid spark in generations of readers. From the children’s classic The Hobbit to the epic The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s stories of hobbits and elves, dwarves and wizards have introduced millions to the rich history of Middle-earth.

This exhibition provides the largest collection of Tolkien material ever assembled in the United States. First presented at the Bodleian Libraries in 2018, the 117 objects on view include family photographs and memorabilia, Tolkien’s original illustrations, maps, draft manuscripts, artefacts, and designs related to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. The exhibition guides visitors through Tolkien’s development as a writer and artist, from his childhood and student days, through his career as a scholar of medieval languages and literature, to his family life as a husband and father. It presents a unique opportunity to understand the intensely visual imagination, the dedicated scholarship, and the aspects of daily life that shaped Tolkien’s most treasured works.” —  The Morgan Library & Museum

Exhibition entrance. Photograph by Corrado Serra.

J.R.R. Tolkien in his study, ca. 1937, black and white photograph. Tolkien Trust, MS. Tolkien photogr. 5, fol. 94. © The Tolkien Trust 2015.

Installation view. Photograph by Corrado Serra.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), The Shores of Faery, 10 May 1915, watercolor, black ink, pencil. Tolkien Trust, MS. Tolkien Drawings 87, fol. 22r. © The Tolkien Trust 1995.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), Fantasy landscape, 1915?, watercolor, black ink. Tolkien Trust, MS. Tolkien Drawings 87, fol. 26. © The Tolkien Trust 2015.

Installation view. Photograph by Corrado Serra.

Installation view. Photograph by Corrado Serra.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), Conversation with Smaug, July 1937, black and colored ink, watercolor, white body color, pencil. Bodleian Libraries, MS. Tolkien Drawings 30. © The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), Dust jacket design for The Hobbit, April 1937, pencil, black ink, watercolor, gouache. Bodleian Libraries, MS. Tolkien Drawings 32. © The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves, July 1937, watercolor, pencil, white body color. Bodleian Libraries, MS. Tolkien Drawings 29. © The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), The Hill: Hobbiton-across-the Water, August 1937, watercolor, white body color, black ink. Bodleian Libraries, MS. Tolkien Drawings 26. © The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937.

Installation view. Photograph by Corrado Serra.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), The first map of The Lord of the Rings, c.1937–1949, black, red and blue ink, pencil, colored pencil. Bodleian Libraries, MS. Tolkien Drawings 103. © The Tolkien Trust 1992, 2015.

Installation view. Photograph by Corrado Serra.

Installation view. Photograph by Corrado Serra.

“It is exciting to see so much material in Tolkien’s own hand,” said John McQuillen, Associate Curator of the Printed Books and Bindings Department. “It’s as if we are looking over his shoulder while he composes and illustrates his vision of Middle-earth. We get to glimpse moments in the creation of the narrative, such as when he changes the wizard’s name to Gandalf or suddenly comes up with the idea of the One Ring. It is almost voyeuristic: we have the opportunity to see the creative process that brought us the books with which we are so familiar.”

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth is organized by the Morgan Library & Museum in collaboration with the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, and with the support of The Tolkien Estate, The Tolkien Trust, and members of the Tolkien family. The curator of the Morgan exhibition is John T. McQuillen, Associate Curator of Printed Books and Bindings.