Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Day at the Morgan

So, having got the missing suitcase thing worked out, we had a late breakfast and walked down to the Morgan, where I spent the next two and a half hours looking through the Tolkien Exhibit we'd come so far to see (again). The venue is less crowded and the room brighter at the Bodleian, where I suspect the lighting was kept muted to preserve the artifacts (I once saw a William Blake display in what cd only be discribed as a dark room). There were fewer items on display --a t a guess, maybe about half as many. And yet that still left a mort of treasure, as I suspected. I had time to spend with each item, and to linger and look long and hard at some pieces, such as the art and maps, without feeling I was being rude or blocking others from seeing things.

The item that moved me most was the elegant and confident title page for the 1930 Silmarillion, the only complete and finished version of the book, which shows how clear and detailed was Tolkien's vision for the book.

I also loved the early mythological art (circa 1915) and the Ishnesses from about a decade later. For the former I was impressed first by how small they are -- the famous world-ship drawing is about the size of my hand -- and how packed with significant but elusive detail, such as the painting of Kor framed by the Two Trees but the fact that the frame is the trees doesn't come out until you've taken the piece in for a while, or at least that was my experience.

As for the Ishnesses, even though I'd seen these just months before I was struck anew by the brightness and vibrance of the colors (or colours). It felt odd to see Tolkien abandon his usual color palette of green and blue for vivid red and orange. And their inclusion of a tree-drawing Tolkien made when he was twelve established how talented me was, and from an early age.

And of course there were many small details I'd not noticed before, esp in the maps (like one map of Middle-earth that included not just the island west of Lindon formed from the Hill of Himling but had another larger island further to the west (West?): Tol Fuin.  I learned for the first time the location of Belegost but cd not find Nogrod.  And it was nice to see the two pieces of the Moria gate pastel reunited again.

In addition to the items on display, we ran into John Holmes, contributor to the Flieger festscrift (green great/great green) and a regular attendee at Kalamazoo, and learned a lot about his current project, which sounds interesting. Later we had dinner with Verlyn herself, and Tolkien philologist Carl, and got to meet another festschrift contributor, Thomas Hillyard.

Oh, and we got to poke around inside the New York Public Library, which is not only a grand building full of fine art* but also, it turns out, has my book (nice to know). And, later, Grand Central Station, seen no doubt in any number of old movies** but hitherto never brought into focus.

Looking forward to more meetings, and more time with the exhibit, and the panel and afterwards.

--John R.

*one piece that caught my eye was a portrait of the Astor who died on the Titanic, whom I've always showed admirable dignity in the face of disaster.

*as well as the occasional anime: I think BACCANO ends here.


Tom Hillman said...


it was very nice to meet you at last. I wish we had had more time to talk.


Zenopus Archives said...

Thanks for the review. I hope to make a trip there myself!