Stephen Raw was commissioned by the publishers HarperCollins to redraw the ‘Part of the Shire’ map for the, then forthcoming, newly edited publication of J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Raw’s brief was to keep the original ‘feel’ of the map while making sure that legibility, when reproduced at the size of a paperback, was paramount. None of the original cartography by Christopher Tolkien for his father, J R R Tolkien, had had this in mind. Furthermore, copies made of copies coupled with an unforeseen greatly reduced size and sometimes printed on cheap paper had, over the years, made the maps difficult to read.
When the result of Raw’s ‘Shire’ map was seen by Christopher Tolkien and the publishers the decision was taken to go ahead with a further commission to redraw the remaining maps. An additional map, a key map (not for sale) was drawn to give an overview of The West of Middle-earth which was to be reproduced as before in four sections on four pages. The West of Middle-earth limited edition print will be the first – and only – time this will be available as it was originally created by Stephen Raw.
The project took a year to complete. During that time size trials were made and corrections and questions went to and fro between Stephen Raw and Christopher Tolkien.
Finally, in April 1994 the final artwork for all seven maps was delivered to the publishers. The new edition of The Lord of the Rings, published later that year, was printed with the new maps. All subsequent English editions have included them. Christopher Tolkien wrote ‘A Note on the Maps’ (page 1140 of the one-volume edition) in which he gives an explanation of the background to the maps. Raw estimates that the maps will not be redrawn for a very long time – long after the direct link between J R R Tolkien, through his son Christopher, to Stephen will have been broken. It is no exaggeration then, to describe this limited edition as a unique opportunity to purchase them.