Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne, First and Early UK Editions, Four Volume Set, Signed, 1924-1928

This is a complete leather-bound set of A. A. Milne's classic children's books based on the adventures of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. The set is signed and inscribed by A.A. Milne. The included dated and signed note by A.A. Milne writes: “Dear Sir, For What my autograph is worth, you may have it. Yours truly, A. A. Milne”. The note is dated December 29th, 1915 at upper left and underlined once: "29. xii. 15" These four volumes are illustrated throughout by Ernest H. Shepard and are bound in beautiful full leather with striking gold embossing, raised gilt spines, and a matching cloth slipcase. The set includes three first U.K. edition printings and one early printing.

A. Milne (1882–1956) & Ernest H. Shepard (1879–1976) were the author and illustrator of the Winnie the Pooh books. Before Pooh, Alan Alexander Milne had a thriving career as a humorist and playwright. In 1904, shortly after graduating from Cambridge, he published his first piece in Punch, and by 1906 was an assistant editor. His plays and novels, including the popular detective story The Red House Mystery, were enormously successful. Ernest Howard Shepard showed aptitude for drawing from an early age. While attending the Royal Academy Schools he began submitting illustrations to magazines, and this gradually became his primary occupation. In 1906 Punch accepted his drawings for the first time, and he became a regular contributor by 1914.

In 1924, A. A. Milne had written a series of children’s verses for Punch and Shepard was suggested as the illustrator. The artist’s drawings had an instant appeal, and the verses and illustrations were published the same year in book form as When We Were Very Young. When We Were Very Young is the first and the scarcest of the four Pooh books with an initial print run of 5,175 regular trade copies. It was first published in London on November 6, 1924 to immense acclaim, and the first printing sold out in one day. By the end of the year more than 53,000 copies had been printed of what The Times called "the greatest children's book since Alice" (Thwaite p. 286).

The popularity of When We Were Very Young ensured the publication of an additional three books : Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), a collection of stories based on the nursery toys belonging to Milne’s son Christopher Robin; Now We Are Six (1927) another collection of verses; and The House at Pooh Corner (1928), the final collection of Pooh stories.

After the huge success of When We Were Very Young, Milne was asked to contribute a story to the London Evening News. "The Wrong Sort of Bees", published on Christmas Eve in 1925, was based on a bedtime story that Milne had told his son Christopher. It starred Christopher's stuffed bear, which had made his first public appearance in the poem "Teddy Bear", published in Punch in 1924 and later in When We Were Very Young. The original toy 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 favorite bear cub at London zoo.

After the publication of When We Were Very Young, Milne began planning a second and third book of poetry for children. In a January 1926 letter to his brother Ken he included it as number one in a list of "things which ought to be done". He described "a book of verses (about 15 done to date) to appear in 1927 or 1928" (Thwaite p. 293).

Winnie-the-Pooh was first published in London on October 14, 1926 in an edition of 30,000 regular trade copies. The book was an immediate success and garnered even more enthusiastic reviews than its predecessor, with one critic writing, "When the real Christopher Robin is a little old man, children will find him waiting for them. It is the child's book of the season that seems certain to stay" (Thwaite p. 317).

By the time that Winnie-the-Pooh was published in late 1926, half the poems for this third book, Now We Are Six, were already complete. Now We Are Six was published on October 13, 1927. It took only two months for Now We Are Six to eclipse the sales records of the previous two books.

Milne began planning his final Pooh book in 1927. Three years of publicity and demanding writing schedules were taking their toll on the family, and Milne longed to return full-time to adult literature, telling his brother that "after one more Pooh book I must think of something else. In fact, it's time I tried a novel" (Thwaite p. 328). Christopher Robin was growing up, soon to leave for boarding school, and The House at Pooh Corner would be a farewell to the cherished childhood series. But first there was an introduction to be made. Milne had bought his son a stuffed tiger, "Tigger", and told Shepard that he was longing to see the illustrations for this new character, which would become one of the author's most popular creations.

Published on October 11, 1928 in an edition of 75,000 regular trade copies, The House at Pooh Corner was received by critics with a delight, tinged with sadness for the end of series (Thwaite p. 336). Although Milne and Shepard continued producing work for adults, the four Pooh books established the two as one of the most important partnerships in children’s literature.

CONDITION:

All books have been fully rebound in Moroccan leather and feature custom, gilt embossed Pooh depictions on covers, as well as elaborate gilt tooling. The spines feature raised bands and gilt title and author information. There are also custom, hand-tooled butterfly motifs along the spines and on the corner of the front boards. All pages include lovely marbled endpapers and gilt top edges.

When We Were Very Young. London: Methuen & Co., (1924). Sixth edition. Printed December 1924. Good condition. Bound in beautiful full navy leather with striking gold embossing, raised bands.

With tipped in dated and signed note by A.A. Milne.  Milne writes: “Dear Sir, For What my autograph is worth, you may have it. Yours truly, A. A. Milne”. The note is dated December 29th, 1915 at upper left and underlined once: "29. xii. 15". Paper is crisp, ink is unfaded. There are two vertical folds, as pictured. With protective cover added.

Winnie-the-Pooh. London: Methuen & Co., (1926). First edition, first printing. Pages internally healthy, very good condition. Bound in beautiful full green leather with striking gold embossing, raised gilt spines.

Now We Are Six. London: Methuen & Co., (1927). First edition, first printing. Some light staining to half title page. Good condition. Bound in beautiful full red leather with striking gold embossing, raised bands.

The House At Pooh Corner. London: Methuen & Co., (1928). First edition, first printing. Very good condition. Bound in beautiful full tan leather with striking gold embossing, raised bands.

All four volumes are housed in a custom navy cloth slipcase, which features an inset image of Winnie the Pooh on one side.




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