"One does not simply walk into Mordor," but one can come close.
An exhibit featuring "The Lord of the Rings" creator J.R.R. Tolkien’s original photographs, illustrations, maps, draft manuscripts, artifacts and designs is on its way to The Morgan Library & Museum this month.
"Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth" is the largest collection of Tolkien material ever assembled in the United States, according to the Morgan.
"Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" fans will be able to see draft manuscripts and original manuscripts alongside photos and letters from Tolkien’s childhood, watercolors, dust jacket designs and drawings that Tolkien himself worked on — including maps of Middle-earth, Smaug the dragon from "The Hobbit," a hooded figure walking in a dark forest, the Gates of Moria, Sauron’s fortress at Barad-dûr, Galadriel’s realm in Lothlórien and more — offering a look into his prolific creativity.
"It is exciting to see so much material in Tolkien’s own hand," said John McQuillen, the library’s associate curator of the Printed Books and Bindings Department. "It’s as if we are looking over his shoulder while he composes and illustrates his vision of Middle-earth. We get a glimpse into the moments in the creation of the narrative, such as when he changes the wizard’s name to Gandalf or suddenly comes up with the idea of the One Ring."
The 117 items are borrowed items from the Tolkien Archive at the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford, the Marquette University Libraries in Milwaukee and other private lenders.
During the exhibition’s four-month run, the Morgan will host a number of public programs: a lecture about Tolkien’s writings and art; a symposium about how his work has influenced readers; a gallery talk with McQuillen; a fantasy watercolor class with artist Max Greis; and a mapmaking and watercolor miniseries for families.
If you go: The exhibit runs Jan. 25-May 12 at The Morgan Library & Museum, 225 Madison Ave. Tickets are $20 and free on Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m.