Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2016 Issue

Winnie the Pooh celebrates 90th Anniversary in 2016

Peter Harrington's signed first edition of Winnie-The-Pooh.

"Winnie-the-Pooh," (a bear of very little brain) turns 90 this year. The fictional English bear and other characters created by A.A. Milne first appeared in print in 1926 in a small volume that was an immediate hit. It followed Milne’s earlier 1924 volume of verse for children “When We Were Very Young," which had also been wildly popular.



Pooh, also aimed at youngsters, told the story of the boy Christopher Robin and his friends Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eyore and others. It focused on their adventures and activities rambling through the the Hundred Acre Wood, a thinly fictionalized version of the much larger and very real Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England--  where the "Winnie-the-Pooh" stories were set. This second volume was also embraced by the reading public with even greater enthusiasm.



Winnie-the-Pooh” was followed in 1927 by another volume of poems for children “Now that We are Six”; and the quartet of poems and stories for young people finished up in 1928 with a second book of Pooh’s adventures titled “The House at Pooh Corner.” All four were written by Milne, illustrated by E.H. Shepard and published by the London house of Methuen.



Each  of the volumes was priced at 7/6 each (equivalent approx US $1.87 in 1920s or about $16 in today’s money). The prescient buyer who tucked them away and kept them in pristine condition, could easily be looking at a substantial sum for any or all of them given their popularity and present day demand for first and early editions.  



As for Pooh - in the years between 1926 and 2016 the fame of the bear has only grown. His story has been translated into dozens of languages and his popularity is - if anything - greater than before. Not only did “Winnie-the-Pooh” stay in print continuously, many variants also appeared. For example, in 1958 a Latin translation became the first non-English book to be featured on the New York Times Bestseller List and it remains the only Latin book to ever be seen on the list.



In the mid-60s Winnie and friends entered the Disney stable of characters and was then (and is today) one of the most widely licensed and most lucrative of all their cartoon characters. The Disney franchise took liberties with the story and even added a character (Gopher) to the original line up. In 2001 Disney, which had been paying royalties on Pooh and friends, bought the rights outright through 2026 (expiration of copyright) for a cool $350 million. www.nytimes.com/2001/03/05/business/mediatalk-disney-buys-the-rights-to-winnie-the-pooh.html



It was not just Disney who took liberties with the famous honey seeker. According to a 2012 article (Pooh) “has been used by Benjamin Hoff to explain the tenets of Taoism, by Frederick Crews to satirize philosophical approaches used by academics and by John T. Williams to illustrate the works of popular philosophers including Descartes, Plato and Nietzsche. …. As if that weren’t enough, Kenny Loggins even wrote a hit song "Return to Pooh Corner."



So as we go into the celebratory mode, what’s new with Pooh?



For starters, in January of this year “Finding Winnie, ” a picture book that tells the true story of the real bear that inspired “Winnie-the-Pooh”, became the winner of the 2016 Caldecott award for children’s books, one of the most prestigious honors in the field of literature for young people. The story is based on the real Canadian bear named Winnie who ended up living in the London Zoo. www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2016/01/11/caldecott-newbery-winnie-the-pooh-finding-winnie/78633224



Along similar lines  CBS ran a television feature on the real ursine backstory that inspired the fictional character. Here's a link to their coverage. www.cbsnews.com/videos/the-story-behind-winnie-the-pooh



But life for Pooh has not all been bedtime stories, gold medals and TV news. Recently the character took on a political edge when he was banned in China.



In 2013 President Obama and PRC President Xi Jinping met in California for diplomatic talks. At that time, a photo of the two men walking side by side inspired comparisons to Pooh and Tigger. The Chinese president was portrayed as the short pudgy bear while the tall lean American leader was cast as the ever bouncy Tigger. When the image hit the social media in China it instantly went viral and was just as instantly censored. A second installment a year or two later showing the Disney’s Pooh driving a  small auto was also construed as critical of the Chinese leader and became   the most censored image in China for 2015. globalriskinsights.com/2016/03/china-blacklists-winnie-pooh



Also on the horizon is a forthcoming motion picture about the life of Milne’s son - the real life Christopher Robin - and his relationship with his father. The trade papers have announced that Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson will star as A.A. Milne. www.scannain.com/irish/casting-irish/goodbye-christopher-robin



Even a brief look at the lives of Milne and his son reveal that the fame and wealth the character created for the family had a serious downside. After the appearance of his four books for children, A.A. Milne, a prolific writer and contributor to Punch, found it difficult to have his humor, fiction and plays aimed at adults taken seriously. His musings on his life appeared in 1939 simply titled “Autobiography.” (US edition)



His son, Christopher Robin, who in his youth was considered one of the most famous children of his day, in later life became a bookseller. He found that the legacy of Pooh and the verses such as “Christopher Robin is Saying His Prayers” had a serious down side. He was mercilessly teased at school and wrote about his increasingly tense relationship with his family, especially his father in his own autobiography “The Enchanted Places” (Methuen, 1974) and other volumes that fleshed out the details of his adult life.



No matter what happened to the author and his family, the characters and books he created have had many lives. In the world of books they live on in countless incarnations rare and not-so-rare. As an individual volume the first Pooh book with a dust jacket seems to be  the one most eagerly sought, but looking over prices in the past decade nice copies of all four volumes with and without dust jackets have consistently realized attractive prices.



There are quite a few copies of the 1926 first edition of Winnie the Pooh presently on the market. If price is no barrier one of the nicer items offered comes from London bookseller Peter Harrington asking £8,750 (pounds) for a first edition signed by the author and illustrator on the title page.



Willing to up the ante? Harrington also lists a copy of the signed extra limited edition, number 14 of 20 copies on Japanese vellum signed by both author and illustrator for £35,000. Harrington’s web page states that the first edition of “Winnie-the-Pooh” was first published in the UK in three issues: an extra limited issue of 20 vellum copies, a limited issue of 350. His stock of these and other books by AA Milne can be found at www.peterharrington.co.uk/authors/a-a-milne.



All manner of kitsch and Disneyana in every conceivable incarnation reside at the other end of the price spectrum. There are over 28,000 Pooh related items sold within the last 90 days on eBay ranging from plastic guitar picks picturing the bear that cost 15 cents each to a lot with all four first editions minus dust jackets which sold for about $3,082. In addition to books, other Pooh merchandise and collectibles included toys, games, movies, animation cels, art work, clothing, figurines, dishes, decals, patches, pins, stickers, pet supplies and much more.



However abundant and diverse the supply of Pooh books and Pooh related merchandise, the 100th anniversary is a scant decade off in 2026, and by then we can expect the hoopla machinery to be fully engaged. In the meantime, if you’re curious about the points for the first edition a short video titled “Winnie-the-Pooh”: How to identify first edition of the book” posted by Browsers' Bookstore & WikiEdition.com does a nice job of explaining them: www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZbrq8cLEI4

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.
  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis, 1598-1625. Est: € 80,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviary, Latin manuscript, around 1450-75. Est: € 10,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    G. B. Piranesi, Vedute di Roma, 1748-69. Est: € 60,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000

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