Hand-Drawn Silmarillion Should Wow Tolkien Fans

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An illumination on the opening page of this unique hand-made Tolkien book project. Note the letters spelling out the word "Silmarillion"

Our friends over at TheOneRing.net report on a German art student named Benjamin Harff who spent a year and a half creating a one-of-a-kind, hand-made version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.

Harff’s gorgeous book contains hundreds of illustrations, illuminated pages, and calligraphic pages; the tome itself is custom bound in goat leather. (The actual text of the book is typed, not hand-lettered — Harff says “It would probably have taken a year just to write the pure text if I had written it by hand.”)

Given its painstaking attention to detail and fealty to medieval manuscripts, this artwork is an impressive achievement by any standard. To give you an idea of the labor involved, the illumination that’s used for the opening page of the book [pictured at right] took Harff between 70 to 80 hours to create.

In case you’re not familiar, The Silmarillion is a collection of Tolkien’s tales that tell of the pre-history of Middle-earth. The work dates back to as early as 1914, before Tolkien even conceptualized the stories of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. So it’s perhaps fitting that Harff’s masterwork helps convey this sense of ancient history. As the artist says, he hopes his book expresses aspects of Tolkien’s “imagination of Middle-Earth that cannot be derived from written words.”

Let’s hope the Tolkien Estate, notorious for closely guarding the Tolkien brand, doesn’t bust this poor artist, as it has with other fan-driven projects in the past, such as the kerfuffle about the novel Mirkwood, which centers on a fictional version of Tolkien’s life. Now that case is settled and the story is likely headed for the silver screen.

You can read more about the project at The Tolkien Library site, which has posted an interview with the artist (poorly translated and proofread, alas) and more pictures.

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