By Andrea Perkins
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment in our series on children’s books and the Church calendar.
Pauline Baynes was an English illustrator and author. Among her most famous works are illustrations for C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia and some of J. R. R. Tolkien’s minor works such as Farmer Giles of Ham and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (along with many other lesser known projects).
First published in Great Britain in 2003 by Frances Lincoln Limited, I Believe: The Nicene Creed was published in America by Eerdman’s the same year. This beautiful book reached its public audience near the end of Baynes’ life (she died in 2008) and is a volume to be treasured for its help and guidance in Christian spiritual formation.
Baynes had “a talent for lively, imaginative designs; the ability to create a sense of energy and animation; a confident fluidity of line; a bold use of vibrant, gem-like colours and the subtle employment of negative space.” She had a life-long passion for Anglo-Saxon and Persian manuscripts, the flavor of which can be recognized in her illustrations for this beautiful work. Each illustration is like a small manuscript. She has “transformed the Creed into a joyous hymn to God” through “breathtaking images of the sun, moon, and stars, creatures great and small, mythical beasts, death and resurrection, judgement and everlasting life” (from the dust jacket). Her illustrations are intricate and colorful, bringing the Creed to life for both the young and old.
A closer look at the illustration that accompanies “And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life” reveals some interesting details. Under the wings of a large dove (symbolic of the Holy Spirit) she has depicted Moses with stone tablets (notice the three hands; one presumably representing the divine inspiration that helped him write the ten commandments) as well as the four Gospel writers and St. Peter (identified by the rooster above his head).
In general, the connection between the creedal text and her illustrations is not always clear, but the images are lovely, insightful, and thought-provoking. I don’t think the illustrations need to explicitly match the text. They have a depth of their own that works with the text but also serve to illuminate, as a manuscript would, the words on the page. Her work provides depth and dimension to language that might otherwise seem abstract or flat to young people. She provides much for little minds to ponder and this volume will help stimulate conversations related to the faith.
(Careful readers will note that the text reads, “And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church” rather than “...one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” In this she strictly follows the traditional prayer book language, which excluded “holy,” probably due to a copying error--a situation which was not remedied until the supplemental use of missals in the early 20th century.)
This would make a fantastic gift for a godchild. Unfortunately, it is out of print and copies appear harder and harder to find. Perhaps you should consider emailing Eerdman’s (email@example.com) to request that they begin reprinting, as it is a true treasure!
Andrea Perkins lives in Oviedo, FL with her husband, Fr. Mark, and three children. She is a parishioner at St. Alban's Anglican Cathedral.