With original illustrations as published in J.R.R. Tolkien's lifetime
Home Sources Authors Illustrators For Children
Nibelungs Poetic Edda Glittering Plain Red Fairy Book Princess & Goblin
Eric Brighteyes Ourobouros Book of Wonder King Arthur Grimms Fairy

  • JRR Tolkien was born in South Africa on 3 January 1892.
  • In 1896 his father died and he moved with his mother and brother to England.
  • His mother died when he was twelve.
  • In 1910 and 1911 he studied at King Edward's School in Birmingham.
  • In 1911 he went to Exeter College, Oxford.
  • In 1915, he fought on the Western Front as an officer of the Lancashire Fusiliers.
  • Almost all of his closest friends were killed in the First World War.
  • In 1916 he married Edith, the sweetheart for whom he had waited since he was 16.
  • After the war he became a professor in English Language at the University of Leeds.
  • In 1925 he began teaching Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University.
  • He read widely and was inspired by many authors.
  • He admired Dunsany, Eddison, Haggard, MacDonald and Morris...
  • He revelled in ancient Finnish sagas, such as The Poetic Edda...
  • He loved archaic Germanic epics such as 'The Song of the Nibelungs'...
  • He was enchanted by Arthurian legends ...
  • ... and by the fairytale collections of the Brothers Grimm.
  • These books influenced his writing of The Lord of the Rings.

Welcome to Tolkien’s Bookshelf...

... a collection of books that inspired the imagination of Professor J.R.R. Tolkien; creator of Middle-earth, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. All our titles have informed the professor’s writings in one way or another. Either J.R.R. Tolkien himself stated in his essays or interviews that he had read and been influenced by them, or his biographers and researchers uncovered the evidence, or the books were widely obtainable and popular in his literary circles, so that he certainly knew of them and there is little doubt he read them.

Tolkien and Art

J.R.R. Tolkien’s own drawings adorn the pages of The Hobbit and it is easy to imagine him as a boy, long before the invention of television, poring for hours over the images in his favourite volumes - images that helped shape his creation of Middle Earth. Many of his original drawings can be viewed by clicking this button.
Where possible we have selected illustrated editions available in his lifetime. Both texts and pictures have been reproduced, and our books are mostly copies of the editions the professor held in his own hands.

Like the celebrated nineteenth century English textile designer, artist and writer William Morris, we at Tolkien’s Bookshelf reject the notion that illustrated materials are unsuitable for adults. To Morris, who was one of Tolkien’s favourite authors, illustrated books for adults presented an opportunity to integrate literature with design and art.

The illustrated story-books that were so popular during J.R.R. Tolkien's lifetime must have influenced him profoundly. Illustrations and graphic ornamentation add a great deal to the way a story is told. If the pictures were removed, the experience of reading a story would not remain the same. The way we react to pictures is different from the way we react to words.  Images can elicit a much more profound and immediate emotional response. They are quickly recognised by a reader’s brain. When we read verbal descriptions we must first decode the written symbols, then convert them into an imagined scene or set of thoughts. We comprehend pictures much more easily and directly. After all, we were looking at pictures before we learned to read. A picture is indeed 'worth a thousand words'!

Our Mission

In essence, a book is itself an artistic creation. Tolkien’s Books celebrates this by embellishing our ‘Illustrated’ series with the original plates (whole page illustrations printed separately from the text), cuts (illustrations printed within the text), borders, fonts, miniatures, and ornamental capital letters, in addition to our own ‘endpapers’ and bookplates.

J.R.R. Tolkien's books - the books he read throughout his lifetime - include titles by notable authors such as William Morris, Lord Dunsany, George MacDonald and H. Rider Haggard.

Each Tolkien’s Bookshelf classic opens with an introduction by fantasy author Cecilia Dart-Thornton, about whose acclaimed Bitterbynde Trilogy Grand Master of Science Fiction Andre Norton wrote: ‘Not since Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings fell into my hands have I been so impressed by a beautifully spun fantasy.’

Literary scholars have studied the texts in the Tolkien’s Bookshelf collection, finding threads and motifs linking them to the professor’s famous works. On reading J.R.R. Tolkien's books - the books he owned or borrowed or lent, the books he loved, the books that shaped his inner world - you will be awakened to that vast library of myth, magic, legend and fantasy whose legacy inspired the great English writer, poet and philologist, J.R.R. Tolkien.

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Tolkien’s Books is brought to you by Leaves of Gold Press, publishers of international, premium quality fiction and non-fiction in hardcover, paperback and ebook format. Our books are printed on high grade, acid-free, book-grade, opaque paper stock sourced from responsibly managed forests. Our printers are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council™, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification™. Utilizing POD technology decreases the number of returns and reduces paper waste, thereby cutting down greenhouse emissions and conserving valuable natural resources.

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