The Tolkien Estate Limited 2016
The Tolkien Estate Limited 2016

Recently Discovered Middle-Earth Map Has Annotations By J.R.R. Tolkien

The Tolkien Estate Limited 2016
The Tolkien Estate Limited 2016

In the 1960s, author J.R.R. Tolkien commissioned artist Pauline Baynes to create a colorful illustrated map of Middle-earth, the setting of his famous fantasy novels, including The Hobbit. In order to ensure that Baynes got everything right, down to the last tiny ship and bit of Elvish spelling, Tolkien provided the artist with a massive annotated map full of his own notes and thoughts on Middle-earth’s geography. For decades, the annotated map sat collecting dust in Baynes’s home, but now, it has been acquired by Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, where it will soon go on public display.

Though many of Tolkien’s annotations center on small geographical changes and spelling corrections to the original Middle-earth map drawn by his son, Christopher Tolkien, for the 1954 edition of The Lord of the Rings, others provide insight into the way Tolkien connected his richly detailed imaginary world to locations in the real world. For instance, one note mentions that “Hobbiton is assumed to be approx. at [the] latitude of Oxford,” while in another Tolkien writes, “Minas Tirith is about [the] latitude of Ravenna [northern Italy] (but is 900 miles east of Hobbiton more near Belgrade). Bottom of the map (1400 miles [from Hobbiton]) is about latitude of Jerusalem.”

While fans of the novels likely know that Middle-earth was loosely based on the geography of Europe, they might be surprised when they see the parallels between Tolkien’s fantasy realm and real places lined up so explicitly. Tolkien saw a connection between Oxford, where he lived and wrote for many years, and Hobbiton, the idyllic home of the hobbits and the starting point of his series.

The map also showcases Tolkien’s attention to detail, and the phenomenal scope of his imaginary world. Tolkien not only added more locations to Baynes’s edition of the map than appeared on the initial version, but added notes about everything from which animals should be included, to the colors of ship sails ('Elven-ships small, white or grey...Numenorean (Gondor) Ships Black and Silver...Corsairs had red sails with black star or eye’).

"The creation of maps was central to Tolkien's storytelling and this particular map provides a glimpse into the creative process that produced some of the first images of Middle-earth, with which so many of us are now familiar," said Chris Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Libraries in a statement. "We're delighted to have been able to acquire this map and it's particularly appropriate that we are keeping it in Oxford. Tolkien spent almost the whole of his adult life in the city and was clearly thinking about its geographical significance as he composed elements of the map."

Check out Tolkien’s annotated map and Baynes’s final illustrated version below.

The Tolkien Estate Limited 2016

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd 1970

Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
The Covers of Jack Kerouac's Classic Titles Are Getting a Makeover
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press

Readers have been enjoying classic Jack Kerouac books like The Dharma Bums and On the Road for decades, but starting this August the novels will have a new look. Several abstract covers have been unveiled as part of Penguin’s "Great Kerouac" series, according to design website It’s Nice That.

The vibrant covers, designed by Tom Etherington of Penguin Press, feature the works of abstract expressionist painter Franz Kline. The artwork is intended to capture “the experience of reading Kerouac” rather than illustrating a particular scene or character, Etherington told It’s Nice That. Indeed, abstract styles of artwork seem a fitting match for Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”—a writing style that was influenced by improvisational jazz music.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Dharma Bums, which was published just one year after On the Road. The Great Kerouac series will be available for purchase on August 2.

[h/t It's Nice That]

John MacDougall, Getty Images
Stolpersteine: One Artist's International Memorial to the Holocaust
John MacDougall, Getty Images
John MacDougall, Getty Images

The most startling memorial to victims of the Holocaust may also be the easiest to miss. Embedded in the sidewalks of more than 20 countries, more than 60,000 Stolpersteine—German for “stumbling stones”—mark the spots where victims last resided before they were forced to leave their homes. The modest, nearly 4-by-4-inch brass blocks, each the size of a single cobblestone, are planted outside the doorways of row houses, bakeries, and coffee houses. Each tells a simple yet chilling story: A person lived here. This is what happened to them.

Here lived Hugo Lippers
Born 1878
Arrested 11/9/1938 — Altstrelitzer prison
Deported 1942 Auschwitz

The project is the brainchild of the German artist Gunter Demnig, who first had the idea in the early 1990s as he studied the Nazis' deportation of Sinti and Roma people. His first installations were guerrilla artwork: According to Reuters, Demnig laid his first 41 blocks in Berlin without official approval. The city, however, soon endorsed the idea and granted him permission to install more. Today, Berlin has more than 5000.

Demnig lays a Stolpersteine.
Artist Gunter Demnig lays a Stolpersteine outside a residence in Hamburg, Germany in 2012.
Patrick Lux, Getty Images

The Stolpersteine are unique in their individuality. Too often, the millions of Holocaust victims are spoken of as a nameless mass. And while the powerful memorials and museums in places such as Berlin and Washington, D.C. are an antidote to that, the Stolpersteine are special—they are decentralized, integrated into everyday life. You can walk down a sidewalk, look down, and suddenly find yourself standing where a person's life changed. History becomes unavoidably present.

That's because, unlike gravestones, the stumbling stones mark an important date between a person’s birth and death: the day that person was forced to abandon his or her home. As a result, not every stumbling stone is dedicated to a person who was murdered. Some plaques commemorate people who fled Europe and survived. Others honor people who were deported but managed to escape. The plaques aim to memorialize the moment a person’s life was irrevocably changed—no matter how it ended.

The ordinariness of the surrounding landscape—a buzzing cafe, a quaint bookstore, a tree-lined street—only heightens that effect. As David Crew writes for Not Even Past, “[Demnig] thought the stones would encourage ordinary citizens to realize that Nazi persecution and terror had begun on their very doorsteps."

A man in a shop holding a hammer making a Stolpersteine.
Artisan Michael Friedrichs-Friedlaender hammers inscriptions into the brass plaques at the Stolpersteine manufacturing studio in Berlin.
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

While Demnig installs every single Stolpersteine himself, he does not work alone. His project, which stretches from Germany to Brazil, relies on the research of hundreds of outside volunteers. Their efforts have not only helped Demnig create a striking memorial, but have also helped historians better document the lives of individuals who will never be forgotten.


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