A SERIES of fascinating J. R. R. Tolkien artefacts have sold for a combined total of $36,314 (£26,917) at auction.

The five lengthy letters, all signed by the Oxford-based author, were written between 1955 and 1968.

They sold for between $2,700 and $13,000 at the Boston-based RR auction, which closed late on Tuesday, local time.

In one, the Lord of the Rings writer corresponds with the artist Mary Fairburn, who had painted several scenes from the classic trilogy.

In one letter, dated May 24, 1968, Tolkien - who was generally wary of potential illustrators - writes: “I think the samples of illustrations you sent me are splendid. They are better pictures and also show far more attention to the text than any that have yet been submitted to me.

"My publishers and I decided long ago not to have The Lord of the Rings illustrated…After seeing your specimens I am beginning to change my mind".

The other letters were sent to a Baronne A. Baeyens, K. F. Mawson, 'Mr. Mitchell' and British Ambassador Oscar Morland.

In the letter to artist Mary Fairburn, the Oxford University professor continued: "I am reluctantly sending back the pictures I have received. I suppose the three drawings that I have not yet seen are also included in your debt? I would beg you to let me see them."

The identity of the buyer(s) is unknown.