Thursday, 1 January 2015

All About: Bears

For our very first post of 2015, we are going to talk about the brilliant bears belonging to our bounteous collection. Each of these animal posts will show you a piece of illustration, manuscript or written archive, and a printed book from our large library of children's books.

Original artwork by Robert Ingpen of the Hundred Acre Wood, from the well known series Winnie the Pooh written by A.A. Milne.
Image © Robert Ingpen
Our very first bear is possibly the most famous bear in children's books - Winnie the Pooh. This illustration was created specifically for Seven Stories, displaying lots of the different elements of the Hundred Acre Wood. Pooh is shown in many different scenes around the wood, and all the other famous characters can also be seen - see if you can spot Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit and Christopher Robin.

It was originally displayed in the From Toad Hall to Pooh Corner exhibition, shown from 2008-9 at Seven Stories in Newcastle. The exhibition featured some absolutely beautiful artwork from Ingpen's 2007 edition of Winnie the Pooh, amongst many other artwork for this series, and other treasures from Wind in the Willows.

The other exciting work held in our collection from this Australian illustrator is artwork created for the Francis Lincoln publication Over the Hills and Far Away, which was released in the UK in October 2014. This book showcases many illustrators, including Ingpen, who created artwork for the rhyme 'The Lion and the Unicorn'. We also hold a beautiful unpublished illustration for 'Humpty Dumpty', which will be on display in the upcoming exhibition Rhyme Around the World (opening July 2015).

Annotated typescript draft of We're Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen, c. 1989.
This month's typescript contribution comes from the prodigious Michael Rosen, very well known to all young children from 1989 onwards - We're Going on a Bear Hunt. This is one of the most well known of children's tales, and has been chanted by many a parent, teacher and child for 25 years. Originally a traditional folk tale, Rosen says this is "just one other way" of telling the story. 

In these images you can see a typed version of the story, with plenty of Rosen's hand written scribbles and directions for how it should be performed. It has been heavily edited with tippex - a more definite method of obscuring the original text to uncover than the more traditional crossing out, we wonder what those alternatives could have been!

This typescript comes from the Michael Rosen Collection, which contains 19 different files of material for books for children, including the breathtaking Michael Rosen's Sad Book, another bear story The Bear in the Cave, amongst many others. Also present is a small amount of material from his books for adults, including This is Not My Nose, and some unpublished material. The archive was very kindly donated to Seven Stories by Rosen in the year our visitor centre opened to the public, 2005.

This material is currently on display in Berwick, until Sunday 18th January 2015, click here to find out more.

Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Barbara Firth (Walker Books, this edition 1995)
One of the most recent acquisitions to the collection, this beautiful little pop-up version of Can't You Sleep Little Bear, is a lovely wintery example of a duo of bears in winter. Little bear just can't get to sleep, as he is scared of the dark, and it is up to Big Bear to help (even if he really wants to finish his very interesting book!).

This is an example of one of a huge variety of books in our specially purchased collection, which is developed by our Collections Officer to make sure we have copies of all of the books for which we hold any original material. This can often be quite a difficult task, as we really like to have good first edition copies. They are useful for many reasons, particularly when researchers are using the archive, and also for the archivist to correctly organise and identify everything when it first arrives!

We hold the archive of Martin Waddell, which is quite large and covers many of his picture books (over 50 of them!), as well as notebooks and diaries, and Waddell's work for various reading schemes published by a variety of illustrators. It is an interesting and varied collection, with plenty of detail to explore. The material relating to Can't You Sleep Little Bear runs to quite a lot, there is a draft typescript of the text, correspondence between Waddell and Firth, proofs of the illustrations and letters from the publisher, Walker. The file also contains drafts of two unpublished 'Little Bear' stories!

Just in case you were wondering - "Big Bear is the big bear, and Little Bear is the little bear."

If you'd like to find out more about the Seven Stories Collection, then 
email: or phone: 0191 495 2707 or comment on this blog.