Brian Sibley and Pauline Baynes are names which will be instantly familiar to many Tolkien fans. Author, broadcaster and screenwriter Sibley scripted a radio version of The Lord of the Rings for the BBC, and his wonderful book The Maps of Middle-earth was illustrated by John Howe. Sibley also wrote The Making of the Movie Trilogy for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies, and the three ‘Official Guides’ for his Hobbit trilogy.
Artist Pauline Baynes, who died in 2008, worked with Tolkien himself, creating maps and illustrations for his works. Many fans will have had her art work on their walls, as she illustrated Middle-earth posters in the early seventies. Her work adorned covers of various editions of the Professor’s works, and she first collaborated with Tolkien when she illustrated Farmer Giles of Ham back in 1949. She also illustrated all of C S Lewis’ Narnia books.
Baynes and Sibley were friends for many years, and together they created a tale of Osric the Extraordinary Owl. TORn’s good friend Jay Johnstone has finally been able to publish this wonderful work, in a limited edition of just 250 – with a foreword by none other than Tolkien scholar Wayne G. Hammond! Here’s what the official press release tell us:
Osric the Extraordinary Owl resulted from the collaboration of two friends: artist and illustrator Pauline Baynes and writer, dramatist and broadcaster Brian Sibley. It was a friendship spanning more than two-and-a-half decades, with many shared interests, among them the work of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis famously illustrated by Pauline and the subject of acclaimed dramatisations by Brian.
Sibley’s tale of a small grey owl in search of the courage to establish his individuality and ‘be himself’ (but which can be also be read as a ‘coming-out story’) was written in 1970 but had to wait until 2007 to find an artist at a time when Baynes was without any commissions and was wanting opportunities to keep drawing and painting. As a result she produced 22 delightful, double-page illustrations featuring not just Osric and his owl family but also an entire aviary of the most spectacular, colourful birds from black swans and peacocks to flamingos and toucans.
Baynes completed her pictures for Osric the year before her death in 2008 but ‘the extraordinary owl’ had to wait another decade to find a publisher. At the Tolkien Society’s 50th anniversary conference in 2019 noted Tolkien artist Jay Johnstone met Brian Sibley and another of Pauline’s friends, Wayne G. Hammond who, with his wife Christina Scull, is responsible for many key works of Tolkien scholarship and who, as Librarian of the Chapin Library of Rare Books at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, has curatorship of the Pauline Baynes bequest of paintings, drawings. Out of that Tolkien encounter came the decision to finally get Osric’s saga into print.
After a delay, caused by the Covid pandemic, Jay Johnstone is now pleased to announce the publication of Osric the Extraordinary Owl. This collector’s edition hardback book is written by Brian Sibley and illustrated by Pauline Baynes, with a foreword by Wayne G. Hammond. It is designed and produced by Jay Johnstone and comes in a gilded presentation box. Each book is individually numbered and comes with signed book plates by Brian, Wayne and Jay.
Fans of Bayne’s art and Sibley’s writing will not want to miss out on this very limited release. You can find out more by clicking here.
We reported earlier here that a map of Middle-earth, annotated by J.R.R. Tolkien while working with Pauline Baynes was to go on display at the Bodleian Libraries. Well, that day was today! However, it proved to be so popular that they added one more day and will also have it on display tomorrow, Friday, June 24. So, if you’re anywhere near the area, you still have a chance to catch it. According to the Bodleian website, the map was a working document that Tolkien and acclaimed illustrator Pauline Baynes both annotated in 1969 when Baynes was commissioned to produce a poster map of Middle-earth. The map will be on display from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.. Admission is free.
The Bodleian Libraries, home to the largest collection of Tolkien manuscripts and drawings in the world, has acquired a recently discovered map of Middle-earth annotated by J.R.R. Tolkien and artist Pauline Baynes during her early preparations to produce a poster map of Middle-earth that was later published in 1970. The fold-out map was pulled from one of Baynes’ copies of The Lord of the Rings. In order to help her represent Middle-earth as accurately as possible, Tolkien made notes on the map (those in green ink and pencil) regarding the climate of various areas, often equating them to real places in England and Europe, in order to give Baynes an accurate idea of the area’s flora and fauna.
The map was kept by Baynes, who passed away in 2008. It resurfaced in 2015 and was acquired by the Libraries. According to the Libraries:
“The annotated map went unseen for decades until October 2015 when Blackwell’s Rare Books in Oxford put the map on display and offered it for sale. The purchase of the map was funded with assistance from the Victoria & Albert Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the Bodleian.
This working document reveals that the creatures which enliven the final poster map – wolves, horses, cattle, elephants and camels – were all suggested by Tolkien and that Baynes drew the animals in the exact locations he specified. ‘Elephants appear in the Great battle outside Minas Tirith (as they did in Italy under Pyrrhus) but they would be in place in the blank squares of Harad – also Camels,’ wrote Tolkien.”
The Bodleian Libraries hopes to put the map on display to the public in the near future – a great reason to plan a special trip! In the meantime, read the fascinating full article here.
An important, and frankly amazing Tolkien document has emerged, recently discovered loose in a copy of The Lord of the Rings once owned by illustrator Pauline Baynes.
The Guardian reports that Baynes removed the map from a previous version of the novel as she was working on a then new color map for a new edition that was published in 1970.
The map then had “copious” notes made by J.R.R. Tolkien in green ink and pencil. Baynes then made her own notes on the map. It is essentially a map annotated by Tolkien himself.
Blackwell’s, which is currently exhibiting the map in Oxford and selling it for £60,000, called it “an important document, and perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least”.
According to Blackwell’s, it displays “the exacting nature” of the author and his creative process. He fixes names, gives additional names and reveals details such as Hobbiton “is assumed to be approx at latitude of Oxford,” where Tolkien was, of course, a professor.
Blackwell’s also claims that Tolkien wrote “the city of Ravenna is the inspiration behind Minas Tirith – a key location in the third book of the Lord of The Rings trilogy.” There are other real-world references as well.
“Before going on display in the shop this week, this had only ever been in private hands (Pauline Baynes’s for the majority of its existence). One of the points of interest is how much of a hand Tolkien had in the poster map; all of his suggestions, and there are many (the majority of the annotation on the map is his), are reflected in Baynes’s version,” said Henry Gott, a rare books expert at Blackwell’s.
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