For a school project, a German art student hand-illuminated and bound a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion.
Benjamin Harff, who hopes to work as an illustrator and calligrapher, created this one-of-a-kind manuscript for his exam at the Academy of Art in Germany.
All in all, it took Harff one year to create his book, financing it himself.
The Tolkien Library website got in touch with Harff for a lengthy interview and obtained several photos of his deluxe edition Silmarillion. Check out an excerpt from the interview here below.
I created the deluxe-Silmarillion for my exam at the Academy of Arts. My first idea was to create illustrations for the Lord of the Rings, but I realized that the films had left a too strong impression upon me, so I could not work free. So I decided to illustrate the Silmarillion. The calligraphy was first planned to be reduced to one single initial for each chapter. So I studied the „History of Middle-Earth“-books as well as the Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien and especially his works as an illustrator, which give many indications about his imagination of Middle-Earth that cannot be derived from written words. I also tried to find out what inspired him lyrically and visually and I think you can put that into one word: nature.
It is obvious that Tolkien was also a lover of calligraphy, especially medieval. In the book „J.R.R. Tolkien – Artist and Illustrator“ I found a hint about a book concerning calligraphy Tolkien had read. So I bought the same book and worked it through.
That was the point where I had more and more fun in doing medieval calligraphy and finally I had to make a decision: Illustrations OR calligraphy. This was not easy, because I had made very excessive preparations for the oil-paintings, but my time was so short, that I could not do both.
I do not regret my decision, because I have made my exam now and there are still tons of studies and prepared wood-plates waiting for paint. One study in pencil I put along with these words, they show the taking of Arathorn by the Hill-Trolls.