Maquette de la jaquette pour La Fraternité de l’Anneau, 1954 © Bodleian Library/ The Tolkien Trust 2019-2020 -  - © Bodleian Library/ The Tolkien Trust 2019-2020

Tolkien, Journey to Middle-earth


From Tuesday to Sunday 10am-7pm

Maquette de la jaquette pour La Fraternité de l’Anneau, 1954 © Bodleian Library/ The Tolkien Trust 2019-2020 - - © Bodleian Library/ The Tolkien Trust 2019-2020

For the first time in France, many original manuscripts and drawings by J. R. R. Tolkien are on display. This is the opportunity to discover or to rediscover both the famous and lesser-known literary works that recount the story of Middle-earth. In parallel, a selection of exceptional pieces, most of which are from the BnF’s collections, provide a context for this literary and artistic creation.

Focus on the exhibition

In this exhibition, designed as a journey in Middle-earth, the public will enter the imaginary world created by the author of The Lord of the Rings. A writer, philologist and academic, J.R.R. Tolkien has built - through hundred-page stories, mostly unpublished in his lifetime – a modern form of “mythology” with its own languages, characters, geography, architecture, art and history.
Organized in collaboration with the Tolkien Estate and the Tolkien family and thanks to the exceptional participation of the Bodleian Library (Oxford) and of Marquette University Libraries (Milwaukee, United States), the exhibition will take you on a journey to Tolkien’s imaginary geography.
The first part of the journey is divided into chapters which serve as stopovers through Middle-earth, from the Shire to Mordor, and further still, to Valinor. Each place, each territory offers an opportunity to address the underlying literary, cultural and linguistic details behind Tolkien’s work.
Shelob’s Lair, 1944 © Bodleian Library/ The Tolkien Estate Limited


Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves 1937 © Bodleian Library / The Tolkien Estate Limited
Tolkien’s original manuscripts and drawings - mostly on-loan from the Bodleian Library (Oxford) and Marquette University Libraries (Milwaukee) - are the very core of this journey. Sometimes in careful calligraphy, sometimes decorated with sketches, outlines and drawings, these manuscripts are artworks in their own right. Combined with many watercolors and with the maps drawn by the author and Christopher Tolkien (his son), they enable visitors to understand how Tolkien has created the complex universe that is Middle-earth.

As Tolkien was one of the most renowned specialists in medieval literature, his works resonate with medieval manuscripts, engravings, books and objects which are preserved at the BnF. The exhibition will display a dialogue between Tolkien’s stories and pieces from the BnF heritage collections, or from prestigious cultural institutions, giving French and European visitors some clues to enter an imaginary world nurtured by Anglo-Saxon references and traditions. This selection of pieces provides a context for Tolkien’s literary and artistic creation, highlighting the unique nature and originality of his works. Norse tales and medieval manuscripts present the stories that were dear to J.R.R. Tolkien, and to which he devoted much of his life as a student and academic. Other documents, including a rare edition of Beowulf illustrated by William Morris, provide an understanding of the author’s English roots
“The Tale of Beowulf done out of the Old English tongue”, illustrated by William Morris, translated by J. Wyatt, 1895


Tolkien smoking his pipe in his study at Merton Street, Billett Potter, 22 September 1972 © Billett Potter, Oxford
Tolkien’s works are also rooted in a place where he spent most of his life: Oxford. From the beginning of his studies in 1911 to his death in 1973, it was chiefly in this city that he both lived and worked. As an internationally-renowned specialist in medieval English and Norse literature, Tolkien is also responsible for allowing many readers discover treasures such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight among other medieval works. The exhibition also presents historical context, his family with his wife Edith and their four children as well as his work environment in Oxford. It also mentions his involvement in World War I. Photographs, recordings of poems read aloud by Tolkien, and extracts from a BBC interview in 1968 – in which we discover a cheerful writer, even impish – helps to understand how Tolkien’s creation has been built throughout his life.



Vincent Ferré, Professor  in comparative literature at Université Paris Est-Créteil 

Frédéric Manfrin, Head of Philosophy, History and Human Sciences Department, BnF 

Associated curators  : Élodie Bertrand and Émilie Fissier, BnF


Institutional Partners

In partnership with the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford and The Raynor Memorial Libraries - Marquette University

With the Tolkien Estate and Tolkien Family,

With the participation of la Cité Internationale de la Tapisserie, Aubusson and le Musée de l’Armée.

Press Partners

In partnership with Le Monde, Télérama, Connaissance des arts,France Télévisions, France Culture


TOLKIEN ® is a registrated trademark of the Tolkien Estate Limited.


Practical information

Pictogramme vigipirate

In application of the Vigipirate (anti-terrorist) plan, only the East entrance is opened.

Opening times

Pictogramme horaires

From Tuesday to Sunday
10am > 7pm

Thursday until 9pm
10am > 9pm

Closed on Monday and during bank holidays.Ticketing services 10am-6pm / until 8pm on Thursday.


Please note, due to strike action and limited transportation services, opening hours may be modified. See the home page for more information.

Getting here

Pictogramme acces

Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand
Quai François Mauriac,
75706 Paris Cedex 13


Entry details

Full fare:
11 €
Reduced fare:
9 €
Free with:


Photo credits : Design for the dust jacket The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954 © Bodleian Library/ The Tolkien Trust 2019-2020

Related events

A series of discussions with descendant Adam Tolkien and with Tolkien experts will revisit the multifaced works of the author. 


The BnF and Musée de l’Armée will organize a colloquium on ”Tolkien and the War” on 24 and 25 January 2020.