History’s Largest Tolkien Exhibit Takes Over New York

NEW YORK — History’s largest exhibit of Tolkien artifacts opened its doors Friday, January 25 at The Morgan Library and Museum. Hobbit enthusiasts and elf wanna-be’s from around the country are pilgrimaging  to the corner of 36th St. and Madison Ave. to witness this never-before-seen collection of the author’s notes, drawings, and personal possessions.

The exhibit, “Tolkien: Maker of Middle earth,” will run through May 12, 2019.

In an effort to “celebrate the man and his creation,” The Morgan Library has partnered with The Tolkien Archive at the Bodleian Library of Oxford, Marquette University, and private lenders to produce an immersive experience in the life, work, and imagination of one of the most renowned authors of the 20th century.

The collection includes a drawing book from the author’s Oxford days, his original map of The Shire (home to the famous “hobbits”), and the plot map for his most popular work: The Lord of the Rings.  

“Tolkien’s Middle Earth speaks to so many of us because it is a complete world,” said John McQuillen, Associate Curator of Printed Books and Bindings at The Morgan Library. “It has geography. It has history. It has languages. These rarely seen items in the exhibition reveal how, for Tolkien, the production of textual and visual material went hand in hand with the creation of Middle Earth.”

Countless fans filed through a hobbit-hole-shaped entryway at the exhibit’s debut Friday night, transported not only into the world of Middle Earth, but the world of its creator. Scratch pages where Tolkien toyed with different styles of script to appear on the infamous fire ring are featured alongside a title page on which the words “The Magic Ringare scratched out and replaced by “The Lord of the Rings.” Deeply personal artifacts such as an early sketch of the wizard that would later inspire the character of Gandalf show viewers just how all-consuming Middle Earth became in the author’s life.

“I think it’s incredible to see Tolkien’s handwriting, his drafts, his doodles, things like that,” said Audrey Pickett, a junior at The King’s College who visited the exhibit Friday. “I walked away feeling like I walked out of his studio.”

The exhibit is free Friday nights between 7 and 9. For a less crowded experience, bring a  student ID to receive $7 off the $20 general admission ticket during regular museum hours. Photography is not permitted, but visitors can bring the exhibit home by purchasing the catalogue for sale on the Morgan’s website.

For more information, consider attending one of the guided tours or lectures on “Tolkien: Maker of Middle Earth,” listed at this link: https://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/tolkien.

“What’s unique about this exhibit is it shows the history of the movies and books we’re used to,” said Russel VanDross, security guard at The Morgan. “It really brings back memories – great ones.”