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The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

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J.R.R. Tolkien's complete artwork for his magisterial novel, published on the sixtieth anniversary of The Lord of the Rings

As he wrote The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien’s mental pictures often found expression in drawing, from rough sketches made within the manuscript to more finished illustrations. Only a few of these were meant for publication; most were aids to help Tolkien conceive his complex story and keep it consistent. Many do not illustrate the final text, but represent moments of creation, illuminating Tolkien’s process of writing and design. In addition to pictorial sketches, numerous maps follow the development of the Shire and the larger landscape of Middle-earth, while inscriptions in runes and Elvish script, and "facsimile" leaves from the burned and blood-stained Book of Mazarbul, support Tolkien’s pose as an "editor" or "translator" of ancient records.
The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien collects these drawings, inscriptions, maps, and plans in one deluxe volume. More than 180 images are included, all of them printed in color from high-quality scans and photographs, more than half not previously published. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, two of the world’s leading Tolkien scholars, have edited the book and provide an expert introduction and comments.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2015

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About the author

Wayne G. Hammond

24 books42 followers
Wayne G. Hammond was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised in the suburb of Brooklyn. In 1975 he received his Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors from Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio, where he majored in English. In 1976 he received his Master of Arts in Library Science degree from the School of Library Science of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and from that year has been Assistant Librarian in the Chapin Library (rare books and manuscripts) at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He married Christina Scull in December 1994. His publications include The Graphic Art of C.B. Falls (1982), J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography (1993), and Arthur Ransome: A Bibliography (2000). He is also the co-author or co-editor with his wife of numerous works by and about J.R.R. Tolkien, and has designed a wide variety of books, exhibition catalogues, posters, and other printed materials. He has won a Clyde S. Kilby Research Grant from the Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton College, and is a five-time winner of scholarship awards from the Mythopoeic Society.

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5 stars
1,491 (71%)
4 stars
387 (18%)
3 stars
146 (7%)
2 stars
28 (1%)
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28 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 77 reviews
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,109 reviews44.3k followers
April 23, 2017
To anyone reading this, I sincerely advise you not to buy this book. If you’re interested in the art of Tolkien then try The Art of the Hobbit.

That book actually has artwork in it. Tolkien did many illustrations for The Hobbit, and whilst they’re not exactly masterpieces, they show how he pictured his world. At least, in a way that his limited abilities would allow him. Tolkien was wonderful with maps and letters, but he could not create environment or characters very well. He was a master of the word, not the image. The point is, the images of the Hobbit are not fantastic pieces, but Tolkien did actually intend for them to accompany his works.

Some of these bits, on the other hand, were never meant to be seen. The cover art images of the original three books are the only thing of remark in here. Most of the “art” in this book are simple lines on a page or some very vague, and I mean vague, sketches of maps and some scenery. It’s not artwork. If anything, it’s would be more appropriate to call this a sketchbook. These were more for Tolkien’s own point of reference rather than to be seen by his readers.

I don’t take one star reviews lightly, especially when they are of one of my favourite authors. This, however, really isn’t worth reading. It’s just a bunch of half-finished pieces that wouldn’t have been great to finish with. And also the spine and slip case don’t match up with the previous edition. They’re the wrong way round! (book nerd problems!)
September 15, 2020
This is a beautifully presented book, full of artwork from Tolkien, that he used to aid him in his writing of "The Lord of the Rings." I must add, this book smells pretty good, too. I had this bought for me as a gift, and I finally found the time in my reading schedule to read it this month.

There are some gorgeous pictures of the vast landscape of Middle Earth, and, some rather interesting maps. I especially enjoyed the pages with the amazing dust covers displayed on them.

I love Tolkien and his wonderful Middle Earth, and quite honestly, it has had a major impact on my life.
Profile Image for Neil R. Coulter.
1,055 reviews100 followers
September 12, 2020
The only thing better than reading Tolkien is reading a book about Tolkien. And when it comes to books about Tolkien, the husband-and-wife team of Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull have written some of the best. I’d previously enjoyed their beautiful book The Art of The Hobbit, and the next volume, The Art of The Lord of the Rings, sat on my shelf for quite a while, just waiting for the right time to enjoy it. After a summer of heavy academic reading and preparation for new courses I’m designing and teaching, it was refreshing to return to Tolkien’s creation of Middle-Earth.

The Art of The Lord of the Rings is somewhat different from the earlier book about The Hobbit because Tolkien didn’t complete full-color, watercolor illustrations for the publication of LOTR as he had for The Hobbit. That means that the content of this volume is much more preliminary, not leading to the kind of classic Hobbit illustrations we see so often reprinted. This was fine with me, though, because Hammond and Scull have structured the book to go in story order, so reading through it is a fun way to revisit the story, even if many of the illustrations are somewhat minimal (page 49, for example).

A lot of pages in the book are devoted to Tolkien’s map-making, which worked hand-in-hand with his writing of the prose. In Tolkien’s mind, he absolutely had to know what the geography of Middle-Earth was in order to continue moving his characters toward the conclusion of the story. Maps of Middle-Earth were not an afterthought, pieced together from details in the story; they were integral through the whole process. It makes arriving at a chapter title like “The First Map of Middle-Earth” quite a thrill. That said, however, I’ve read the twelve-volume History of Middle-Earth series, in which Tolkien’s son Christopher can easily write pages and pages (and pages) about the smallest details of the map-making. As interested as I am in the creation of Middle-Earth, Christopher’s level of detail sometimes wearied me. Hammond and Scull, on the other hand, write more generally, not getting so lost in the minutiae, and their writing also benefits from its placement right next to color reproductions of the draft maps they’re discussing. So I found this book a much more pleasant way to understand Tolkien’s maps.

The pages I enjoyed the most in The Art of The Lord of the Rings were the ones that showed how Tolkien carefully prepared elements that would appear in the book, along with the final pages that show his development of ideas for the dustjackets. Though he didn’t complete any watercolor illustrations for the publication (which is really a shame when I see how far he got with some wonderfully evocative pictures—“Old Man Willow” (42); “Moria Gate” (64); “The Forest of Lothlorien in Spring” (88); “Orthanc” (106)—he did create various elements of calligraphy and other design-work for publication. I was fascinated to look over his shoulder in those processes of design to see what aspects bothered him and what delighted him. Also, because my favorite boxed set of LOTR features the dustjackets Tolkien designed, I loved seeing the thought that went into those designs—much more care than I would have imagined!

Overall, what The Art of The Lord of the Rings conveys is a sense of a master creator at work. We get to see some of the tensions Tolkien experienced. He had a concept of the perfect ideal that he wanted to create; but he also felt the limitations of deadlines, money, publisher’s demands, his other jobs and family duties, and his own perceived limitations, particularly in the artwork. It’s interesting to see how often his publisher would request something from him, and he would first respond, “No no, I have neither time nor inclination to work on that right now”; but then you can see how the idea worked into his mind, and he would send another response, saying, “Ok, I think this should be done, and I will see what I can do by a certain date, but no promises.” There was always a higher standard, a more perfect realization of his idea, just out of his reach, and his creative process moved not in a smooth line toward that, but in fits and starts, periods of intense, productive work, and frustrating periods of no work at all. I’m sure in his mind this also fit into his theology—that there is a perfect Creator, and we are but “subcreators,” following after the perfect one as best we can.

I enjoyed reading and discussing this book with a rather bookish friend here at GR. :)
Profile Image for daisy.
574 reviews100 followers
February 6, 2018
Enjoyable enough, but not entirely what I was expecting when I purchased this.

It's mostly full of half-finished scribbles and sketches drawn by Tolkien, a lot of which were more of a look into his thought process as he wrote than actual pieces of artwork he intended for others to see. There are a few of his finished paintings, which are gorgeous, but I was hoping to see more of those tbqh. Additionally, the dialogue felt? a little bit redundant. I would have much rather had a book full of his finished LotR artwork, especially considering the price tag ($50) of this one... yowch.
Profile Image for Sud666.
1,920 reviews156 followers
February 24, 2023
"The Art of Lord of the Rings" was not what I thought it would be. I envisioned a book filled with beautiful illustrations of LOTR. Instead, it is an interesting look at how J.R.R. Tolkien developed the amazing world of LOTR.

In essence, these are the 180 images of notes that Tolkien made as he was creating his world. The interesting thing is that more than half of these images were never published before, as they were just sketches that blossomed into ideas.

So as a few examples of what you will find- how Tolkien was able to create the Elvish script for the inscription on the One Ring. I especially enjoyed the various maps of the Shire or Mordor and the various stages of the world-building that eventually developed into the fully fleshed-out epic that is LOTR.

While this is not a book that would appeal to a casual fan of the work-as the illustrations are mostly sketches and the information is fascinating to those who are huge fans of the work. Thus if you ever wished to know things like how the maps of the world, how he developed Helm's Deep, the artistic styles he wanted for Minas Tirith, Rohan, Gondor, etc.

If this sounds interesting then you will appreciate this oversized volume that looks into the mind of Tolkein and his notes on developing the greatest work of modern fantasy around.

Profile Image for Noctvrnal.
183 reviews12 followers
February 7, 2023
A deep dive into Tolkien's progress on creating maps, letterings and cover designs (and sometimes more) for The Lord of the Rings. There's not much "visual" art in this tome, nor there is a lot of it in the book itself (compared to The Hobbit) so some less dedicated fans might find this book boring or not as entertaining simply because Tolkien didn't produce much artwork for LotR in general. However, I, at least personally, found this really interesting. It brings Tolkien the creator to the forefront, shows that he too changed his mind about things, drew and redrew, and even discarded ideas that didn't fit narrative he was going for. It shows Tolkien as a struggling artist at times and I think it's a very good thing for fans to see (or at least some of them who think of Tolkien as nearly a godly figure). This book is very human and also very interesting at the same time, I learned quite a bit about Tolkien's work process when it comes to illustrations of all kinds and it gives depth to the story itself. The artwork (and mostly sketches) were produced in high quality here so that is also a bonus because you can really see almost all the details. Good read.
Profile Image for Dr. Andrew Higgins .
166 reviews32 followers
November 9, 2015
Tolkien employed several world building components in the 'soup' of the secondary world he built for his life-long work on his legendarium. It is the specific craftsmanship and 'Elvish skill' of Tolkien's invention and development of each of these components that gives his secondary-world of Arda a much explored sense of 'depth' and 'verisimilitude' that has given Modern Fantasy an incredible work to explore and re-discover again and again. Each of these components (text, invented languages, para-texts) have been and are the subjects of much exploration and more work is to be done on exploring how these components work as a dialectic whole which has created an immersive secondary world that has been the blueprint and inspiration for Modern Fantasy literature. Thanks to the brilliant work of Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull Tolkien scholarship has been given three incredible resources that show how important a part the visual played in Tolkien's world-building. First in 1995 with J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator (London: HarperCollins) and then in 2011 with The Art of the Hobbit (also from London: HarperCollins). To this is now added this brilliant volume which offers many of the drawings and illustrations that Tolkien sketched as he was writing The Lord of the Rings. I highly recommend this beautifully constructed volume which follows the narrative of The Lord of the Rings and offers the pictures, illustrations, and (most importantly and interestingly for this reviewer) maps that Tolkien sketched out as his 'tale grew in the telling' and exhibits the focus and detail Tolkien put into the geography of his expanding world. As a Tolkien linguist I was especially interested in seeing sketches of texts that shows Tolkien's use of his nexus of invented languages - such as in the brilliant drafts of The Ring Inscription and Tolkien's attempt (in the style of the new Romancer H Rider Haggard) of creating the distressed and bloodied pages of The Book of Mazarbul that the Fellowship finds in Moria (which sadly was not reproduced in the original volumes). Seeing some of the original pages (and various versions of Tolkien's always interesting handwriting) was also very exciting. Given the visual was a key way Tolkien conceived and played out his mythology (sometimes using the visual to work out ideas) this volume is an important part of Tolkien scholarship and one that I will be referring to again and again (I am currently working through the three versions of The King's Letter Hammond and Scull provide in Tengwar). I applaud Wayne Hammond and Christine Scull for their excellent work on another volume that offers much exploration and study.
Profile Image for Marko Vasić.
433 reviews129 followers
December 31, 2020
This atlas and textbook by versed duo Hammond & Scull is an excellent guideline for those who would like better to scrutinise the process of Tokien’s creation of the Middle-Earth’s maps, and illustrations regarding The Lord of the Rings books. Similar as in The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, thus here as well are enclosed comprehensive and quite useful texts and tales regarding the very nascency of the illustrations and maps. The reader will find Tolkien’s design for the pages from the Book of Mazarbul, conceptual solutions for the dust jacket of the first TLOTR editions, Tolkien’s drawings of Barad-dur, Ortanc, Dunharrow, Shelob’s lair and much, much more.
Profile Image for Grace.
17 reviews25 followers
September 10, 2019
Who needs this book? Well, truthfully, probably no one.

But is it still wicked cool to see a little bit of the world-building process of Tolkien? Yes, yes, it was.
Profile Image for Keith.
606 reviews3 followers
July 29, 2021
Stars: 4

This book is great for LOTR fans (specifically of the books, I don't think fans of the movies alone would get a lot from it), but may be of minor interest only if you don't appreciate the LOTR. Calling this artwork is misleading, because much of it clearly wasn't intended to be artwork and was closer to sketches (often very rough sketches) to help Tolkien visualize what he was writing. I still think the book is very good, but people should look up a few of the pictures from the book online before buying it so they know what they are getting.

The book fluctuated between being awesome and I was scrutinizing every map to inconsequential and tedious at times. Luckily, they didn't bog done the book with too much writing. They gave enough information to explain what you were looking at and a decent amount of the thought process behind it. I would start to lose interest when they'd be describing how in this map, this river got moved 2 cm to the east and now this area is in the northwest of Mordor and stuff like that. Sometimes it would be interesting, but there is a limit to how much I want to hear about minute changes in the geography. You can always speed read or skip those sections if you don't like them though.

Some of the artwork was very good, and almost all of it was interesting. There were occasionally pictures included that I didn't think were worthy of inclusion, such as one where it was the first time Tolkien had drawn a certain mountain, but it was a tiny little sketch that had like two lines drawn. It'd be something a three year old would draw if you said draw a mountain.

My favorite was reading and seeing what went into the original dust jackets. I think those were the most informative, and they have way deeper meaning than I ever gave them credit for. I've seen them plenty of time but just appreciated that they looked nice. Turns out there is a ton of symbolism that I never bothered thinking about. I'll use the Two Towers as an example.

I always assumed the two towers being referenced were Orthanc and Barad-Dur, but they are actually Orthanc and Minas Morgul. Orthanc is the more obvious of the two since the Hand of Saruman is beneath it. More subtly, the key to Orthanc is pictured on the tower. Minas Morgul makes a whole lot more sense than Barad-Dur once you find out that's what it is. There are nine rings on the tower, symbolizing the nine rings of the Nazgul. The biggest ring is for the witch-king of Angmar. Before becoming Minas Morgul, it was a Gondorian fort named Minas Ithil, meaning Tower of the Moon. It was white. The tower on the cover is white, and has a moon above it. Beneath it, the moon is being eclipsed., symbolizing the enemy occupation. Not all of the explanations are that in depth or enlightening, but some are.

Any serious or semi-serious fan of the LOTR books would likely be pretty fascinated by seeing the places from the books drawn by Tolkien himself.

Profile Image for Jaslyn.
56 reviews
July 30, 2017
am secretly disappointed cuz but 5 stars for tolkien
Profile Image for Lauren E.
27 reviews3 followers
June 25, 2021
Read in isolation...a little overwhelming. Looking forward to using this in a side by side reread of LOTR.
Profile Image for Elliot.
143 reviews18 followers
September 6, 2020
This book is a very thorough and scholarly collection of all of Tolkien's drawings, illustrations, maps, and even scribbles that he made in relation to The Lord of the Rings. Most of them I have not seen before. Tolkien's skill as an artist can vary, though his few finished drawings, often done in colored pencil, are all pleasant pieces, though I don't think anyone will call them masterpieces. Much of the material included in this book is material that Tolkien created in order to help him write. The most interesting pieces from this category are the maps, in my opinion. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, are the many scribbles and hurried drawings often found in the margins of the manuscript. The goal of this book is provide the complete collection of Tolkien's art, but the word "art" can hardly be used to describe many of these illustrations which were only intended for the author's use as a tool.

I read this book side by side with The Lord of the Rings (the book is organized in the book's chronological order). As such, I found it interesting and often useful because it provided some visual imagery to compliment and occasionally clarify Tolkien's writing. However, I imagine I would hardly enjoy reading this book on its own because so many of the figures included are not interesting in and of themselves as pieces of art, but only because they inform the reader about The Lord of the Rings.

Physically, this book is lovely with thick glossy paper and large, sharp pictures of the artwork. It might make for a nice coffee table book except for the fact that the text is dry and academic and that the quality of the illustrations vary so much.

I would not recommend this book to someone with only a passing interest in The Lord of the Rings. I suspect they would find it boring and unimpressive. It earns only a low three stars from me.
Profile Image for Liisa.
665 reviews45 followers
March 10, 2018
I was about to see The Lord of the Rings performed on stage (it ended up being the best theater experience of my life!), and to prepare for that I finally read The Art of the Lord of the Rings, which goes through the writing process of TLOTR in as much detail as possible and includes all the survived illustrations, maps and runes that Tolkien drew while he was creating the story. I really learned to appreciate what an immense job it had been and how precise Tolkien was with every little detail. Precise are also Hammond and Scull – this should satisfy even the biggest Tolkien fans! For me however it went a bit too deep and I felt slightly bored towards the end. Still, it’s a gorgeous book and I’m glad to own it and to have read it at last.
Profile Image for Anne (ReadEatGameRepeat).
583 reviews47 followers
August 29, 2022
I wasn't sure what to expect from this one. I got this book by accident when I wanted to buy a different book and idk it said Lord of the Rings so I was intrigued so I kept it. I did enjoy it overall, it had some nice little tidbits of information I didn't know and the art that was there was pretty - but there wasn't as much art as I thought there would be - like a lof of the art was JRRT writing in elvish or Dwarfish and a lot of sketches on scraps of paper. Like yea it was interesting but I also expected a bit more?
Profile Image for Chloe.
369 reviews80 followers
October 22, 2021
This one didn't have quite as much charm as the Hobbit art book for me because it had a lot less actual art and a lot more just rough sketches with less of a balance between text and images which made this one more slow to get through. But the art is really interesting to see and it's all very well researched and compiled. I love the maps and dust jacket designs especially.
Profile Image for J.A..
Author 1 book62 followers
February 5, 2023
I checked this out to compare it with the exhibit catalogue from the Tolkien manuscript exhibit I was fortunate enough to attend at Marquette University. Some of the items are the same, such as the pages from the Book of Mazarbul. If you are a Tolkien fan but could not attend the exhibit, this is worth a look.
Profile Image for Alexander Pyles.
Author 12 books37 followers
January 6, 2020
A very deep dive into Tolkien's personal art and sketches of both the languages of LOTR and the world. It was interesting to read up on his process as well as see what made it into the books themselves v.s. what did not.
Profile Image for Gerry Sacco.
225 reviews9 followers
September 3, 2021
A must have for Tolkien fans. The art is superb and the background information is really interesting. Reading through, it makes you want to watch the movies and read the books all over again.

Perfect coffee table book as well.
Profile Image for Mariana.
572 reviews70 followers
December 7, 2021
Este libro lo leí en 2019 y por alguna extraña razón me olvidé totalmente de ponerlo aquí 🤦🏻‍♀️. Es una joya, verdadera obra de arte y especial para los fans de Tolkien 😍.
Profile Image for Flarion.
31 reviews1 follower
August 7, 2017
The artworks shown in the book are awesome and a must for all fans! The descriptions however have been written in a style which is too academic. However, it provides many many details!
Profile Image for Ateka Siddiq.
6 reviews13 followers
July 8, 2021
I wanted to be in a club and have this read with other LOTR readers. Even though the illustrations lack much artistry influence, it still keeps up to a few historical backgrounds that are worth exploring and pondering upon. A great read to know more about a few artsitic backgrounds of LOTR.
Profile Image for Kam Yung Soh.
683 reviews33 followers
November 16, 2015
A marvelous book containing artwork by Tolkien that he produced to aid him in the writing of the book, The Lord of the Rings. It contains sketches of scenes and landscapes and especially maps of Middle Earth that covers the story he was telling at various levels of detail.

In contrast with the earlier book, The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien , most of the artwork produced here was not meant to be printed; they are meant more as a guide for Tolkien to refer to as he was writing the book, helping him to keep details, dates and place descriptions consistent.

Even then, the description of various places, like Orthanc, Minas Tirith, the Paths of the Dead, etc. kept changing as Tolkien revisited and revised the text, as shown by the sketches he made (and discarded) reproduced in this book.

The book ends by looking at the various designs he produced as dust jackets for the book (which was initially printed in three parts). Also reproduced is the King's Letter which Aragon, as King, wrote to Samwise, as Mayor of the Shire.

An enjoyable book that, through the sketches and drawings, allow the reader to capture a part of the writing process that Tolkien went through in writing the book.
Profile Image for Todd Ross.
246 reviews5 followers
May 10, 2016
This is a seriously in depth book about the art JRR Tolkien made himself for his books and world. There is a large focus on maps and drawings of buildings Tolkien made as reference. And incredible detail about the notes Tolkien left about the drawings and tidbits of information on the items in the drawing and the text that relates to the piece.

This is more of an academic piece on Tolkien and less of a fluff filled art book. If you are interested in in depth analysis in Tolkien's art, this is definitely the book for you!
Profile Image for Jaimie.
1,544 reviews16 followers
February 24, 2017
Previously, I read the author's comprehensive book on J.R.R. Tolkien's art and was quite pleased with it, but this book fell somewhat short. Clearly, Tolkien's artwork for the Lord of the Rings was never meant to be included in any sort of publication (besides the map), since they aren't more than prepatory sketches. Ironically, the few paintings that Tolkien did complete (and do appear to be finished artwork) were not included in publications unil their much later use for promotional merchandise...
Profile Image for Maarit.
670 reviews16 followers
November 1, 2015
A great book for all Tolkien fans. The pictures Tolkien drew while he was writing "The Lord of the Rings" are more like sketches and doodles in miscalleneous papers that helped him to plan the story and also how it's places would really look like as he said he didn't have time nor want to fully illustrate "The Lord of the Rings". Map sketches and book cover desings are very cool looking and also all the other stuff will certainly satisfy any Tolkien fan who likes to know more about his works.
Profile Image for Leaflet.
378 reviews
February 12, 2018
The title is misleading. This book is mostly filled with sketches - some very rudimentary - that Tolkien drew to help flesh out his ideas. I lost interest in the text after awhile, but I enjoyed studying the drawings with a magnifying glass (which I highly recommend using unless you have ultra-keen eyesight). Using one enhanced my enjoyment of the drawings a hundredfold as many of them are tiny and faint.
Profile Image for W.G. Saraband.
Author 1 book31 followers
January 23, 2016
An absolute gem for fans of Tolkien's work. Showcases a significant amount of original art by JRR Tolkien himself, with extensive commentary on each drawing by the editors, providing very interesting pieces of information.

The artwork in itself is really great, the maps are fantastic, and the quality of the book is outstanding.

If Tolkien's work is dear to you, don't hesitate.
Profile Image for Maija.
39 reviews1 follower
August 18, 2016
An interesting look into Tolkien's own designs and drawings. What I found funny was that a lot of the doodles seemed to be drawn on exam papers, backs of students' essays or course syllabi. Makes me wonder what it would have been like to be his student.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 77 reviews

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