90 Years of Winnie the Pooh

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Today marks the 90th anniversary since Winnie the Pooh was first published. 90 years on and Pooh and his friends are just as big as they were when they first made their appearance and there is no sign of them slowing down.

The original stories Milne published in the 1920s are still being printed today and the same words that children and adults fell in love with are being loved all over again in a new century, a new millennium and multiple generations later. Personally, I would love to own a copy of the original edition, see the drawings from Shepard and read the story from the original book. It would awesome but I’m sure for a good copy would be a few hundred at least..

The lasting success of Winnie the Pooh is no real surprise, when it was published it was a best seller. The story of Winnie the Pooh and friends is timeless and is filled with the right balance of wisdom, absurdity, silliness, and heart.

Both the British and American editions (Methuen & Co and Dutton respectively) were published on the same day and went on to tremendous success. Critics hailed the book a masterpiece, all except Dorothy Parker who found Milne’s work pretentious.

pooh-first-edThe first edition was bound in dark green cloth with a gilt border and vignette to the front cover, also with gilt at the top edges of the pages. Originally it also had a dust cover, which is now incredibly rare. Deluxe editions were also published the same year in either blue, green, or red, and had a slip-case replacing the dust wrapper. There were also 350 limited edition copies produced that were signed by both author and illustrator.

In the years since publishing the book has been adapted and translated numerous times, it was even translated into Latin. Translator Lénárd Sándor (Alexander Lenard) from Hungary published the translation in 1958 and it was called Winnie ille Pu. Two years later it became the first foreign language book to be featured on the New York Times Best Seller List, and the only Latin book ever to be featured.

Most of the characters we know and love today were introduced in this first book. Pooh, Rabbit, Eeyore, Piglet and Owl are all mentioned, and one of the later chapters introduces Kanga and Roo. Interestingly Tigger is not introduced until the sequel. All the characters are toys except Owl and Rabbit, Milne called these two his “own unaided work” drawn from the natural world. This is also why they are depicted as real animals, not toys like the others.

A lot of Milne’s inspiration for Winnie the Pooh came from around him, his son, certainly the toys, but the setting is also inspired by real life. The setting of the stories is the 100 Acre Wood which Milne based on the real life Ashdown forest near Sussex. Milne bought a country home near the forest and took regular trips there with his family and stayed there during the spring and the summer. The forest inspired Milne and he used it in both of his Winnie the Pooh books, with many places being replicated as part of the fictional 100 acres.

The book is fairly short, ten chapters/adventures in total and each written in that peculiar Milne way. I have always loved Milne’s writing style, the random capitals when Things happen or Something needs doing, and the cleverness when jokes are woven in there for adults while the kids enjoy a different aspect. It is deceptively simple I think and that is what makes it charming.

One can only imagine what the 100th anniversary will bring for this little book, but with such achievement already surely it is only going to get better from here.

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