The council chamber at Farnham’s Town Hall was crowded with visitors as Farnham’s Heritage Open Days kicked off with a very important event – an exhibition of the work of Pauline Baynes.
Known to millions as the illustrator who gave visual life to the characters and settings of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, CS Lewis’ Narnia, and Richard Adams’ Watership Down, Farnham Town Council was privileged to display a large collection of her work, generously provided by her relative Alberto Ceccatelli who brought the collection over from Italy for this very special occasion.
The exhibition opened with a private view and during opening hours the council chamber was crowded with visitors until it closed at mid-day the following Monday.
This was the first time the collection had been seen in this country and it created a great deal of interest.
On Saturday, September 9, local historian, author and lecturer Roy Waight gave an absorbing talk on Pauline Baynes, together with her predecessor Randolph Caldecott whose work in the 19th century was a major influence on children’s book illustration.
This event was so popular there was not enough room for everyone in the council chamber and the talk had to be relayed to the Tindle Suite on the ground floor.
Town clerk Iain Lynch afterwards estimated that altogether the talk had attracted 70 people with 40 more visiting in the afternoon and more on the following Monday morning, until the exhibition closed.
The chairman of the Farnham Society, Richard Hunt, afterwards said: “This was a terrific start to this year’s Heritage Open Days and we are extremely grateful to Alberto and other members of his family for making this exhibition possible.
“The illustrations by Pauline Baynes demonstrated the talents of an exceptional artist able to produce a variety of styles and based on a wonderful imagination.
“But the story of Pauline and her German husband was as fascinating and remarkable as the complexity and amazing detail of her illustrations.
“A wonderful Farnham-based story of, until now, a relatively unsung local, historic personality.”