The Bodleian Library is the main research library of the University of Oxford, one of the oldest libraries in Europe.
The Library holds a large collection of original Tolkien manuscripts at the Department of Western Manuscripts. Many of these have been donated by the Tolkien Estate. The collection of manuscripts is open to access by scholars, with the exception of the family papers.
J.R.R. Tolkien was a frequent visitor to the Bodleian, as they keep several manuscripts which were used in his studies of medieval texts: his edition of and commentary on The Old English Exodus (MS Junius 11) as well as the studies he conducted with Simonne d'Ardenne on the scholarly papers of the Middle English collection known as the "Katherine Group" (MS Bodley 34).
The Tolkien archive
After J.R.R. Tolkien passed, the Tolkien Estate and family have worked closely with the Bodleian to archive and preserve a substantial amount of his remaining papers, manuscripts and artwork. This collection includes fictional and scholarly works spanning his entire career as a writer and professor, and continues to have material added to the archive to this day — see, for example, the annotated Map of Middle-earth that the Bodleian acquired in 2016. The archive includes:
- The majority of Tolkien’s original artwork and calligraphy
- The Book of Lost Tales
- The Silmarillion
- Smith of Wootton Major
- The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
- The Father Christmas Letters
- Farmer Giles of Ham foreword and unfinished sequel
- The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son
- Leaf by Niggle and Tree and Leaf
- On Fairy-Stories
- English and Welsh
- The Road Goes Ever On
- A Secret Vice
- Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics
- Beowulf translation
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translation
- Lecture notes from his time as an Oxford professor
- Essays and notes from his time as an undergraduate
- Other personal papers
The Bodleian library has held a number of exhibitions focused on Tolkien.
The first largest exhibition was in 1992, called "Tolkien: Life and Legend". In this exhibition 250 items are listed in the catalogue, with almost all coming from the Bodleian archives. In addition, other Bodleian exhibitions have included one or two items from their Tolkien archive, such as in 2002 and 2015.
In 2018, "Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth" became the largest exhibition in more than two decades, and the first to combine material from multiple collections around the world, and including material from private collections never previously viewable by the public.
- 1987 — "Drawings for 'The Hobbit' by J.R.R. Tolkien" (exhibition)
- Accompanying publication — A promotional poster
- 2018 — "Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth" (exhibition)
- Historical context of the 2018 Bodleian Exhibition (accessed 11 June 2022)
- Poster auction on Tolkien Collector's Guide