TRIBUTES have been made to local historian Jo Draper, one of Dorset’s best known and most celebrated authors.

Jo Draper died on Friday, June 23, at the age of 68 and was famous in Dorset for having written a number of books and articles on the county, a place she developed a lifelong passion for.

Perhaps her most lauded work was Dorset the Complete Guide, the first edition of which took her more than three years to write, with the author visiting every place she mentioned in the work.

She also wrote a book about Thomas Hardy, Thomas Hardy’s England, with the world famous literary novelist John Fowles, who she was good friends with.

Dr Alan Chedzoy, an academic who lectures on Thomas Hardy and William Barnes, said she was an impressive scholar.

He said: “She was meticulous in her scholarship and in so doing she put together an intimate knowledge of the county, which was unrivalled.”

He added: “There was nobody who knew more about the county than she did.”

Dr Chedzoy said that what made her a great historian was the “extraordinary” amount of research she did for her works, adding that she was encouraged to become a writer by the great John Fowles himself.

Helen Gibbons, curator of the Hardy collection at Dorset County Museum, said that Mrs Draper made a great contribution to local history and had a particular interest in county people and working people.

She said: “I think that is the important thing about Jo. Her knowledge of both Thomas Hardy and Dorset made her an authority on both subjects.”

She added: “She was a most enthusiastic person and most wonderful scholar and she was very thorough in her work.”

The curator also said that the distinguished author had left “a legacy of excellent work”.

David Tucker, director of Lyme Regis Museum, said: “She made a tremendous contribution to the Lyme Regis Museum for many years. She was a fantastic writer and much of the excellent research that the museum has was carried out by her.”

He added: “She will be missed by so many of the people who work and volunteer at the museum.”