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A Map of Middle-earth

  • Author: BAYNES, Pauline (artist) - after TOLKIEN, J R R (author)
  • Publisher: George, Allen & Unwin, London
  • Engraver: Jolly & Barber Ltd, Rugby (printers)
  • Date: 1970
  • Dimensions: 51 x 74 cms


Scarce 1970 first trade impression of artist Pauline Baynes’ iconic map poster depicting J R R Tolkien’s mythical Middle- earth

About this piece:

A Map of Middle-earth

Colour-printed original poster. Unbacked. Some slight fraying to sheet edges most noticeable in upper and lower side borders with a few minor nicks and areas of light surface wear. Slight darkening to upper sheet edge with long horizontal crease caused by the original 1970s plastic hanger, an evidently long-term fixture still in place along the top edge of poster when purchased, now carefully removed. Small area of light waterstaining at lower left edge, adjacent to title cartouche. A couple of small blemishes in lower margin below imprint, otherwise in very presentable unconserved condition.

Now extremely scarce 1st trade impression of this important promotional poster for J R R Tolkien’s work, first published in London in 1970 by publishers, George, Allen & Unwin. The poster is based on artist Pauline Baynes’s 1969 artwork following the model of Tolkien’s original 1954 Map of Middle-earth. This map had been compiled for an early edition of the Ring Trilogy by Christopher Tolkien, the author’s son, following his father’s meticulously detailed instructions. Baynes’s new map was first discussed at a meeting between the artist and author in Bournemouth in August 1969 and the collaborative & creative processes which led to its creation & completion by the end of that year were vividly brought to light in June 2016 when the Bodleian Library acquired Baynes’ own copy of the 1954 Middle-earth map.

This turned out to be the working reference for this 1969 poster which had been considered lost but was found inside one of her books following her death in 2008. It was subsequently acquired by the Oxford booksellers Blackwell’s and offered for sale in 2015 for £60,000. Originally torn from her own copy of the Ring Trilogy, it was taken with her to the 1969 meetings with Tolkien, by whom it was then personally annotated & copiously referenced in different coloured inks.  Interesting details on the map provide links between many of the map’s imaginary locations and existing places in the real world, such as Jerusalem, Belgrade & Ravenna. Perhaps most interestingly Frodo’s Hobbiton is, according to Tolkien’s inscription, “assumed to be approx at latitiude of Oxford”! Tolkien corrected several of the errors on the 1954 original and added new & previously unknown place names, many derived from obscure Elfish sources.

The Baynes map was one of the star attractions of the Bodleian’s 2018 Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth Exhibition which has recently transferred to the Morgan Library in New York,where it will be on display until May 2019.

The trade issue of the poster proved immensely popular, especially amongst young students, for many of whom it became an almost symbolic must-have accessory, exemplifying the fantastical graphic art & alternative literary culture of the early 1970s.

Above the map Baynes drew the figures of the Nine Walkers – Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Gandalf, Boromir, Legolas, Gimli, Merry and Pippin – setting out on the Quest of the Ring; beneath the map she added a roll call of the evil foes & villains whom they would encounter, amongst which are depicted marauding Orcs, the Nine Black Riders, Gollum and the giant demon spider, Shelob. Roundel insets around the edge of the map visualize many of the trilogy’s important locations: Cerin Amroth, where Aragorn & Arwen were betrothed in the Elfish Kingdom; the Doors of Durin, the dwarf-built and elf-embellished secret doors that made the West Gate leading to the land of Moria in Middle-Earth; the Barrow-Downs of Eriador inhabited by evil wights; Sam & Frodo’s Hobbiton; The Teeth of Mordor, guarding the secret pass of Cirith Gorgor; The Argonath or Gate of the Kings, two enormous pillars carved in the likeness of Isildur and Anarion located on the northern fringes of Gondor; Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower and fortress of Sauron; the twin cities of Minas Morgul and Minas Tirith on the mountainous borders of Mordor; and Orodruin, Mordor’s volcanic Mount of Doom. Tolkien was delighted with the Baynes’s vignettes, noting in one of his letters that “some of these agree remarkably with my own vision, especially the first four on the right (Minas Morgul is almost exact).” (Bodleian MS. Tolkien B 61. fol 3).

Depicting so many of the characters of the book for the first time and providing such a captivating portal into Tolkien’s imaginary world the poster did much to boost the author’s burgeoning popularity amongst the younger generation during the 1970s and 1980s. It went through 12 separate impressions between 1970 and 1986.

Baynes [1922-2008] was the only illustrator of whom Tolkien approved and the pair first became acquainted in 1948, following a chance introduction through Tolkien’s publishers. Her first commission was to illustrate Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham. The results moved Tolkien to exclaim that Baynes had “reduced my text to a commentary on her drawings”. A lifelong friendship developed and she provided many illustrations for his subsequent works and artwork for several book covers, including the 1961 paperback edition of The Hobbit and the 1968 three in one Lord of the Rings paperback. As well as this poster she also designed a further map, There And Back Again  – A Map of Bilbo’s Journey through Eriador and Rhovanion which was published by George, Allen & Unwin in the following year. She also the illustrated artwork and associated 1974 poster for  Bilbo’s Last Song, apparently unpublished during his lifetime and given to Tolkien’s secretary, Joy Hill in 1966. This latter was apparently the first work published after Tolkien’s death.

Tolkien also introduced Baynes to his Oxford friend C.S Lewis, which in turn led to her illustrating all of the Chronicles of Narnia, though her relationship with Lewis was much cooler and more distant. She would later take particular umbrage from the author’s criticism, made to his biographer, Sayer, that she could not draw lions. The head of Aslan the lion would feature prominently in her artwork for the equally popular Map of the Land of Narnia poster, published by Penguin Books in 1972, which we are also currently offering for sale.

Tolkien and Lewis were both members of The Inklings, an eccentric group of Oxford authors and academics. They used to meet and read from their latest work in the Eagle and Child pub in St.Giles’s. It was recorded by Christopher Tolkien that fellow Inkling, Hugo Dyson [1896-1975], was often to be seen at their occasional meetings in Lewis’s Magdalen College rooms lolling on a couch and shouting, “Oh God, not another elf!” during Tolkien’s readings from The Lord of the Rings. Dyson was not alone in his considerable distaste for Tolkien’s stories and eventually JRR gave up his readings to the captive audience of assembled Inklings.

Pauline Diana Baynes was born in Hove, East Sussex in September 1922, though much of her early childhood was spent in India, where her father worked for the Indian Civil Service in the city of Agra. Her parents later separated and she returned to Europe with her mother and elder sister, greatly missing the exotic surroundings of her former Indian life. From the age of 15 she studied at the Farnham School of Art and later attended the Slade, then in Oxford. During the Second World War she was was seconded to the Ministry of Defence and after camouflage work at Farnham Castle, subsequently worked for the Admiralty in Bath as a map & chart maker, acquiring valuable skills that were later employed in the design & production of both Tolkien’s & Lewis’s maps. During the war she also began work as a commercial illustrator and some of her illustrations featured in the popular Lilliput magazine. An accomplished and prolific book illustrator, amongst other notable commissions were Richard Adams’ Watership Down [1973] and Grant Uden’s Dictionary of Chivalry, a superb production that contained over 600 colour illustrations in its margins which took Baynes two years to complete, and for which she was awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1968. Baynes married former German POW, Fritz-Otto Gash in 1961 and the couple lived with her devoted dogs in a rambling old cottage in the village of Dockenfield near Farnham in Surrey. Gasch died suddenly in 1988 and Baynes herself in August 2008.

Refs: Wayne G Hammond: J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography [1993], p.376;  Catherine McIlwaine: Tolkien:Maker of Middle-earth [Bodleian Library/ Chicago University Press, 2018], pp.384-385 (ill); Martha Hopkins & Michael Buscher : Language of the Land – The Library of Congress Book of Literary Maps [1999], pp.251-253; Daniel Reeve: Uncharted Territory – A Middle-Earth Mapmaker, in The Writer’s Map – Ed: Huw Lewis-Jones [Thames & Hudson, 2018], pp.159-165, esp.ill p.158; Pauline Baynes Obituary (Daily Telegraph, 2008); Pauline Baynes Obituary (The Guardian, 2008); Pauline Baynes Obituary (The Independent, 2008)