Museoteca - The Hobbit dust jacket, J.R.R. Tolkien
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Work information

Title: The Hobbit dust jacket
Artist: J.R.R. Tolkien


Tolkien's publisher, George Allen & Unwin, so admired the black and white illustrations and maps that he had drawn for The Hobbit that they prevailed on him to design the dust jacket as well. He produced this striking design during the Easter vacation of 1937, when he was free of his teaching duties. His editor was delighted with the results, 'we think your drawing is admirable. Nobody but the creator of the Hobbit could have produced something so suitable'. The jacket was designed to wrap around the book with the Lonely Mountain appearing on the spine, the dragon flying across the night sky on the back cover and the eagles soaring in daylight on the front cover. There is a strong symmetry in the layout of forest and mountains on the front and back.

Tolkien was keen to incorporate more red into the design (the dragon and the sun both have a pink tinge) but the publisher was adamant that another colour would be too expensive to print and the red was removed. The runes which run around the outside, forming a border, are a nod to his day job as the Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. Although they introduce an element of mystery to the design, they are merely a recital of the book's title, author and publisher in the Anglo-Saxon runes. MS. Tolkien Drawings 32. Reproduced with kind permission of The Tolkien Estate Limited for the Bodleian Libraries exhibition Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth.

© The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937.

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