Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth. The exhibition of a generation

Eagle & Child, Oxford, UK (c) Marcel R. Bülles
Eagle & Child, Oxford, UK (c) Marcel R. Bülles

From June 1st, 2018 the Bodleian Libraries will be presenting an exhibition of Tolkien‘s life and works of special magnificence. Drawing from the vaults of their Tolkien archives and the manuscript collection at the Raynor Memorial Libraries at Marquette Univerity this is the first major exhibition on this scale since the Centenary Exhibition of 1992 and both in its scope and relevancy the exhibition of a generation.

The Tolkien Archives – Bodleian Libraries and Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette

Scholars and fans alike have two first points of access to the largest number of material available on J.R.R. Tolkien’s life and works – the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford and the Raynor Memorial Libraries at Marquette University, as described on their websites:


Raynor Memorial Libraries’ own extensive Tolkien collection contains the original manuscripts and multiple working drafts for three of the author’s most celebrated books, The Hobbit, Farmer Giles of Ham, and The Lord of the Rings, as well as the original copy of the children’s book Mr. Bliss. The collection includes books by and about Tolkien, periodicals produced by Tolkien enthusiasts, audio and video recordings, and a host of published and unpublished materials relating to Tolkien’s life and fantasy writings.


The Bodleian Libraries houses the largest collection of original Tolkien manuscripts and drawings in the world. The Tolkien Archive has been kept at the Bodleian since 1979. The latest addition to the archive is a rare map of Middle-earth annotated by JRR Tolkien, which was acquired in May 2016. Tolkien spent almost the whole of his adult life in Oxford and it is the city where studied, taught, researched and wrote his most famous works.

Exhibition catalogue with unpublished material

As with any major exhibition the exhibition catalogue may prove to be a true gem – the Bodleian Libraries promise to have it include unpublished material:

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).

If you can still get your hands on the collectors’s edition – it [su_highlight background=”#dee2de”]is printed with special endpapers reproducing Tolkien’s drawing of the Elvenking’s Gate,[/su_highlight] amongst many other things.

Merchandise to please any Tolkien fan’s desire

“Delicate, round, ceramic ear-rings based on Tolkien’s circular, heraldic device for his Elven princess, Lúthien.”

Bodleian Libraries with Medium

In an extensive blog post on Medium the Bodleian Libraries showed what fans will come to expect from this particular exhibition. I have to warn you, though, your wallet will possibly be stretched to the extreme if you go to Oxford and visit the exhibition shop afterwards!

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth merchandise. (c) Bodleian Libraries and The Tolkien Estate Limited
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth merchandise. (c) Bodleian Libraries and The Tolkien Estate Limited

Teaser videos from the Bodleian Libraries on Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth

At the time of writing I am sitting in my favourite café in Oxford, Greens that is (directly adjacent to the Eagle & Child), I am browsing through the Bod’s video tweets, short teasers telling you bit more about what to expect from the exhibition. I can’t wait!

Check out the action at Twittertons of pictures and videos.

Marcel R. Bülles

Marcel R. Bülles is the author of, a specialist blog centering on worldwide Tolkien fandom, geekdom and research. He works as a freelance translator, journalist and writer and is the founder of the German Tolkien Society as well as a co-founder to RingCon, Europe's formerly biggest fantasy film convention. You can find him in cafés all over the world sipping an espresso blogging, writing, reading. At one point he was married to an extremely lovely French lady by the nickname of Sauron. Yes, that Sauron. He is also active with the International Tolkien Fellowship on Facebook and the Tolkien Folk on Instagram.