Museoteca - Dust jacket design for The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien
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Titre: Dust jacket design for The Return of the King
Artiste: J.R.R. Tolkien


When George Allen & Unwin agreed to publish The Lord of the Rings in 1952, they were faced with the technical problem of producing a book which was estimated to run to over one thousand pages. Their solution was to publish it in three volumes, creating books of a more manageable size which could be priced affordably. Tolkien was asked to provide subtitles for the three volumes under the overall title of The Lord of the Rings. Early in 1953 he suggested either 'The War of the Ring' or 'The Return of the King' for the final volume. He preferred the former which he thought less likely to divulge the ending but his publisher preferred the latter.

Tolkien created individual dust jackets for each volume. This is the final design for The Return of the King. It shows the empty throne of Gondor awaiting the return of the king. Behind the throne are the symbols of the king: seven stars and one white tree. The menacing figure of Sauron can be seen, top left, stretching out his arm from the east. As the publication date approached his publisher decided (and Tolkien agreed) that one single dust jacket design would create a stronger identity and the three volumes were issued with a dust jacket that Tolkien had designed for The Fellowship of the Ring. MS. Tolkien Drawings 90, fol. 30. Reproduced with kind permission of The Tolkien Estate Limited for the Bodleian Libraries exhibition Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth.

© The Tolkien Trust 1992

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