Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth – Catherine McIlwaine

I first saw Tolkien: The Maker of Middle-earth at the Bodleian Library in Oxford; I was officially fascinated. The price and the weight had scared me a little, but I wanted it no matter what. Of course, I acted like an adult and didn’t create a scene, so we left without buying this colossal book. I guess I wouldn’t be so upset if I knew I’d get it as a Christmas present.


Tolkien Maker of Middle earth Catherine McIlwaine

This book contains Tolkien’s never-before-published photographs as well as various notes and maps of Middle-earth. The nine-part book begins from Tolkien’s childhood and tells an exquisite account of how Middle Earth emerged. Of course, in the meantime, we learn that Tolkien is much more than a professor and an author.

Tolkien said that he created Middle-earth as a background for the languages he invented. So, everything he did was for his invented languages. And as he was a perfectionist; he added maps, various drawings, pictures, symbols and much more to his creation. Middle-earth is a world created and finely processed for its languages. It is hard not to be fascinated by all of this.

Tolkien Maker of Middle earth - Catherine McIlwaine.JPG Tolkien Maker of Middle-earth - Catherine McIlwaine

Produced for the great Tolkien exhibition in 2018 (unfortunately, I missed it), Tolkien: The Maker of Middle-earth will be one of the books that will accompany me for many years to come. Both its content and print quality is fascinating. From time to time, I’ll leaf through it for inspiration and admire Tolkien’s genius over and over again. This post was a complete beautification; I know. But once you read it, you’ll understand why. Enjoy!

Tolkien Maker of Middle earth cover

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth

This richly illustrated book explores the huge creative endeavour behind Tolkien’s enduring popularity. Lavishly illustrated with over 300 images of his manuscripts, drawings, maps and letters, the book traces the creative process behind his most famous literary works – ‘The Hobbit’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Silmarillion’ and reproduces personal photographs and private papers,some of which have never been seen before in print. Tolkien drew on his deep knowledge of medieval literature and language to inform his literary imagination.

Six introductory essays cover some of the main themes in Tolkien’s life and work including the influence of northern languages and legends on the creation of his own legendarium; his concept of ‘Faerie’ as a literary construct; the central importance of his invented languages in his fantasy writing; his visual imagination and its emergence in his artwork; and the encouragement he derived from the literary group known as the Inklings.

This book brings together the largest collection of original Tolkien material ever assembled in a single volume. Drawing on the archives of the Tolkien collections at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, aJ.nd Marquette University, Milwaukee, as well as private collections, this exquisitely produced catalogue draws together the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien – scholarly, literary, creative and domestic – offering a rich and so detailed understanding and appreciation of this extraordinary author.

Catherine McIlwaine

Catherine McIlwaine is the Tolkien Archivist at the Bodleian Libraries, where she has worked on the Tolkien archive since 2003. She curated the Bodleian’s summer exhibition 2018, ‘Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth’, and so wrote the accompanying catalogue Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth, and the associated publication, Tolkien: Treasures.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

A Non-Fiction a Month

Books about Art and Artists

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