About the Collection

General Information

The collection of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973), professor of Old and Middle English language and literature at Oxford University, 1925-1959, contains the original manuscripts and multiple working drafts for three of the author'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 children's book Mr. Bliss (published in facsimile form in 1982). The collection includes books by and about Tolkien, periodicals produced by Tolkien enthusiasts, audio and video recordings, and a host of published and unpublished materials relating to Tolkien's life and fantasy writings.

Tolkien manuscripts reside at Marquette because of the vision of William B. Ready (1914-1981), director of libraries from 1956 to 1963. Ready was appointed with the understanding that he would aggressively collect material for the newly-constructed Memorial Library. He recognized The Lord of the Rings as a masterpiece soon after its publication, long before the work and its author gained enormous popularity. With administrative approval, Ready approached Tolkien in 1956 through Bertram Rota, a well-known rare book dealer in London. At the time, no other institution had expressed an interest in Tolkien's literary manuscripts. After a relatively brief period of negotiation, an agreement was reached whereby Marquette purchased the manuscripts for 1,500 pounds (or less than $5,000). The first shipment of material arrived in 1957; The Lord of the Rings manuscripts arrived the next year. Tolkien accepted offers to visit and speak at Marquette in both 1957 and 1959, but on each occasion he canceled the anticipated visit due to family concerns. Tolkien's personal and academic papers, as well as his other literary manuscripts (e.g. The Silmarillion and Leaf by Niggle), are at the Bodleian Library of Oxford University.

Original Manuscripts

The original manuscripts represent the heart of the collection. They include holograph renderings (manuscripts in the hand of the author), various sets of typescripts with corrections by Tolkien, and page proofs or galley sheets, also with corrections in the hand of the author. The manuscripts for The Lord of the Rings, 1938-1955, consist of 7,125 leaves (9,250 pages). Included are an advance proof copy of The Return of the King, printed maps of Middle-earth, dust jackets from the original Houghton Mifflin edition, several drafts of a rejected " Epilogue," and manuscript fragments from The Silmarillion (1977). Drawings and sketches, often in preliminary form in the margin of the text, can be found throughout the handwritten manuscripts. Linguistic and philological notes relating to Tolkien's invented languages also appear in the manuscripts, often on the verso of the main text. The documents reflect an extraordinary creative process; as many as 18 drafts exist for a single chapter. Christopher Tolkien, the author's son and literary heir, has presented the history of the composition of The Lord of the Rings in The History of Middle-earth series (Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and the first halves of IX and XII, 1988-1996).

The Hobbit manuscripts, 1930-1937, which consist of 1,048 leaves (1,586 pages), include a holograph version, corrected typescripts, three sets of page proofs with the author's corrections, a water-color rendering by Tolkien of the dust jacket used by Allen and Unwin, printed maps with corrections, a watercolor of trolls and Gollum by German artist Horus Engels, and the original copy of " Thror's Map." Most of the early holograph is a continuous text with no chapter divisions. The manuscripts for Farmer Giles of Ham, ca. 1930-1938, 1948-1949, comprising 173 leaves (201 pages), include a holograph, typescripts with corrections, and galley sheets with corrections. Mr. Bliss, ca. 1928-1932, includes 39 leaves (61 pages). In addition to the finished booklet which is 50 pages in length, separate "preliminary" drawings and jottings exist. The manuscript is in Tolkien's calligraphic hand, illustrated throughout with ink and colored pencil drawings. Galley sheets and an advance proof copy of the 1982 facsimile edition complete the primary holdings.

Secondary Holdings

Marquette is developing a significant collection of Tolkien's published works, as well as a representative selection of critical literature on Tolkien's fantasy and academic writings. The book collection contains over 1,200 volumes. The collection of periodicals produced by Tolkien enthusiasts has grown to over 270 titles. Other literature, some in foreign languages, consists of book reviews, obituaries, press clippings, journal and anthology articles, dissertations, studies of Elvish languages, conference announcements and programs, auction sale notices, and exhibit catalogs, as well as unpublished scholarly papers and essays. Also included are poems and songs, dramatizations, sketches and paintings, calendars, games and puzzles, and teaching materials, in addition to audio recordings of readings and radio adaptations and video recordings of movie adaptations and commemorative documentaries. Books and periodicals in the collection are described in MARQCAT, the library online catalog. Since 2011 Marquette has been harvesting selected Tolkien-related websites.

Requests, Gifts, and Cooperative Projects

Generous bequests and gifts of books, research papers, and other secondary- material by Tolkien scholars and collectors have contributed immeasurably to the holdings at Marquette. Taum J.R. Santoski (1958-1991) served for ten years as a volunteer staff member and Tolkien " scholar in residence." In this capacity he studied the original manuscripts intensively, initiated public conferences and exhibits, lectured to Marquette students and visiting classes, and assisted countless researchers. His bequest includes 200 books, dozens of periodicals, copies of Tolkien's academic publications, and notes on the manuscripts, particularly linguistic texts in The Lord of the Rings. S. Gary Hunnewell, a student of Tolkien; residing in Arnold, Missouri, is building an inclusive collection of all periodicals produced by Tolkien enthusiasts. It contains many early U.S. and foreign titles, including obscure publications from eastern Europe, as well as selected issues of general fantasy and science fiction "fanzines" relating to Tolkien. The collection was loaned to Marquette in the 1980s and 1990s for microfilming. Subsequent acquisitions to Hunnewell's collection have been received as digital scans. Since 2018 original fanzines from Hunnewell's collection have begun arriving at Marquette. These are titles Hunnewell is finished with for his research and scholarship into Tolkien fandom.

In 1982 Dr. Richard E. Blackwelder (1909-2001) donated to Marquette his growing collection of Tolkieniana. Remarkably comprehensive in scope, the Blackwelder Collection is believed to be the largest single body of secondary sources on Tolkien ever to be developed. The value of the collection is greatly enhanced by a well-defined scheme of arrangement and description. Detailed bibliographic information is provided for each item which has been acquired or identified, in conjunction with extensive indexing. A growing library contains many editions and printings of Tolkien's books, including nearly all printings of the Ballantine paperbacks. A preliminary online inventory is available. In 1987 Dr. Blackwelder established the Tolkien Archives Fund at the university to provide support for the acquisition and preservation of Tolkien research material in the Department of Special Collections.

In 2003, thanks to the Tolkien Archives Fund, Marquette University was able to purchase the Grace E. Funk (1924-2004) Tolkien/Fantasy Fiction Collection. Containing 2,376 items -- including books, articles, films, documentary videos, photocopied articles and newspaper clippings -- the collection offers researchers a convenient method of locating many obscure, out-of-print materials. The collection reflects Funk's professional background as a school librarian. She identified numerous materials written for K-12 educators and libraries interested in introducing Tolkien's fiction to younger readers. Her detailed bibliographic citations are indicative of her professional expertise. A descriptive inventory of the Grace Funk collection is available online.

In 2013-2014, Kristin Thompson donated a large collection of print publications and material culture documenting the fandom and commercialism surrounding Tolkien's fiction, especially the cinematic derivatives created by New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson for New Line Cinema. A noted film scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Thompson gathered much of this material while researching her book, The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood (2007). The collection includes textual documents, audio-visual materials, textiles, and 3-dimensional artifacts. The collection provides a large and diverse sample of the merchandise marketed to fans of J. R. R. Tolkien. A descriptive inventory of the Kristin Thompson collection is available online.

Use of the Manuscripts and Public Exhibit

The Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien retains literary rights and copyright to the manuscripts. These documents may be reproduced or published only with the written permission of the Estate. The manuscripts were microfilmed in 1983. The manuscripts for The Lord of the Rings were scanned in 2016 and integrated into the Anduin™ database. To protect the physical integrity of the originals, researchers are asked to use only Anduin™.

Access and Services

The descriptive inventory for the J.R.R. Tolkien Collection is available online.

Visitors are advised that some form of photographic identification is required for access to Raynor Library. All materials must be used in the department's reading room. To insure the immediate availability of records and audiovisual equipment, researchers visiting from outside the Marquette campus are asked to write or phone in advance.

Service Hours: Visitors are welcome by appointment Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.