Thomas and Friends at Toovey’s

Lot 93 original Timothy Marwood illustration

Thomas the Tank Engine and friends Percy, Harold and Annie are just a few of the friendly and nostalgic faces on offer in our December auctions. Add into the mix Noddy, Big Ears, Popeye, Winnie the Pooh and the Bunnykins rabbits and you have quite an eclectic children’s tea party! As a book specialist I see numerous collections of children’s literature, often collected on the merits of their illustrators alone. However, there are numerous avenues available at auction to explore and delight in children’s illustration beyond the medium of printed literature.

Lot 94 original Timothy Marwood illustration

Timothy Marwood, Barbara Vernon Bailey and Robert Tyndall are three quite different artists who open doors into alternative fields of collecting through their engagement with childhood imagination.

Timothy Marwood was an illustrator for the Thomas and Friends magazines from 1987-2007, published by Marvel Comics until issue #305 in 1999. Although not classically considered a Marvel comic, the legacy of Thomas and Friends was interestingly hinted at with a Thomas the Tank Engine cameo in the 2015 Marvel film Ant Man. The director Peyton Reed, when interviewed about the inclusion of the cartoon train, emphasised Thomas’ status as a locomotive icon, ‘you could do any kind of toy train, but the personality of that thing and the eyes moving back and forth give it a whole vibe and took it to another level.’ There were also strict stipulations put in place to ensure ‘nobody could be tied to the tracks and run over by Thomas. Thomas couldn’t be doing anything that could be perceived by children as evil Thomas’, highlighting the importance of his childlike innocence to the Thomas brand. Marwood’s pen and ink illustrations included in Toovey’s December auction of Fine Art encapsulate the heroism and kindness represented by Thomas and Friends without the need of accompanying text [lots 93-96]. Any child’s bedroom would be improved with an original Marwood drawing of a rescue from Harold the Helicopter. Timothy Marwood also illustrated issues of Rosie & Jim, Thunderbirds and Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven and The Famous Five.

Lot 99 original Robert Tyndall illustration

If you marvel over Blyton’s literary creations, why not take an imaginary trip to Toytown with an original Robert Tyndall watercolour of Noddy and his buddy Big Ears (Lot 99) Tyndall lived in Hove and, like Marwood, was trained at the prestigious Harrow School of Art before illustrating Roberta Leigh’s The Adventures of Twizzle and the Larry the Lamb series. It was only after the death of Harmsen Van Der Beek, Noddy’s original illustrator, that Tyndall got his chance in 1953 to draw this charming Blyton character. For Noddy’s 60th birthday in 2009, Tyndall collaborated with Blyton’s granddaughter Sophie Smallwood to produce the first Noddy book since 1963, ‘Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle’.

Lot 97 original Barbara Vernon Bailey illustration

If a jolly jape to Toyland isn’t for you, perhaps the fluffy delights of Bunnykins are more up your street? Unlike Thomas and Noddy, the creation of Bunnykins stemmed from the imagination of one woman, Barbara Vernon Bailey. Some may find these rabbits whimsical; others might find merit in their depictions of nostalgic close-knit family life. What can be certain, however, is their great wit and character. Most familiar with ceramics will recognise the popular Royal Doulton Bunnykins figures [lot 1512], but more unusual are Vernon Bailey’s original watercolours, of which there are a choice of two available in our Fine Art December auction. Just try resisting the charms of leapfrogging rabbits (Lot 97) and an animal delivery service where a sparrow distributes the post to a rabbit in his top-floor treehouse apartment (Lot 98). What could be more magical than the thought of Sister Barbara, a nun-artist from Haywards Heath, drawing and painting by candlelight rabbits cooking, dancing and kissing under the mistletoe? It was these sentimental touches that make her illustrations so appealing and reproducible to the present day, not only for figures in three dimensions, but also for narrative decoration on children’s tableware.

If you enjoy indulging in a touch of nostalgia, you can also let your imagination run wild exploring over two hundred lots of collectors’ toys, dolls and games in our forthcoming December sale. While beautiful printed copies of childhood classics can be purchased in our specialist antiquarian book sales, it is worth considering the other objects of art and material culture they inspire to enrich any home or collection.

Winnie-the-Pooh’s 90th Birthday!

A collection of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends Royal Doulton figures
A collection of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends Royal Doulton figures

That fine Sussex Bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, has just celebrated his 90th Birthday – not bad for a bear stuffed with fluff. ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ was first published ninety years ago, in 1926, by Methuen & Co. Ltd.

One of the greatest pleasures of life must surely be the returning to the familiar and humorous tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. These fond and witty stories of the adventures of a bear of little brain and his friends, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo, reach across the generations. Milne never compromised in his use of vocabulary or language believing that children were always up to the challenge. It is the richness and quality of his prose and poetry which allows his writing to continue to delight children and adults alike.

A first edition of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ published by Methuen & Co. Ltd in 1926
A first edition of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ published by Methuen in 1926

A.A. Milne’s wonderful stories and E.H. Shepard’s iconic illustrations have proved timeless. Both author and illustrator lived in Sussex. In 1925, A.A. Milne purchased Cotchford Farm on the edge of Hartfield, East Sussex; the year before ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ was first published. The surrounding Ashdown Forest would provide the inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood where Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh’s adventures are set. E.H. Shepard lived at Lodsworth near Petworth, West Sussex.

Initially Milne was not sure that Shepard was the right illustrator for his stories. Published in 1924, ‘When We Were Very Young’ was an anthology of children’s poetry and became an instant bestseller. Milne acknowledged the contribution of Shepard’s illustrations to this success by arranging for the illustrator to receive a share of the royalties. It was an association which would endure. Their work formed the basis for Walt Disney’s film based on ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’.

The first adventures were bedtime stories told by A. A. Milne to his son, Christopher.

E.H. Shepard based his depiction of Winnie-the-Pooh on his own son’s teddy bear called Growler. However, Piglet, Eeyore and Rabbit were all based on toys in Christopher’s nursery. A trip to Harrods toy department by Milne provided Kanga and Roo.

If we asked Winnie-the-Pooh the secret to his longevity he would, no doubt, put it down to a ‘smackerel’ of Honey. But I think it is the rich, believable characters and the fond telling of humorous adventures about our beloved Pooh which have caused him to endure.

A Royal Doulton ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ figure group 'A Party For Me? How Grand!'
A Royal Doulton ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ figure group 'A Party For Me? How Grand!'

First editions of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ often surface at Toovey’s in the specialist book sales and realise hundreds of pounds. The Royal Doulton Winnie-the-Pooh figures represent exceptional value for fans of this Sussex Bear, especially at auction. To find out more contact Toovey’s on 01903 891955.

And if a first edition is beyond your purse why not treat yourself to the BBC Radio Collection CD with Alan Bennett reading ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’. The voices he lends to these well-known characters and his gentle, fond tone are perfect. The twists and turns of these familiar stories are delivered with perfect timing – Alan Bennett’s telling of them is quite marvellous.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Winnie-the-Pooh: A Bear from Sussex

Ernest Howard Shepard - 'Make This a Pooh Christmas', pen and ink on prepared board, signed with initials, titled and annotated, measuring 18.5cm x 32cm

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.

A 1926 first edition of Winnie-the-Pooh in its original red morocco and gilt binding and with the rare original publisher’s box

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.

First edition copies of When We Were Very Young, 1924; Winnie-the-Pooh, 1926; Now We Are Six, 1927 and The House at Pooh Corner, 1928; in their original dust-jackets

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.