Of burned edges and invisible ink

I was delighted to find that Tolkien really wanted to have more fun than he was allowed to with cool gimmick maps and paper for his stories.

The Hobbit maps had to be redrawn by him because his originals had incorporated too many colours, and even then his scheme of having the general map as an endpaper and Thror’s map placed within the text of Chapter One was not followed. The publishers had decided that both maps should be used as endpapers, and in consequence his plan to ‘invisible lettering’, which would appear when Thror’s map was held up to the light, had to be abandoned.


And later on:

He cared very much that his beloved book should be published as he had intended, but once again many of his designs were modified, frequently through considerations of cost. Among items that were declared to be too expensive were red ink for the ‘fire-letters’ which appear on the Ring, and the halftone colour process that would be necessary to reproduce the facsimile Tolkjien had made of ‘The Book of Mazarbul’, a burnt and tattered volume that (in the story) is found in the Mines of Moria.

He was much saddened by this, for he had spent many hours making this facsimile, copying out the pages in runes and elvish writing, and then deliberately damaging them, burning the edges and smearing the paper with substances that looked like dried blood. All this work was now wasted.

-Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, p.220

You can see a really nice shot of this book and the page in question, which was later given a moment in the spotlight of the first Lord of the Rings movie.

Growing up, my own father would make treasure maps for us on our birthday and then burn the edges to give them an “old pirate map look”. I loved it! Where’s the lighter?