The most famous map in English literature is going under the hammer. Expect a scramble, says Chris Carter.
Even a bear of very little brain would be excited about the sale of the original sketch of 100 Acre Wood (pictured) at Sotheby’s in London on 10 July. It is, says Sotheby’s Philip Errington, “probably the most famous map in English literature”.
The sketch from 1926 appeared in Winnie-the-Pooh, the first book starring the eponymous bear. It was supposedly drawn by author AA Milne’s son Christopher Robin (if we are to believe the numerous spelling mistakes and the declaration at the bottom: “Drawn by me and Mr Shepard helpd”). In fact, illustrator EH Shepard did rather more than that.
Starting at “Piglets House” in the bottom-left corner, the viewer heads north following the river, past “Pooh Trap for Heffalumps” and “Rabbits House” to “Bee Tree”, before being directed onwards to the North Pole. As well as mapping the magical world of Winnie-the-Pooh, the sketch also captures the unique personalities of Milne’s much-loved characters, says Fine Books & Collections magazine. Eeyore is depicted in his “gloomy place… rather boggy and sad”.
He has his head cast down in the grass. An energetic Roo bounces towards the “sandy pit where Roo plays”, while a solitary “Pooh Bear” sits thoughtfully looking out over the wood towards his friend, Christopher Robin.
The map went on to play a starring role in the 1966 Disney film Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, in which it was animated as part of the film’s opening sequence. Two years later, Sotheby’s sold it for the first time for £650, and then again another two years later to a private collector for £1,700. After that, the map disappeared from view for the best part of half a century. This time around, it is expected to fetch between £100,000 and £150,000 at auction.
Interest from art collectors is fuelling a growing market in book illustrations, Errington tells The Guardian: “Twenty years ago I would have said the interest in book illustration was from people who collected book illustrations… but now we have interest from people who collect art and there’s no reason why a book illustrator shouldn’t be considered an artist.”
Four other Winnie-the-Pooh sketches by Shepard form part of Sotheby’s English Literature, History, Science, Children’s Books and Illustrations sale. One, valued at between £60,000 and £80,000, shows Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin playing Pooh Sticks – a game of throwing sticks from a bridge and watching them race down the river. But perhaps the most poignant is a signed sketch valued at £70,000-£90,000 from the 1928 story The House at Pooh Corner.
The two friends are shown walking hand in hand to say their final goodbye at the top of “the Forest”. Milne wrote of this moment: “whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his bear will always be playing”.
Children’s classics under the gavel
On the same day that the sketch of 100 Acre Wood goes under the hammer, Sotheby’s will auction off an “exceptional” first-edition presentation copy of The House at Pooh Corner (the 1928 sequel to Winnie-the-Pooh), in which AA Milne wrote in pen: “How proud is Pooh, because the fluff/Which blew into his cerebellum/Was deemed inspiriting enough/To justify a book in vellum”. The book is inscribed to Vincent Julian Seligman, who had dedicated his 1923 book Oxford Oddities to Milne. One of 20 deluxe copies printed, it is expected to make £10,000-£15,000.
Other highlights from The Library of an English Bibliophile Part VIII sale include a first-edition, first-state (meaning it was printed early in the first print run, before a correction was made) copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by L Frank Baum, with illustrations by WW Denslow. The giveaway to it being a first-state copy are two dark blue dots on one of the illustrations. The royalties generated by the book, its sequels, and spin-offs enabled Denslow to buy a small island in Bermuda (of which he promptly proclaimed himself the monarch). The book is expected to sell for up to £5,000.
Other lots include a deluxe-binding edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter from 1902 (valued at up to £7,000). But far more valuable is Lewis Carroll’s own annotated copy of Through the Looking Glass from 1893 (the sequel to Alice in Wonderland). Unhappy with his publisher, Carroll reportedly once wrote that “the pictures [are] so badly printed that the books are not worth anything”. How wrong he was – his copy is expected to fetch from £30,000 to £50,000.
A sympathetic charcoal portrait of Bloomsbury Group member and writer Mary Hutchinson, drawn in 1936 by Henri Matisse, is expected to sell for £2m to £3m at Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 19 June. Matisse said he had been pleased to capture “a little of the subtleties of expression of the model”. It contrasts with an earlier painting by Vanessa Bell, with whose husband Hutchinson had had a long-running affair. Of her painting, Bell remarked “It’s perfectly hideous… and yet quite recognisable”.
A landscape by a 29-year-old Vincent Van Gogh sold for more than €7m in Paris on Monday at auction house Artcurial. Fishing Net Menders in the Dunes, painted in 1882 during the artist’s formative period, depicts women working on the land. It had been valued at up to €5m. “It’s fetched such a high price because there are hardly any Van Goghs on the market,” auctioneer Francis Briest explained. “You can only find them in private collections or museums, and therefore buyers are prepared to pay over the odds for a work of this quality and importance.”