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Middle Earthworm Posters

Archie Mercer ran the fanzine, the Middle Earthworm. These posters were produced in the 1970/1971 time-frame (dated from List of Tolkienalia with thanks to Beyond Bree). Evidence seems to indicate these had nothing to do with Middle Earthworm (besides being mentioned there) so further updates are expected.

UPDATE: TCG member garm sends along this

Just had a word with Charles (Noad). I'd asked him what might be the connection between these posters and Archie Mercer's 'Middle Earthworm'. He toddled off to look them up in his files, then got back to me.

Seems there was a letter in M.Ew no. 8, March 1970, where a correspondent asks whether anyone else has seen these Hobbit posters from the USA. Gandalf, Shadowfax etc. Her dad had bought her the Gandalf one. Cost ten shillings (50p in today's money) which she thought was a lot.

Charles also pointed me to another UK newsletter; Belladonna's Broadsheet no.3, (June 1970, p.6), in which the founder of the Tolkien Society Vera Chapman (a.k.a. Belladonna Took) mentions having seen these posters at an almost legendary London retail outlet called 'Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed'. Bella wasn't sure she'd like to have Gollum staring at her all day. Gandalf, she felt, was a more benign presence, but the picture is let down by poor drawing skills. (paraphrase).

So, there we are - no real connection between these posters (prob. of American origin) and Archie Mercer's 'Middle Earthworm', beyond the fact that they're mentioned once or twice.

Seems to me we could just as easily refer to them as the 'Belladonna' posters

UPDATE: from the illustrator of Treebeard, Simon Garbutt

Hi. Seems I can help clear up a lot of the mystery surrounding these posters.

And at the same time correct some inaccuracies in the descriptions on the Posters60.com website of the three posters of Gandalf, Gollum and Bilbo, which they describe as all being by Count Dominic Charles Peter Bon de Sousa Pernes. Of the series only Gandalf (and probably Shadowfax) are by de Sousa Pernes, I believe.

My name is Simon Garbutt. I drew the 5th in the series, Treebeard, in 1970.

Four of the posters were published in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, by Jack Drury, a local entrepreneur and Tolkien enthusiast who was managing director of the Louise James model agency in the Cloth Market, a street just off the Bigg Market.

The first poster, Gollum, was imported from the US and had been designed some years earlier by, I presume, an American artist. It had been widely available for some time by mail order through adverts in magazines such as Sunday colour supplements, Private Eye etc. So the original design concept for the series was his (or indeed hers. Who knows?)… but not, as the Posters60s website states, de Sousa Pernes. (I have written to them to correct their mistakes.)

I think that Jack Drury distributed posters as one of his many business interests. I vaguely remember that he may have had connections with a music shop in the Handyside Arcade in Newcastle (but I could be completely wrong about that). He saw that there was a growing interest in Tolkien’s work, although it was still very niche at that time (late 60s/early 70s) in the UK. He decided to commission some more posters in a similar style, with matching borders, to make a set.

I can’t remember for certain whether he commissioned Gandalf or Bilbo first. They were the 2nd and 3rd in the series but which came first I don’t know… I have a feeling that it was Bilbo.

In 1969, I think it was, Jack decided to commission a local professional commercial artist (whose name I never knew) to produce the artwork. The drawbacks of using a professional who hadn’t read the stories emerged when the first version of the artwork came back showing Bilbo wearing the ring of invisibility!!! It had to be redone to show him carrying the ring instead. But with his flowing locks and psychedelic robes he was still not very hobbit-like.

The poster of Gandalf was commissioned by Jack Drury from de Pernes, who was a Tolkien fan, but Jack was disappointed by the standard of the drawing, particularly the very short, dwarf-like legs.

Then he decided to commission a poster of Shadowfax – the most famous horse from the saga – to appeal to the young female audience. I think this one was also commissioned from de Pernes. But rather than illustrate any scene from the stories he chose to show the horse cavorting in the waves on a storm-wracked beach with a strange hybrid chimera, half-horse, half-fish.

I knew Jack because I was working at an advertising agency that often employed models from his agency. We had talked about his posters and he knew that I was interested in becoming an illustrator. One of his favourite characters from the stories, although a rather minor one, was Treebeard, so in 1970 we made him the subject of the next poster. In retrospect I think I got rather too preoccupied with the ink & gesso technique that I used to create the texture of the bark etc. and made his face look rather too benign, not scary enough, and the setting too warm and sunny.

In the end I think the Drury posters were a commercial failure. I left Newcastle a couple of years later and lost touch with Jack and Louise. I don’t know for sure what happened but Allen & Unwin started to produce Lord of the Rings posters of their own (Pauline Baynes’ maps of Middle Earth etc) and it is possible that they may have stopped him from reprinting, distributing or producing any more.

Images courtesy TCG member Fangorn. Additional information (size, artist) courtest TCG member garm. Thanks all!

Treebeard 53cm X 72.5cm. Signed 'Simon Garbutt '70'
Shadowfax 57X72cm. 'No.4 in the series'. There is a full signature, which I can't make out. It's the same artist as the one who did Gandalf. See below. Dated "'70"
Gandalf 56.5 X 72cm. signed "d. de S. Pernes, '69'
Gollum 58.5cm X 66cm neither signed nor dated, but has 'No.1 of 'The Hobbit' series' and also 'Distributed in the UK by Instore Marketing Services, 217-218 Tottenham Court Road, London W1'.
Bilbo 56.5 X 66cm. Neither signed nor dated; has 'No.2 (or possibly 3) in the series'

Last modified: 12/09/18 by Trotter
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