Vermont Softworks:

blog entries: cartography

Christopher Tolkien, cartographer

Probably at this point everyone who knows anything about Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien’s youngest son, knows that he died this last weekend at the ripe but disappointed age” of 95. (See LotR §1.03.015.)

I’ve been very happy to see that many of the obituaries and social-media posts have mentioned Christopher’s role as a cartographer — or indeed as the cartographer of Middle-earth. Today’s Tor article by Jonathan Crowe, Celebrating Christopher Tolkien’s Cartographic Legacy,” though, is the only article I’ve seen that’s focussed entirely on the importance of Christopher’s map-making — not only to his father’s tales of Middle-earth and Beleriand, but also to the modern fantasy genre as a whole.

I celebrate this well-deserved attention. A few years ago, in fact, in a private letter to Christopher, I called him the father’ of Middle-earth cartography and scholarship.” In response, Christopher was very careful and very humble: …


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Well, I’m back

I don’t, as a rule, discuss personal or family matters here; that’s the role for my personal blog. Nevertheless, I feel I should mention that I’m more-or-less back” from an unexpected journey health-wise. Details — no doubt too many for some readers, and never enough for others — are at a specialized set of pages at PostHope​.com. No more need be said here.

To celebrate, …


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Paper given

Paper given at the 15th annual Tolkien in Vermont conference at UVM:

Mapping Mordor: Normalizing Tolkien’s maps as the first step in examining his worldbuilding method of construction-by-revision; or, Yet further confirmation (as if we needed it) that Tolkien had no master plan, did not first make a map and make the narrative agree,” and, in fact, never did produce a map that exactly portrays what’s described in The Lord of the Rings


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Another paper given

Paper given at the 1st annual Tolkien Symposium prior to ICMS Kalamazoo:

The river Swanfleet: A journey from the Misty Mountains to flat fenlands and half-way back again; or, How the discovery of Tolkien’s annotated map of Middle-earth by Blackwell’s Rare Books in Oxford extricates Pauline Baynes’ cartographic reputation from the marsh of Nîn-in-Eilph


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Paper given…

Paper given at the 14th annual Tolkien in Vermont Conference at UVM: Far-away places with strange-sounding names: Endonyms (autonyms), exonyms (xenonyms), and the romance of Tolkien’s toponymy of Middle-earth; or, On the redundancy of Bree-hill, the heady topper of the Brandywine, and how the discovery of Tolkien’s annotated map of Middle-earth by Blackwell’s Rare Books in Oxford extricates Pauline Baynes’s cartographic reputation from the fens of Nîn-in-Eilph.” …


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On reading Here be cartographers”

Nicholas Tam, occasional blogger at Ntuple Indemnity, wrote an immensely enjoyable post entitled Here be cartographers: Reading the fantasy map” last … well, not last” anything: Last April of 2011. You know you’re reading a long-form” blog, when it’s not until the seventh and eighth paragraphs that a writer tells you what he plans to write about: So when we open up a novel to find a map, we can think of the map as an act of narration. But what kind of narration?” …


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The climate of Middle-earth

It seems that one Radagast the Brown (of Rhosgobel & The Cabot Institute) has published a paper presenting the results of his climate simulation modelling for Middle-earth. Though obviously mock-serious, the modelling and the science are real enough. Definitely worth a few of your hard-won free minutes.…


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Facsimile of Tolkien’s full 1956 letter to Cotton Minchin

The American auction house RR Auction recently sold Tolkien’s 1956 letter to H. Cotton Minchin. Much of the text of this letter has been available in the form of Humphrey Carpenter’s abridgment of Tolkien’s draft of the letter. As part of the auction, RR Auction made available good-quality scans of all five pages of the letter, affording us the opportunity of reading the full text of Tolkien’s final (beautifully penned) draft for what I believe is the first time.…


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