Now

Tolkien, Journey to Middle-earth

Oct. 22, 2019 Until Feb. 16, 2020

From Tuesday to Sunday 10am-7pm

The BnF is proud to present a major exhibition dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien, the brilliant Oxford professor and creator of imaginary worlds, whose multi-faceted works remain very much alive for a wide audience. Revealing both the man himself and his work, the exhibition will include close to 300 pieces. For the first time in France, many original manuscripts and drawings by J.R.R. Tolkien will be on display. In parallel, a selection of exceptional pieces, most of which are from the BnF collections, will 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 A writer, philologist and academic, J.R.R. Tolkien has built - through hundred-page stories, mostly unpublished in his lifetime – a modern form of “mythology” with its own languages, characters, geography, architecture, art and history.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.

 

Curatorship

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, the BnF is closed at 3pm on Tuesday, December 24 and 31. Last access to the exhibition at 1:45pm

Getting here

Pictogramme acces

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

 

Entry details

Book your ticket online via BnF website or Fnac Spectacles, or on-site at BnF François-Mitterrand.
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.