THE Bodleian Library in Oxford showed more than 1,000 book fans some of its most precious JRR Tolkien illustrations today.

To celebrate World Book Day, the library staged a special exhibition of The Lord of the Rings author’s original artwork, which was used to illustrate his popular children’s story The Hobbit.

Visitors to the library, off Broad Street, were shown a manuscript of Hobbit doodles and a rare first edition of the book.

Tolkien’s own manuscript of The Hobbit was illustrated with monochrome drawings and maps, which were also in the first British edition, published in 1937.

After the success of the American edition in 1938, the book became one of the world’s best-selling works of fiction and is now translated into nearly 40 languages.

Library spokesman Oana Romocea said: “The exhibition was very popular – we had more than 200 visitors in the first hour.”

Dr Chris Fletcher, head of Western manuscripts at the Bodleian, said: “Tolkien’s abilities as an artist are perhaps less well-known than his great talent as a writer.

“However, as our display shows, his splendid watercolours and drawings formed an essential part of his creative conception of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.”

Tolkien, an Oxford University professor, died in 1973.