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The Atlas of Middle-Earth (Revised Edition) Paperback – April 10, 2001
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
From Library Journal
Tolkien loved maps and geography played a great importance in his books. In the paperback revision of a hardcover that is out of print, cartographer Fonstad here details that aspect of these stories.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Since I am not a cartographer nor a Tolkien expert I cannot comment on the veracity of Mr. Martinez's claims; his overall picture, however, is so negative that once I had this item (the only one like it on the market currently) I spent some time comparing the book to the Lord of the Rings itself, and used it as a guide on my first complete read-through of The Hobbit since I was a child. I have walked away totally satisfied by Fonstad's book, with only a few minor criticisms. As a Tolkien fan who is working his way through a casual Tolkien survey, I can say that Mr. Martinez's vitriolic critique is totally wrong-headed. His error lies in his presuppositions: 1) that Middle-Earth is a complete and real thing, not something created by a man; he therefore assumes that Middle-Earth is always consistent and requires no interpretive work as regards its geography, and 2) that the only audience for this book is scholarly, and therefore scholarly exactitude is required in marking its worth.
On the first point, Mr. Martinez assumes that there is a "right answer" to the geography of Middle-Earth, and that clearly Fonstad has not got it. Fonstad is sweeping in her scope and level of detail, but she is upfront about her assumptions and guesses, never presenting herself as anyone more than a skilled cartographer trying to make as much sense of this varied world as possible. The amount of time Tolkien spent creating his universe, from the early 1900s to his death, should indicate that HIS errors were unavoidable without major revision. See also The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion for details on Tolkien's mistakes (geographical and otherwise), which do not destroy his work, but nonetheless do exist.
Fonstad's book is in many ways putting pieces together that weren't made to fit, and for this it should not be considered authoritative unless considering the absence of any competing atlases. Certainly someone should make a competing Atlas, but considering the contradictions inherent in Tolkien's works, it would be no more "correct" on many points than Fonstad's (though I'm sure many errors could be removed). It is in this sense that any atlas of Middle-Earth (as any illustration of Middle-Earth) should be considered "interpretive."
As for the second point, Mr. Martinez rates the product as 2 out of 5 stars and says "Tolkien readers need a new cartographical reference. Hopefully, one will come along some day that doesn't look this bad." Here Mr. Martinez is specifically speaking about Tolkien readers, not scholars; he writes his review as if the average or even enthusiastic Tolkien reader could not garner any joy from this book. Fonstad doubtless has made mistakes, especially considering that she published her revision prior to Christopher Tolkien releasing the entire "History of Middle-Earth" series. I noticed one or two general mistakes myself, though nothing that has destroyed my confidence in the general quality of her book; I must again reiterate that Fonstad consistently states where she draws her conclusions from, and therefore the reader is encouraged to test her words against Tolkien's text. Mr. Martinez's time would be better spent listing and compiling these mistakes rather than dissuading readers from consulting the only available Middle-Earth atlas.
Fonstad's book really is a work of criticism, pointing out the grandeur, the consistency, and occasionally the mistakes in Tolkien's work. When shining a light on The Hobbit, Fonstad's book shows us how truly inadequate its geography and timeline is when compared to the Lord of the Rings, where Tolkien was much more consistent. It is immeasurable how valuable Fonstad's book has been for readers like me. This is without mentioning that the scholars Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull reference her work three times in their authoritative The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion.
The best "negative" review on Amazon about this work is by Wade West "Glorfindel" who offers a highly critical four-star review that is qualified by his endorsement to purchase the book. To say it clearly: if you need a LotR map or want help visualizing Tolkien's world, get this book. Like everything else written on Tolkien, it is a start, not an end.
It's presumptuous to say that the writing of J.R.R. Tolkien can be paired with this atlas and the product of both is more than the sum of the parts. But I'll be presumptuous. I have long wondered how others might "see" Middle Earth in their mind's eye. But this atlas puts it on paper. The detail and research evident in this work makes it unique and much more valuable than the few dollars I paid.
But this is not just an atlas for lovers of Frodo and Samwise, but of a journey, there and back again, with some dwarves, This is an atlas that brings the first age of middle earth to life and gives the reader better understanding of the history of things that led to the more popular works.
Ms. Fonstad is an artist and writer of particular gifts which I'm pleased she has shared with me.
It never ocurred to me that I could finally get my hands on some maps to see the relative locations of all those places that left me slightly geographically confused. It's a fascinating background story about the author: a grad student in cartography (pardon me for explaining, map-making) who ended up doing a scholarly-like work that includes the terrain, climate and even the geology of this legendary universe.
Well, this is one you wouldn't want on a Kindle, much as I love mine. I guess you'd call it 'coffee table size' and, thankfully, it's not inconveniently thick. I have the paperback version and it does me fine.
I appreciate that this book includes a synopsis of significant events (from the books) on the pages around the map of a certain location where the texts locate those events. (Where the heck is Fangorn in relation to Moria, Rohan, Isengard and that place where Merry and Pippin were running followed by Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, for example. Whoa. Did I just say that?) They are nice clean and clear maps to look at, and the book enhances my enjoyment of this literary classic.
Mind you, I am one of a lot of enthusiasts who read the stories of Middle Earth with a helping of 'willing suspension of disbelief'. I recommend this work of fiction if you've ever wondered how the whole Lord of the Rings/Hobbit/many other background stories by Tolkien father and son, thing fits together.
Now, here is why my rating is 3 STARS instead of 5 STARS.
It just came to my attention that a significant amount of pages are MISSING - pages 19 - 36. They are certainly included in the Table of Contents, but my copy just ends at page 18 and moves on to The Second Age! I own the paperback, revised edition.
I had thought the coverage of The First Age was a bit lacking but didn't think much of it, until I was doing some research and the index pointed me to a page THAT DIDN'T EXIST!
Not sure if this was just a certain lot that have these pages missing, but I'm leary to buy another copy here on Amazon until I'm assured I'll get the ENTIRE BOOK when I purchase it.
I recommend you check your copy, if you own it.