The Art of the Manuscript’ opens August 19

Milwaukee magazine has a great little story about how a huge cache of JRR Tolkien’s personal notes and articles ended up at Marquette University in Wisconsin.

It all started with the director of the Marquette library, William Ready (1914-1981), who actively sought out Catholic authors. Ready approached Tolkien through an intermediary in 1956 and negotiated the purchase of his manuscripts for The Hobbit and the three volumes of his magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings (as well as lesser-known works), just a year after the publication of the last of these books.

“Ready was in the right place at the right time and had the good sense to pursue these manuscripts,” says William Fliss, archivist in Marquette’s Special Collections Department.

This is timely as Marquette opens tomorrow (August 19) a brand new exhibition titled “JRR Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript” at the Haggerty Museum of Art.

The exhibition will feature original manuscripts created by JRR Tolkien for his Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and other works. It will examine Tolkien’s work through the prism of manuscripts, in terms of both the materials he studied as a medieval philologist and the manuscripts he created while developing his legendary.

The museum will also host three seminars led by leading Tolkien scholars. are free to attend. In-person tickets are already sold out. However, the presentations will also be streamed for audiences who wish to attend virtually (great for people who aren’t in the US!).

You can book a place to attend the conferences here.

Special Note: even if you only want to attend virtually, you to have to Always pre-register your interest through Eventbrite.

Watch a preview of the exhibition courtesy of Die Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft eV

Can’t make it to Milwaukee? Neither do I. Watch this 30-minute walkthrough that Die Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft eV has put together. It’s good!

The program of special conferences

Thursday, September 22, 5 p.m.: “Editing the Tolkienian Manuscript”, presented by Carl Hostetter

Carl Hostetter is a NASA computer scientist who has earned a reputation as one of the leading experts on the languages ​​invented by JRR Tolkien. He is a key member of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship, an elite group of four Tolkien scholars who have been granted special access by the Tolkien Estate to the author’s unpublished linguistic manuscripts. These linguists have published numerous articles on the languages ​​invented by Tolkien, notably in “Vinyar Tengwar”, a peer-reviewed journal edited by Hostetter.

Hostetter is one of Tolkien’s most experienced manuscript students. His ability to read and interpret Tolkien’s notoriously difficult writing is second to none. Christopher Tolkien (1924-2020) commissioned Hostetter to edit his father’s final volume of published writings, released in 2021 as “The Nature of Middle-earth”. Hostetter’s work is highly regarded by Tolkien scholars. His volume “Tolkien’s Legendarium” – co-edited with Verlyn Flieger – is considered one of the best collections of essays on Tolkien’s underworld history.

Thursday, October 13, 5 p.m.: “Tolkien’s Faith and the Foundations of Middle-earth,” presented by Holly Ordway

Holly Ordway is a rising star among Tolkien scholars. His 2021 book “Tolkien’s Modern Reading” is a tour de force destined to become a classic in Tolkien studies. Ordway demonstrated that Tolkien, generally labeled as a medievalist, was remarkably well read in modern literature.

His work shows how many modern works affected Tolkien’s creative output. Currently on the faculty of Houston Baptist University, Ordway has taught English at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and MiraCosta College. She specializes in JRR Tolkien and, more generally, in mythopoetic literature. Ordway’s current research project is a treatment of a book on Catholicism by Tolkien, suitable for a Jesuit Catholic university such as Marquette.

Thursday, November 17, 5 p.m.: “Whispering Leaves: How Tolkien’s Manuscripts Reveal the Secrets of His Creativity”, presented by John Garth

A trained journalist, John Garth has gained an international reputation as a leading writer on JRR Tolkien and a popular commentator on Tolkien’s works and life. His published works include the recent “The Worlds of JRR Tolkien” (2020). His first masterpiece, “Tolkien and the Great War” (2003), is universally recognized as a classic in the field of Tolkien studies.

Garth, who has made a special study of Tolkien’s manuscripts, will focus his lecture on a manuscript which is part of Marquette’s collection and has never been exhibited or published before. He will demonstrate his renowned historical research skills by analyzing the manuscript and using it to unravel ideas about Tolkien’s experiences during World War II.

Tickets for the exhibition “JRR Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript” are on sale now. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for seniors and active military (with ID). Friends of the Haggerty Museum of Art members, K-12 educators, children 17 and under, and Marquette University students, faculty, and staff are free with advance reservations and upon presentation of a valid identity document. The exhibition will be open until 8 p.m. on the evening of each conference.

About the Haggerty Art Museum

The Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University is an innovative nexus of interdisciplinary learning where creativity, intellect, and social justice intersect. Located in the heart of the Near West Side, adjacent to downtown Milwaukee and open daily, the museum is one of the most accessible arts venues in the city.

“The Short Lai of Earendel, Earendillínwë”, Version K, ca. 1949–1953. Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University. Credit: © The Tolkien Estate Limited 2022.

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