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J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of Rings drafts and manuscripts on display at Marquette University

It's called the J.R.R. Tolkien The Art of the Manuscript exhibit at the Haggerty Museum at Marquette.
Posted at 6:19 PM, Aug 18, 2022

MILWAUKEE — It began with the forging of the great rings... That's Lord of the Rings for those who didn't know. However, it didn't really start with the forging of the great rings. It started with the drafts that would one day become the famous Lord of the Rings books. Now, you can see those drafts on display for the very first time on Marquette's campus.

It's called the J.R.R. Tolkien The Art of the Manuscript exhibit at the Haggerty Museum at Marquette. The university actually has one of the most extensive and important collections of Tolkien work in the world.

“The collection is very large there are over 11,000 pages of material at Marquette for The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and other works," William Fliss, a Lord of the Rings archivist at the university and works at the Raynor Library, said.

Eight-five of the most visual documents from the collection are on display including 37 objects that have never been exhibited or published before. Oxford University also contributed 37 items. At the gallery, you will see drafts of writings, maps, and how Tolkien came up with the elvish language used in the books. It's a glimpse into the mind of Tolkien as he was writing one of the most popular book series of all time.

"This exhibition is a big deal because there hasn’t been an exhibition of this size in the Midwest, in Milwaukee here ever," Fliss said.

Normally this collection of documents is reserved for historians for research purposes or for galleries in New York, Paris, and London. Finally, Marquette's collection is on display in Milwaukee.

Marquette’s connection to these documents dates back to the 50s. The school’s librarian wanted to collect works created by Catholic authors. He bought the current collection for what today would be $50,000. It’s now worth a lot more than that.

The exhibit is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m and lasts until December. Those 17 and younger get in for free, and general admission is $10.

The famous quote is one ring to rule them all. Well, maybe instead of a ring, it's a pen or pencil. Since it was the pen that would ultimately go on to write the Lord of the Rings that captivated the entire world.

Also, while not directly connected to Marquette's collection, a Wisconsin woman is trying to create a Lord of the Rings theme park in the state.

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