This is a pretty incredible find: a map of Middle Earth featuring annotations from its creator, J.R.R. Tolkien was recently discovered in a copy of a book owned by illustrator Pauline Baynes, which sheds some light on some of the inspiration behind it.
Baynes had been tasked with illustrations by publisher Allen & Unwin in 1970, and worked with Tolkien to her own map of Middle Earth. Tolkien suggested various edits regarding the locations of cities and flora and fauna of the land.
The notes also suggest that there were some real-world inspirations for the world: Hobbiton was to be located roughly in the same place as Oxford, while other real cities stood in for other locations:
The novelist also uses Belgrade, Cyprus, and Jerusalem as other reference points, and according to Blackwell’s suggests that “the city of Ravenna is the inspiration behind Minas Tirith - a key location in the third book of the Lord of The Rings trilogy”.
Tolkien’s epic has often been described as a sort of alternative mythology for the British Isles, and it stands to reason that there were some real-world parallels which he drew in from his surroundings. If anything, they served as useful reference points.
Image Credit: Blackwell’s Rare Books