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Our Collections: Pauline Baynes

September 9, 2012

This, the first of a series of occasional posts describing our collections, is concerned with the work of Pauline Baynes (1922–2008); and we have begun this series with Pauline because today, 9 September, is her birthday. She would have been ninety years old.

Annabel and Bryony dust jacketWe met Pauline Baynes in 1991, through our work with the J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, held at Oxford the following year. Pauline having made many illustrations for works by Tolkien, she was asked to lend some of her original art to an exhibition as part of the Conference activities. We were already impressed by Pauline’s illustrations for Tolkien and for the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis; now we became aware, through a visit to her home in Surrey, of the wide range of her art beyond those famous associations, and were inspired to collect it. Although Pauline was proud of her illustrations for Tolkien and Lewis, and realized that they were her greatest claim to fame, she did not want to be known for those alone. She was an artist and a designer in a much broader sense, though how broad, and how prolific, we learned only in the course of building our collections – and at first, it was collections in the plural, for we were not yet married and lived on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

Each of us already had the start of a Pauline Baynes library. As Tolkien collectors, of course we had the Tolkien titles Pauline illustrated: Farmer Giles of Ham, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Smith of Wootton Major, the original one-volume paperback Lord of the Rings, the two poster-maps of Middle-earth, Bilbo’s Last Song, Poems and Stories. And we had the seven Narnia books, though for Wayne this meant only the Collier paperbacks, with the illustrations truncated. Wayne also had Iona and Peter Opie’s Puffin Book of Nursery Rhymes with Pauline’s pictures (but purchased for the rhymes and annotations); Christina had, among others, Marjorie Phillips’ Annabel and Bryony, also illustrated by Pauline, and the deluxe Lord of the Rings for which Pauline produced the slipcase; and each of us had her poster Map of Narnia. Once we decided to collect Pauline’s work in earnest, we compiled a checklist from reference sources to serve as a guide to desiderata, and added to this as we made new discoveries in catalogues or shops or at book fairs. Wayne drew upon this research to write his article on Pauline Baynes for British Children’s Writers, 1914–1960, issued by Gale Research in 1996. Eventually, we knew more about the extent of Pauline’s publications than she did herself.

Naturally self-effacing, Pauline thought we were mad to take an interest in her work, but welcomed it nonetheless, and seemed pleased whenever we came upon something she had illustrated which she had forgotten in the course of a long and prolific career. Over the years, she often welcomed us into her home and gave us free access to her books, paintings, and drawings, which helped us to add to our checklist (which we are in the process of enlarging into a book). We were honoured that she came to our wedding reception in London, since in later years she tended to stay close to home, and our visits to her, sometimes staying nearby for a night or two, were highlights of our trips to England. We in turn helped to put in better order the drawings and paintings still in Pauline’s possession, as well as the shelves of books she had illustrated. After her death, fulfilling a promise we had made, we returned to Pauline’s cottage to help in the shipment of her archive and book collection which she bequeathed to Williams College, where Wayne works.

Dragon of Og dust jacketOur own Pauline Baynes collection contains almost all of the books she illustrated and many of the contributions she made to periodicals. These range from her earliest publication, Question Mark (?1942), one of the ‘Perry Colour Books’ produced during the Second World War, to Psalm 8: How Excellent Is Thy Name! published by the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College in 2007. We were lucky to begin to collect Pauline’s work when we did, when many of the books she illustrated – often books for children, which tend to go out of print quickly – were still available in shops, and there were still many bookshops open for business. Now most of the infrequent additions to our Baynes collection are made through Internet sources such as Advanced Book Exchange and eBay. There are more than 200 titles in our bibliography of Pauline’s contributions to books, and dozens of entries for periodical contributions, starting with drawings for the magazine Lilliput published in May 1944. (As we wrote here, we added eleven entries to the periodicals list after our May visit to the British Library.) Our aim is to be as complete as possible, though within certain bounds. We do not, for instance, try to collect every edition of the Narnia books with Pauline’s illustrations, which are very numerous – though even so, we have more than four shelves of them, including some autographed first printings, and have acquired the more significant later editions as well as changes of cover design when Pauline was asked to provide a new picture. Nor, to avoid a conflict of interest for Wayne, can we compete for any purchase with Williams College if there is a desire to add to the Pauline Baynes archive held in the Chapin Library.

Altogether, our Baynes collection runs to more than forty linear feet. This includes archival boxes of magazines and posters, jigsaw puzzles after Pauline’s designs, and miscellaneous files of articles, correspondence, and cuttings. Most of the books are in a corner and under two windows of our sitting room, which in addition features a framed poster-sized reproduction of Pauline’s design for the first of the four giant embroideries at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, Churchmen of the New World. We also have a few pieces of original art by Pauline, including an ink drawing of Smith and his family for Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major (1967), given us by the artist as an engagement present; a painting intended for the dust-jacket of a new edition of Tolkien’s Tree and Leaf (the re-issue was abandoned, but part of the illustration – of Niggle painting his Tree – was used for an audiobook compact disc insert by HarperCollins); and her map of the Little Kingdom which she made for our 50th anniversary edition of Farmer Giles of Ham (1999).

Images, from top: Dust-jackets for Annabel and Bryony by Marjorie Phillips (1953) and The Dragon of Og by Rumer Godden (1981), two of hundreds of Pauline Baynes’s exquisite paintings and drawings, but perhaps not among her best-known work. Art by Pauline Baynes copyright © the Williams College Oxford Programme; all rights reserved.

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3 Comments
  1. September 9, 2012 4:57 pm

    Looking forward to your book. I was lucky to find “The Dragon of Og” at a library book sale; I’d never heard of it but immediately recognized her style on the cover art. I also have an old issue of Cricket magazine with a dragon on the cover by her.

  2. September 15, 2012 4:36 am

    I am looking forward your book too; knowing the quality of your work it will be a masterpiece.

  3. Colin Harper permalink
    October 20, 2012 6:07 pm

    Thirded! I’m also looking forward to your book on Pauline’s art. There is something magical and unique about it. I’m sure you’ll do her justice, in the fullness of time.

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