The exceptional Winnie-the-Pooh Collection of Pat McInally

May 29, 2012

Peter Harrington, a London-based rare bookseller, is holding the exhibition and sale of the most comprehensive collection of Winnie-the-Pooh books and artwork ever assembled. The collection includes more than 100 items gathered together over 20 years by American football legend Pat McInally and features fine examples of all the Pooh books, important inscribed copies, correspondence and photos, toys, and original artwork.

This is not only the best Pooh collection ever to come to market, but a superb example of the art of collecting, and everything that a lifetime collection in a single field should be. Illustrated below are some of the highlights, including the stand-out piece, a presentation copy of Winnie-the-Pooh inscribed from Milne to both Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh.

An exhibition of the material is held in our gallery at 100 Fulham Road, London. The exhibition is free and open to the public and paper or digital copies of the catalogue can be obtained by contacting us. Peter Harrington also offers a limited Collector’s edition of the catalogue signed by Pat McInally.

Hardbook Pooh Cover
Hand note from AA MILNE

Photo 1 & 2 caption: Winnie-the-Pooh presentation inscription to Christopher Robin & Winnie-the-Pooh.

Above, a presentation copy of Winnie-the-Pooh inscribed by Milne to both his son and Winnie-the-Pooh, “For Moonest Moon and Poohest Pooh from their adoring Bluest Blue. Oct. 16th 1926”. Christopher Robin Milne was born on 21 August 1920 and quickly became one of the sources of inspiration for his father’s writing. “Moonest Moon” refers to his nickname, “Billy Moon”, which originated from his parents’ nickname for him (Billy) and his childish pronunciation of his surname. “Blue” was the elder Milne’s nickname, probably from the colour of his eyes, and because of his penchant for wearing blue clothing.

The toy bear was a top-of-the-range Alpha Farnell bought at Harrods for Christopher Milne’s first birthday, known initially as Edward or Edward Bear, then later rechristened Winnie-the-Pooh (after a favourite bear cub at London zoo). In later life Christopher Milne described Pooh as “‘the oldest [toy], only a year younger than I was, and my inseparable companion. As you find us in the poem ‘Us Two’, so we were in real life. Every child has his favourite toy, and every only-child has a special need for one. Pooh was mine, and probably, clasped in my arms, not really very different from the countless other bears clasped in the arms of countless other children” (Enchanted Places, pp. 76–79). Inscribed by the author to both Christopher Robin and his “inseparable companion”, this stunning association copy is arguably one of the most important children’s books in commerce, standing alongside only the copy of Alice in Wonderland inscribed to Alice Liddell.

Entire Pooh book collection

Caption for Photo 3: Fine first edition copies of all four Pooh books.

The set pictured above includes fine first editions of all four of the Pooh books. Like most children’s books, the Pooh stories were usually read to pieces, and copies in such beautiful and fresh dust jackets are incredibly rare. This is the best set we have ever seen.

Inside cover illustrations

Photo 4 caption: Winnie-the-Pooh with an original, full-page drawing by E. H. Shepard.

The collection includes a set of three first edition large-paper copies signed by the author and illustrator, each with a significant original illustration in ink by Shepard. Winnie-the-Pooh is illustrated on the verso of the front blank with a charming image of Christopher Robin in the bath as well as Pooh puzzling over the reverse of a bath mat. “Now We Are Six” is illustrated with an image of Christopher Robin resisting his nanny, who wields a hairbrush. Decorating the title page of The House at Pooh Corner is an illustration of Christopher Robin knighting a kneeling Pooh, from the poignant final chapter in which the boy says good-bye to his childhood friends.

Only a handful of books with original drawings by Shepard have come to market over the years. These are the only large paper examples that we can find in sales records, and they are clearly drawn with the utmost care and attention, probably for commission. This is a spectacular and unique set.

Now We Are Six illustrations

Photo 5: “Now We Are Six” with original illustration by E. H. Shepard.

The House at Pooh Corner illustration

Photo 6: Original drawing by E. H. Shepard in “The House at Pooh Corner”.

Old photos of the Milne family

Photo 7: Original photographs of Christopher Robin and Pooh.

These original photographs depict Christopher Robin Milne and Winnie-the-Pooh with grandfather John Vine Milne (1845–1932) who ran Henley House private school in Kilburn, remarkable for having (briefly) H. G. Wells as a science master and Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe, as a pupil; and, from 1894, Streete Court preparatory school in Westgate-on-Sea, Kent. A. A. Milne was a pupil at Henley House before winning a scholarship to Westminster School. Photos of this nature are extremely rare in commerce.

Letters from Milne

Photo 8: An original letter from A. A. Milne to E. H. Shepard.

A hand-written letter from A. A. Milne to Ernest H. Shepard discussing the progress of the latest Pooh book and a potential collaboration on a volume of Mother Goose rhymes. Milne begins, “Dear Shepard, I enclose the latest Pooh. I saw the drawings of the first two at Methuens yesterday, and loved them”. Milne is referring to Winnie-the-Pooh, which was in production during the first half of 1926 and published on October 14th of that year. It appears that Shepard was illustrating individual chapters as Milne wrote them, here having completed drawings for two chapters and awaiting more text.

Milne goes on to discuss the planned Mother Goose (which would not be completed). As evidenced by this letter, Milne had an unusually supportive relationship with his illustrator. Earlier that year he had offered Shepard a 20% stake in the royalties from Winnie-the-Pooh, an unprecedented move at the time (Thwaite pp. 296-297). Now his offer is even more generous, as he proposes “that we share 50/50″ of the Mother Goose royalties.  This is a very nice letter providing a glimpse into one of the most important creative partnerships in children’s literature.

Sketch of the 100 Acre Wood map

Photo 9: Original working drawing for the map of the Hundred Acre Wood.

An impressive and detailed map of the Hundred Acre Wood, this is the only known preparatory drawing for the map that was used as the endpapers of Winnie-the-Pooh. Shortly after the publication of Milne’s first children’s book, When We Were Very Young, he purchased Cotchford Farm, located on the edge of the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, and it was this landscape that would inspire many of the Pooh stories. Although the geography was not revised between this initial sketch and the book’s publication, several captions were changed. “Eeyores Gloomy Place” was first “Eeyores Pasture Land” and “The Floody Place” was originally captioned “Floods Might Happen Here”. The caption at the foot originally appeared as “Drawn by Me helped by Mr Shepard” and shows a process of revision. Additionally, at the top of the map Shepard asks the question, “What sort of House is Kangas?” This is a beautiful working drawing of one of the most familiar landscapes of childhood.

Sketch of Pooh and friends

Photo 10: Pooh's Party

The collection also features the fine original artwork above “Pooh party” illustrating Pooh receiving the gift of a pencil case from Christopher Robin during his party on page 155 of Winnie-the-Pooh, initialled by Shepard. "Nobody was listening, for they were all saying, 'Open it Pooh,' 'What is it, Pooh?'… And of course Pooh was opening it as quickly as ever he could, but without cutting the string, because you never know when a bit of string might be Useful."

Stuffed Pooh and Rabbit toys

Photo 11: Pooh & Piglet Plush Toys.

Another delightful item in the collection is a set of Pooh and Piglet plush toys with presentation inscriptions by A. A. Milne in ink on the left foot, "To Babs [Seligman]" and on the right foot, "from A. A. Milne". These dolls – apparently prototypes preceding the first publicly manufactured Pooh toys – are the earliest products of one of the first and most successful licensing deals ever made. The deal Milne signed on 6 January 1930 with the American literary agent and marketer Stephen Slesinger to sell merchandising rights to the Winnie-the-Pooh works has been credited with creating the modern licensing industry.

The original Pooh and Piglet plush toys made it to the final of the LAPADA Object of the Year competition. You can place your vote at the LAPADA website.

Milne was not the first to turn his literary creation into a stuffed toy (Beatrix Potter had gone before him in that respect), but his deal took merchandising to a new level. By November 1931, according to Fortune magazine, Pooh was a $50 million-a-year business. Slesinger retained the sole rights for more than 30 years, until he sold part of them to Disney in 1961. The Pooh and Piglet dolls were among the most iconic of the early items. Slesinger granted manufacturing rights to the Pooh doll to the American toy manufacturer Agnes Brush, who is created with first putting Pooh into his signature red shirt, which was to persist through to Disney's version. (Shepard's original illustrations were uncoloured and Pooh usually unclothed.)

These dolls have the appearance of being early prototypes, preceding the manufactured Agnes Brush versions. Pooh here wears a full body suit, rather than a shirt, and the resemblance to Shepard's illustrations is more remote than in Brush's earliest manufactured version. The recipient Barbara Seligman was a personal friend of Milne's. She was married to Vincent Julian Seligman, descendant of a German Jewish mercantile family that emigrated to the USA and London in the 19th century. Vincent's father ran the London bank Seligman Brothers; his mother came from an artistic and musical family, and had an affair with Puccini. Seligman had dedicated his 1923 book, Oxford Oddities, to Milne. In return he was recipient of a specially inscribed copy of one of the 20 deluxe copies of The House at Pooh Corner in 1928, as well as the manuscript of Milne's play Michael and Mary, inscribed and specially bound as a joint wedding present, in 1930.

Click here to see all the items in the Winnie-the-Pooh collection or visit www.peterharrington.co.uk.