cover image The Art of the Hobbit

The Art of the Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $40 (144p) ISBN 978-0-547-92825-8

Marking the 75th anniversary of the publication of the beloved classic (and publishing just in time for Peter Jackson's new film), this handsome volume is a splendid introduction to Tolkien the artist, a skill of which many of his fans are ignorant. Editors and experts Hammond and Scull walk through the classic book's publication history, providing context for the over 100 pieces of artwork, some never before published, which the author prepared to accompany his account of Bilbo Baggins's adventures. Somewhat ironically, the authors' introduction quotes 10-year-old Rayner Unwin, whose positive evaluation led his father to publish The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. "[T]his book, with the help of maps, does not need any illustrations," said Unwin; "it is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of five and nine." Nonetheless, Tolkien's more than three decades as an amateur artist made it inevitable that he try his hand at rendering visions of Bag End, Hobbiton, and Rivendell. Varying illustrations of the same scenes provide insight into Tolkien's creative processes. Illus. (Sept.)