Decades before Peter Jackson directed his epic adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien was involved with the first ever dramatisation of his trilogy, but its significance was not realised in the 1950s and the BBC’s audio recordings are believed to have been destroyed.

Now an Oxford academic has delved into the BBC archives and discovered the original scripts for the two series of 12 radio episodes broadcast in 1955 and 1956, to the excitement of fellow scholars.

Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece was dramatised by producer Terence Tiller, whose scribbled markings on the manuscript no doubt reflect his detailed discussions with the author in correspondence and meetings. Among the typed pages is a sheet in Tolkien’s hand, with red crossings-out, showing his own reworking of a scene.

Stuart Lee, a reader in the English faculty at Oxford University, said: “They said the scripts had been lost, but they have survived – the only professional dramatisation of The Lord of the Rings made during his [Tolkein’s](sic) lifetime. It was not seen as important by the BBC then. It shows how reception of the book has changed – minor interest in 1955-56, now a global phenomenon, with Amazon reportedly investing more than $1bn in the latest series.”

More about this in the article and in the upcoming The Great Tales Never End: Essays in Memory of Christopher Tolkien

Pleased to see the Guardian keeping up the fine tradition of spelling Tolkien's name wrong at least once ... -tolkien-drama-discovered