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per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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the book of ishness
I just got ahold of a copy of "J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator" yesterday. There's a lot of his art in it that I've never seen before, including some stuff that is quite good- he did some really good landscape work, for example.

But what really intrigued me was a series of "visionary" drawings that he did very early on, before the "Silmarillion" mythology began to take form (and at least in some cases, before he's even started to record it). They are simple, iconic drawings, with titles such as "Wickedness", "Beyond", "Water, Wind and Sand", etc. In some ways, they are much like Tarot trumps. One of them- "The Edge of the World", I think is the title- bears a strong thematic resemblance to the "Fool" card in the Waite deck. This drawing is dated 1913, which I think is before he met Charles Williams, but I suppose he could have seen the card...

The authors of the book missed this connection, but since they seem to dismiss what is to me the obvious influence of Japanese prints on Tolkien's style (he owned many when he was at Oxford), I don't suppose that should surprise me.

Tolkien drew a great number of these visionary drawings in a sketchbook that he titled "The Book of Ishness". Ishness apparently was a word he used to encompasses things abstract and symbolic. "Artist and Illustrator" only reproduces some of these drawings... I'd love to see the whole set.