Hidden in an old copy of The Lord of the Rings, a U.K. rare book store has found a map of Middle-earth annotated by J.R.R. Tolkien himself.
The map, found in a book given to Blackwell's Rare Books, has Tolkien commenting on numerous facets of the world of the popular book series. Most notably is that Hobbiton, seated within the Shire and the home of numerous Hobbits in the stories, is the same latitude as Oxford, England. Tolkien's annotations also suggest Ravenna in Italy inspired the city of Minas Tirith.
The book containing the map belonged to illustrator Pauline Baynes, who drew much of the famous maps of both Tolkien's Middle-earth and C.S. Lewis' Narnia. Baynes had taken the map from a different copy of The Lord of the Rings to work on the colour edition, later published in 1970, according to the Guardian.
Blackwell's has the map for sale in Oxford for £60,000, nearly $121,000 Cdn, where the company is also exhibiting it.
The Independent said a representative from the company called it "the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least."
Tolkien referenced cities such as Cyprus, Jerusalem and Belgrade to describe locations in Middle-earth, among ideas for various regions' wildlife and environments for Baynes' illustrations.
"The map shows how completely obsessed he was with the details. Anyone else interfered at their peril," Sian Wainwright told the Guardian. "He was tricky to work with, but very rewarding in the end."
Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford, and the connection between Hobbiton and the city where the novelist taught has long been a point of speculation. That Tolkien mentions the latitude of two regions could potentially clear up the argument, at least among die-hard fans.
Blackwell's discovery isn't the only recent release of forgotten Tolkien cartography. The book The Art of The Lord of the Rings contains a vast array of maps, sketches and diagrams detailing the minutiae of Middle-earth.
Tolkien drew many early maps in order to get a feel for the world he was building in the 1930s through the 1950s, sketching fortresses, travel routes across the world, and what would become the Hobbits' home of the Shire.
"In a letter from 1937, Tolkien spoke of having 'some "pictures" in a drawer, but though they represent scenes from the mythology on the outskirts of which the Hobbit has his adventures, they do not really illustrate his story,'" Ethan Gilsdorf wrote in an article for Wired.
As for the map found by Blackwell's, the Independent reports that the company hopes to sell it by the end of the month. A few fans on Twitter have begun scrambling for a bit of spare change to pick up the one-of-a-kind piece of Lord of the Rings history, though the book store is likely looking for wealthier buyers.
So a map of Middle Earth annotated by J.R.R Tolkien has been found. Up for sale for £60,000. Anyone want to help me out?— @richard_dickson
I'd so buy this LOTR map had I sixty grand to waste: https://t.co/ss7FOZEb9B— @Capt_Mouthwash