I wonder how many of us will be giving and receiving A.A. Milne’s wonderful stories about Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh and their many friends. These timeless characters are brought to life in our imaginations by E.H. Shepard’s captivating illustrations.
Both author and illustrator lived in Sussex. A.A. Milne purchased Cotchford Farm on the edge of Hartfield, East Sussex, in 1925. The surrounding Ashdown Forest would provide the inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood where Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh’s adventures are set. Ernest Howard Shepard lived at Lodsworth near Petworth, West Sussex.
E.H. Shepard was born in St John’s Wood and by 1906 had become a successful illustrator. He served in the First World War and was awarded the Military Cross for his ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’ at the Battle of Passchendaele.
Milne had been uncertain that Shepard was the right illustrator for his stories. But after the success of ‘When We Were Very Young’ Milne acknowledged Shepard’s contribution by arranging for the illustrator to receive a share of the royalties.
A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born in 1920. Famously the inspiration for the characters in these stories came from Christopher Robin’s toys. However E.H. Shepard based his depiction of Winnie-the-Pooh on his son’s teddy bear called Growler.
Winnie-The-Pooh was first introduced as Edward.
“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn’t.”
The pencil and ink drawing by E.H. Shepard, illustrated here, remains one of my favourite objects ever auctioned at Toovey’s. Titled ‘Make This a Pooh Christmas’ this festive scene depicts Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo putting on antlers, whilst Winnie-the-Pooh sits in the sleigh dressed as Father Christmas. Piglet busily fills the sacks with books. Judging by the city skyline the friends have ventured beyond the borders of the Hundred Acre Wood. Perhaps unsurprisingly this wonderful sketch realised £16,000.
Copies of these stories, even early editions, can be bought reasonably but what a difference a fine edition or a dust-jacket can make. Take for example this 1926 first edition of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ in its original red morocco and gilt binding. It came in with its rare original glassine dust-jacket and publisher’s box and realised £900 in a Toovey’s specialist book auction. Published by Methuen & Co the four first editions shown here all had their paper dust-jackets. They included ‘When We Were Very Young’, 1924; ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’, 1926; ‘Now We Are Six’, 1927 and ‘The House at Pooh Corner’, 1928. Together they realised £2900 at Toovey’s.
I still take great pleasure reading the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh, especially in younger company. The stories have the ability to fill me with joy and laughter. I love Pooh’s delight in just being him and his conversations with Piglet:
‘ “When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.’
Who could not share Pooh’s delight in food when Christmas champagne, scrambled egg and smoked salmon are on the menu!
Toovey’s next specialist sale of books is to be held on Tuesday 21st April 2015. A first edition of ‘House at Pooh Corner’ from 1928 with its original glassine dust-jacket and publisher’s box is one of the early entries! If you would like advice on selling or buying collectors’ books please feel free to contact Nicholas Toovey at Toovey’s on 01903 891955.
Perhaps this Christmas you too should share the delights of that fine Sussex bear Winnie-The-Pooh. Whether it’s a new or a collector’s copy the stories, with E. H. Shepard’s illustrations, won’t fail to delight. Make yours a Winnie-The-Pooh Christmas!
By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 17th December 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.