The Lord of the Rings will be released with JRR Tolkien art for the first time ever

Anyone with a copy of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings trilogy may already be familiar with the author's artistic stylings; many editions carry maps illustrated by the writer as a guide to the fictional land of Middle Earth.

What may surprise readers is that Tolkien more than dabbled in art, and in fact he painted many a picture of the locations in his classic fantasy novels. Even more surprising? There's never been an edition of The Lord of the Rings as illustrated by the late author, but that's about to change with a re-release of the book coming soon which will no doubt be one of the best art books out there.

Art by JRR Tolkien

Middle Earth art by JRR Tolkien  (Image credit: The Forest of Lothlórien in Spring © The Tolkien Trust 1973 / Barad-dûr: The Fortress of Sauron © The Tolkien Trust 1972)

A series of paintings and sketches created by Tolkien while writing the series are to be included for the first time since the book's 1954 publication. While a few of Tolkien’s illustrations were included in the original edition of The Lord of the Rings, the British author was modest about his creative skills, and told his publisher while penning the first of his trilogy that he had "no time or energy for illustration (as) I never could draw."

Tolkien mainly drew for pleasure, or as a way to visualise Frodo and Sam's treacherous journey to destroy the One Ring. Whilst various of the maps, doodles and paintings have previously appeared in exhibitions and art books dedicated to the writer, it is only now that the Tolkien Estate has granted rights to publish them in a pressing of the actual novel.

lord of the rings

The new edition of The Lord of the Rings will come in October 2021 (Image credit: HarperCollins)

lord of the rings

The new edition will come in hardback with deluxe slipcase (Image credit: HarperCollins)

"(Tolkien) was characteristically modest, dismissive of the obvious and rare artistic talent he possessed despite having had no formal training," said HarperCollins deputy publishing director Chris Smith. "This modesty meant that relatively little else of his artwork was known of or seen during his lifetime."

If you want to see all this art for yourself, then you won't need to wait a lifetime. This edition of The Lord of the Rings will come out October 2021 in hardback with deluxe slipcase from HarperCollins. In the meantime, why not check out where Tolkien's The Hobbit ranks in our list of the best children's books of all time?

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Giacomo Lee

Giacomo is a writer and talking head who has covered creativity and creative tools for Wallpaper*, Digital Arts, Creative Boom, VICE, Little White Lies, the BBC and more. Giacomo has also hosted for Adobe and D&AD, and judged the annual New Blood Awards. He was deputy editor of Creative Bloq for a short time in 2021.