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SYFY WIRE The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings will be published with Tolkien's own artwork for the first time in decades

By Matthew Jackson
LOTR Illustrated

J.R.R. Tolkien is well known as a scholar, a language expert, and of course as one of the foundational creators of modern fantasy fiction through his epic saga The Lord of the Rings. But die-hard Tolkien fans know that the legendary professor and author was also a rather accomplished illustrator who drew images to accompany the worlds he dreamed up. Now, for the first time in more than 60 years, those images will be reprinted alongside Tolkien's words. 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced this week that it will publish The Lord of the Rings: Illustrated by the Author, a new edition of the beloved novel accompanied by Tolkien's own art, this fall, marking the first time since 1954 that Tolkien's illustrations have appeared in an edition of the book. 

You can check out the cover for this edition, featuring Tolkien's own Eye of Sauron design, below. 

LOTR Illustrated

As Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publisher Deb Brody explained in a statement, Tolkien's illustrations were usually done to amuse himself as he worked on his fantasy stories, and were never intended to be viewed by the wider world, even though his illustrations for The Hobbit have been part of the public consciousness for some time now. 

"His charming and evocative illustrations that accompanied The Hobbit, particularly the now-iconic image that appears on its cover, have become as beloved as the story they accompany.

Brody continued, "Yet the author himself was characteristically modest, dismissive of the obvious and rare artistic talent he possessed despite having had no formal training. This modesty meant that relatively little else of his artwork was known of or seen during his lifetime, and generally only in scholarly books afterwards."

The obscurity of Tolkien's art was lifted somewhat in 2018, when a trio of successful exhibitions in his beloved Oxford, New York, and Paris showcased the author's illustrations to a larger audience. This new appreciation of Tolkien's gifts as an artist helped build interest in this new edition, which will likely become a must-have addition to any Tolkien devotee's bookcase. 

The Lord of the Rings: Illustrated by the Author will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the U.S. on October 19, with translated international editions to follow. To date, The Lord of the Rings has appeared in more than 70 languages around the world, and has sold a whopping 150 million copies.