Winnie-the-Pooh Hundred Acre Wood Map sets Sotheby’s record

An original Winnie-the-Pooh Hundred Acre Wood map by EH Shepard has sold for £430,000, setting a new auction record for any book illustration at Sotheby’s in London.

Possibly the most famous map in children’s literature, the 1926 sketch was unseen for nearly half a century ahead of Sotheby’s English Literature, History, Science, Children’s Books and Illustrations, and carried an estimate of £100,000-150,000.

Winnie-the-Pooh Hundred Acre Wood Map

Winnie-the-Pooh Hundred Acre Wood map

The Winnie-the-Pooh Hundred Acre Wood map is featured in the original 1926 book and introduces readers to the delightful imagination of Christopher Robin and his woodland friends.

The map also played a key role in the Disney film, Winnie-the-Pooh and the Honey Tree, 40 years later, where it was brought to life as an animation in the film’s opening sequence.

Alongside depicting the magical world, the Hundred Acre Wood map captures the unique personalities of the characters who share the protagonist’s stories. Eeyore is depicted in his “rather boggy and sad” “gloomy place” with his head hanging sluggishly in the grass, whilst the energetic Roo bounces towards the “sandy pit” where he plays. A solitary Winnie-the-Pooh sits thoughtfully looking out over the wood to his friend, Christopher Robin, who stands with boyish arrogance looking back.

Charming childishness

The charming childishness of Christopher Robin is marked by clumsily spelt locations, such as “NICE FOR PICNICKS” and “100 AKER WOOD”, as well as a compass marked with points spelling out the title character’s name. Shepard’s own amusing personality seeps into the illustration, as the map is signed off with the words “Drawn by me and Mr Shepard helpd”.

The previous record for any book illustration was £314,500, set at Sotheby’s in December 2014 for the original illustration for Poohsticks.

Winnie-the-Pooh illustrations

Four further original Winnie-the-Pooh illustrations by EH Shepard were also included in the sale, again not seen for almost 50 years. They were:

  • a most poignant illustration showing Christopher Robin and Pooh walking hand-in-hand to ‘an enchanted place on the very top of the Forest’ to say their final goodbye. In the emotional conclusion to his much-loved book – The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne finally signs off with one of the most heart-rending farewells in children’s literature: “…wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place in the top of the Forest a little boy and his bear will always be playing.” Estimated at £70,000-90,000, this drawing more than doubled its estimate to finally sell for £200,000.
  • Two additional illustrations taken from Chapter Six of The House at Pooh Corner, showing the characters and a game of ‘Pooh Sticks’, were sold together for a combined total of £112,500.
  • The fourth, perhaps most familiar image, is a re-drawn version of another illustration from the “Poohsticks” episode which concludes with Christopher Robin, Pooh and Piglet left on the famous bridge by themselves. The tone of the illustration is somewhat different with the excitement of the Poohsticks game changing to a more contemplative mood, with the three friends looking wistfully at the river beneath them, saying nothing. Used twice in the published book, within the chapter and also as the frontispiece, this illustration accompanies a moment of unified friendship and forgiveness, in which Piglet breaks the silence and volunteers his view that “Tigger is all right, really” and Pooh suggesting further that, “Everybody is really… But I don’t suppose I’m right…“. Offered with an estimate of £60,000-80,000, it doubled pre-sale expectations to sell for £175,000.

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