Evolution and story of the Tolkien monogram from 1906 to 1981

Here is the story of the Tolien Momogram and it's evolution, from the three letters to the runic and highly sophisticated monogram of John Ronald R Tolkien

It all started with the drawings made by JrrTolkien he signed with his own sigature :

1906, first monogram signature of tolkien


Tolkien is aged 14 when he draw this sketch of Lyme Regis Harbour. The monogram is a simple J without dot, R and T.


1910. Signed with full name Ronald Tolkien !

1910-jrrt tolkien signature monogram ronald

Tolkien is 18 and have a huge passion for landscape drawing. Here is a signature of him without monogram but simply Ronald Tolkien ! (source)


1911.Rolls Royce style for a farm drawing

1911-lambs farm gedling phoenix jrrt tolkien monogram

This farm is known as lamb's farm (source), later baptised as phoenix farm. There is another drawing made of this farm in 1913.

the tolkien monogram features a double R, a bigger R and a smaller R, just like Rolls Royce logo which also appears in 1911 !


1912.Sketchbook and double R

keystone of gargoyle jrrt tolkien monogram

First apparition of the double R in a mirror effect. The lower part of the monogram is symetrical and the J got it's point on it.


1912.Tolkien in Love - The monogram evolution

1912 undertenishness jrrt tolkien monogram

1912 is a very special time for Tolkien : he fell in love with Edith in 1908 and wasn't allow to see her for years otherwise he would have to cancel his studies at Oxford.

He waits for his majority birthday (21) to make his wedding proposal to Edith. Source


1913. Tolkien is in love : grown up, new family and financial stability

1913-jrrt tolkien monogram four dots grownupishness

Tolkien asked Edith, she says yes and a page is turned : This is the end of his irresponsible student life.(source). The monogram did evolve and we can notice the first appearance of the 4 dots in the signature, wich are also in the text of the drawing as a separator.


What the 4 dots means in Tolkien's Runes

Tolkien started studying Finish Langage as he wants to read the "Kevala" a Finnish oral folklore and mythology. He also studied the Finish Runes Language.

tengwar four dots meaning jrrt tolkien

The Tolkien's Tengwar language he created give an accurate meaning of the four dots (source) : In the King’s letter documents, four dots in a diamond formation are used to indicate a strong pause as punctuation.

The appearance of the four dots in tolkien's life match the time of big changes in his life : his wedding with Edith, not a student anymore able to earn his life, the joy of a young man !

drawinside-jrrt-tolkien monogram print

1913. Four dots twice in the Tokien monogram

Another version of the happy young man signature with tha apparition of a second dots pack. This symbol really is connected to Tolkien's personnal life  : his wedding's to come. Theses two symbols may represent Ronald and Edith, their union, the King and Queen finally come together.1913-jrrt tolkien monogram signature four dots packs


1914. the book of Ishness tolkien monogram

1914 book of ishness tokien monogram

 A very symetrical monogram in an illustration of the first text about the middle earth genesis.

A strong pause to come with the following years with first world War, Tolkien getting married before his departure to WWI. I will turns back in 1916 in U.K for health recovery.


1926. Tolkien monogram in 1926

tolkien monogram 1926

Tolien had time for writing just after WW1, during his health recovery. He start to write the hobbit and mend up his monogram. A flame could be seen here over the "J", one of the rare apparition of the flame on all his monogram versions.


 1937. Tolkien monograms in the Hobbit

Theses are pictures found in the "Hobbit" first edition, published in 1937. A first example inside the hobbiton illustration :

1937-tolkien monogram hobbiton accross the water


We also find several distinct others monogram, such as on the map "wilderland".

1937-wilderland jrrt tolkien monogram

the trolls shows an interresting version with a dot on the top of the "J"

1937-the trolls tolkien monogram jrrt


And a tiny monogram found on the dustcover of the book : we are getting  closer to the modern monogram !

1937 monogram  dustcover of the hobbit tolkien jrrt

1938. Conversation with Smaug, last handwritten jrrt monogram version

A very interresting version here with a picture of the 1938 colored edition of the hobbit, featuring a new monogram in "conversation with Smaug"

jrrt tolkien monogram 1937 conversation smaug tolkien

 This is as far as i found on the web, the last version of the monogram handwritten by Tolkien and it actually is very close to the modern monogram we all know :

The border of the "T", the down part of the "J" finishing in a teardrop.

1957-1960 Unsigned artworks

unsigned artworks tolkien monogram 1957 1960

The two pictures ahead are artworks drawn by Tolkien in the 50's. Both are not signed and don't mention any monogram. He seems to not use the monogram in his late years.

1973 - 1979. The calendars serie of pictures

Unfortunately, all the pictures of this book are dated of 1937 or 1938 with few drawings of the 60's without any monogram signature. (pdf document here ).


1976,First appearance of the JRRT Monogram in the books

1976, three years after Tolkien passed away, the modern version of the Tolkien monogram appeared on the title page of  the Book "Drawings by Tolkien: Catalogue of an Exhibition of Drawings by J.R.R. Tolkien" - Oxford: Ashmolean Museum - London: National Book League. - ( source on this forum )

This is the first time a monogram appears on a book and not on Tolkien's pictures : this was the Tolkien's signature for his drawing not for his books.

first appearance tolkien monogram 1976

The picture shows a first version made by a graphic Typo designer (computer was still at pre-historic age)

This is a mirror view : The "J" is on the wrong side and dots packs are on the top left and down right side. It looks like the monogram was printed in reverse ! Tolkien choices or Publisher choices or a mistake...?

It's also a logo designed after his death by s graphic designer. They may have been inspired by the following monograms of tolkien to design this one :

  • "Conversation with smaug" for the general shape of the logo
  • "Grownupishness" for the dots packs
  • "Pageant house gardens" for using twice the dot packs. But still don't see the choice for placing the dot packs.
  • "The trolls" for the design of the flame on the J

 summary-jrrt-tolkien-monogram-origins mix

1980. Unfinished tales, first edition.

Remove the dustcover of the book and it will appear ! Here is the monogram without the 2 packs of 4 dots, but printed on the correct side : The J is on the correct side !

Unfinished tales (1980) -jrrt monogram packs of 4 dots

The Tolkien Estate and Editors were still working together on the new Monogram and this time, it wasn't printed in reverse mode. They deliberately forget to put the packs of Dots !


1981.First edition of the unpublished Tolkien Letters : here it is !


Published in 1981, the Designer has been asked to add something more to the Monogram and got inspired by the packs of dots Tolkien used in 1913. This is the final version of the monogram since then : I've matched some of theses published in 90's 2000's and 2000+ and they all match perfectly this model.

Other Monogram probable origins

I've stick to Tolkien history throughout his drawings but you can get other possibilities when surfing on the web ! Here are the possible other origins :

  • Origins in the Chinese symbol "shú" (source)
  • Dots are petal flowers (source)
  • The person who design it for publishers is still a mystery..even for thoses who knows everything about Tolkien.. (source)
  • My own version of the Tolkien monogram with stories inside...

 Jrrt Tolkien monogram ink drawing art print drawinside

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