Friday, 13 November 2009
Tolkien, Lord of the Rings (1951-3)
I used to say 'I have re-read this novel every year since I first read it, when I was 12.' And that used to be true; but then last year, for whatever reason, I didn't get round to my annual re-read. And this year's nearly over. So I've decided to go through it again, before I run out of year.
Now, the point of this post is not to talk about the novel as such, so much as to talk about these exemplary, beautiful Pauline Baynes cover illustrations. Let me hear you say 'oooh!' ('oooh!'). Click on them and they should become enlarged.
This was the edition in which I first read LotR (my mother's old edition, I think). When I discovered it again in a charity shop for the absurd price above indicated I couldn't resist buying it, and adding it to the four (or five; I'm not sure) editions of the title I already own.
But I hope it's not merely rank nostalgia that makes me say: it's a lovely cover. Even the Victorian Playbill title font works. I love the way there's an outer frame of stylised trees (with orcs lurking in the roots) surrounding an inner frame of stylised trees, itself surrounding a vertically stacked perspective of more trees, houses, hills and mountains. The visual idiom is a perfectly pitched Edwardian-Medieval, spot-on for the novel. And there's a canny little visual push-pull about the way the picture invites the eye to run up from the miniature figures at the bottom through the landscape they must traverse to the mountains at the top, at the same time that the words of the title invite the eye to work their way down from 'The' to 'Rings'. Very clever.
The back is lovely too. Those kiln-shaped mountains and towers! Like pottery models. And the sea-blue barrenness of peaks and tips.