Manuscripts from Marquette University’s renowned J.R.R. Tolkien Collection will be exhibited from Oct. 5 though Nov. 19 at the Gerald M. Quinn Library at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus. The exhibit, “The Beginnings of a Masterpiece: Original Manuscripts from The Fellowship of the Ring,” is co-sponsored by the two Jesuit universities.
The Fellowship of the Ring is the first book of Tolkien’s Middle Earth fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, first published in 1954. Tolkien was a professor of Old and Middle English language and literature at Oxford University whose epic works set the stage for a generation of high fantasy writers. His books inspired music, films, artwork and countless imitators.
“These manuscripts show how hard it was to write a great trilogy in days before the computer–and in this case, Tolkien was virtually inventing the new genre of epic fantasy,” said John Davenport, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy, who has used Tolkien’s works in his classes. “The emergence of characters in several handwritten and typed drafts is a case study in the development of a novel, and also shows how much of the plot and personalities may be undetermined when the writing process begins. Yet the result is a work of enduring importance; for example, Tolkien’s fiction is featured in two courses we offer at Fordham, and will be the subject of an hour show on the History Channel next Monday.”
The exhibit coincides with an assortment of Middle Earth programming in Midtown Manhattan, including an orchestral performance of the musical score composed for the motion picture The Fellowship of the Ring at Radio City Music Hall on Oct. 8 and 9. The exhibit marks the first time that the literary manuscripts have been exhibited in New York City.
Select items will be featured in the exhibition at the Quinn Library: The complete manuscripts for The Lord of the Rings, written by J.R.R. Tolkien between 1938-1955, contain more than 9,250 pages. Some highlights featured in the Fordham exhibition will include drawings and sketches, maps and calendars of Middle Earth, linguistic notes about the author’s invented languages, Hobbit family genealogies, detailed time schemes and other plot notes, and examples of Tolkien’s finest calligraphy. The original documents reflect an extraordinary creative process; as many as 18 drafts exist for some chapters.
Marquette University Libraries preserves the manuscripts and working drafts for three of J.R.R. Tolkien’s most celebrated books, The Hobbit (1937), Farmer Giles of Ham (1949), and The Lord of the Rings(1954-1955), as well as the original copy of the illustrated children’s book Mr. Bliss. The acquisition of the manuscripts was the brainchild of then Marquette library director William B. Ready (1914-1981). Ready recognized The Lord of the Rings as a work of genius and negotiated to purchase the Oxford professor’s papers. Tolkien’s personal and academic papers, as well as his other literary manuscripts, including The Silmarillion, are preserved by Oxford University.
Admission to “The Beginnings of a Masterpiece” is free. The exhibit is located on the first floor of Lowenstein Center, 113 W. 60th Street. Quinn Library will be open to visitors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday; and 1 to 5 p.m., Sunday. All visitors will be asked to show a valid photo ID to enter Lowenstein Center and Quinn Library.
Marquette University Libraries’ Tolkien Archives Fund, established in 1987 by the late Richard E. Blackwelder and expanded by numerous enthusiasts, is sponsoring the manuscript exhibition.