For me the visual elements that Professor Tolkien added in his books, seem such an integral part of the experience. The maps, the runes, the illustrations of secret doors, the elvish script found on the One Ring of Power... all helped to bring Tolkien's vision to life. Sitting on a rainy day curled up in front of a fire with one of Tolkien's books you really got a sense that you just might be reading from the real Red Book of the Westmarch... perhaps the very one written by the hands of Bilbo and Frodo!
All the symbols, maps, runes and diagrams were as much a part of the Lord of the Rings experience as was the written word. Tolkien brought so much to the reading by giving us these wonderful visual clues to Middle-earth.
Some of you will most certainly be too young to remember, but in the early 1970s the first of the Tolkien Calandars came out and I remember looking forward to getting one each Christmas. The first few featured the paintings, illustrations and drawings of Professor Tolkien. Even though his talents as an artist can never be said to equal to his talents as a writer, his visual style has a wonderful charm that fits perfectly into the world of Middle-earth.
Many artists have since brought Tolkien's world to life in ways I'm sure he never could have imagined. If you look closely at Tolkien's rending's of Rivendell or the Moria Gate, you can see the influence these images had on such artists as Alan Lee and John Howe in their vision of these places. It's interesting how this line of visualizing Middle-earth evolved, because then Peter Jackson took the combined works of these artists, to help in creating his vision of Middle-earth on film.
Tolkien's legacy as an artist may never match is work as a writer, but it nonetheless helped define forever the world he created in the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books.