A different side to the creator of Middle-Earth was revealed today, as J.R.R. Tolkien manuscripts and printed editions went on display. They were unveiled at the British Library by the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, one of Tolkien’s own creations, who is currently appearing in the West End hit The Hobbit.

The displays include letters and notes from Tolkien to his grandson, many of which accompanied Christmas gifts and money. They are written in his unmistakably ornate calligraphic hand, using a broad-nibbed pen similar to a quill. Also on display are rare first edition copies of The Hobbit and the first illustrated edition of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and some examples of Tolkien memorabilia, including a role-playing game and a figurine.

In one letter Tolkien talks of losing his privacy having become become an unwilling celebrity. He is all set to move into a flat in Merton College following the death of his wife, but complains that he will no longer be protected from ‘Hoopers, Snoopers, Goopers, press-gangs, phone-bugs, and transatlantic lion hunters and gargoyle-fanciers’.

Sally Brown, Curator of Modern Literary Manuscripts at the British Library said: ‘The forthcoming film of The Lord of the Rings demonstrates Tolkien’s enduring appeal, and we wanted to mark this occasion by displaying some interesting associated items. The letters show the affectionate family man that we do not glimpse in his fiction, and the books show how the stories have been illustrated before this big screen adaptation.’

Entry to the British Library exhibitions is free, and all are welcome. This display will run until the end of January. For further information please contact Craig Westwood in The British Library Press Office on 020 7412 7115, or email craig.westwood@bl.uk