SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF WHEN WE WERE VERY YOUNG, THE SAMUEL HEIMAN COPY, WITH MILNE’S PERSONAL SIGNED BOOKPLATE AND FINE AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED BY ILLUSTRATOR ERNEST SHEPARD REGARDING ORIGINAL DRAWINGS FOR THE POOH BOOKS
MILNE, A. A. When We Were Very Young. With Decorations by Ernest H. Shepard. London: Methuen, 1924. Small octavo, original pictorial blue cloth gilt, top edge gilt, original dust jacket. Housed in custom full morocco slipcase with mounted illustration.
First edition, first issue, of Milne’s first children’s book-the scarcest of the “Pooh Quartet”—in original dust jacket, with autograph letter signed by illustrator Ernest H. Shepard regarding original drawings for When We Were Very Young and Winnie-the-Pooh, as well as Milne’s bookplate, signed by him, on the front pastedown. The copy of noted bibliophile Samuel Heiman.
“Although Alan Alexander Milne wrote novels, short stories, poetry and many plays for adults, in addition to his work as assistant editor for Punch from 1906 to 1914, it is his writings for children that have captured the hearts of millions of people worldwide” (Silvey, 461). Milne wrote most of these poems at the request of friend and fellow poet Rose Fyleman, who was planning a new children’s magazine. “On a rain-blighted holiday in Wales, [Milne] escaped from the crowd of fellow guests to the summerhouse, and for 11 days wrote a set of children’s verses, one each day… ‘There on the other side of the lawn was a child with whom I had lived for three years [his son, Christopher Robin]… and here within me were unforgettable memories of my own childhood.’ He added more verses when he got home, enough for a book, and allowed some to be published in advance in Punch” (Carpenter & Prichard, 351). Shepard, a Punch staff artist at the time, provided delightful line vignettes, resulting in “a wonderful marriage of verse and vision. His delicately precise and fresh drawings had an instant appeal” (DNB). This first book in what would become the cherished “Pooh quartet” contains such well-known pieces as “Vespers” and “Buckingham Palace.” “Many feature or are spoken by [Milne’s son] Christopher Robin; all reveal Milne’s superior understanding of the world as viewed through a child’s eyes” (Silvey, 462). “When We Were Very Young caught the imagination of a public beginning to be sated with Peter Pan and the fairy-fashion, and the book was bought in quantities. It went through 12 printings in just over a year and brought Milne a fame which, despite all his apparent successes, had really deserted him up to that time” (Carpenter, 200). First edition, first issue, with page ix unnumbered. Any first edition copy is exceedingly scarce. Payne IA. Cotsen 7323. Connolly, 206. Cutler & Stiles, 115. An autograph letter from Shepard to noted New York book collector Samuel Heiman accompanies this copy. The letter reads in full: “May 26 /27. Dear Mr Heiman, I very much regret having to disappoint you with regard to the purchase of an original drawing for ‘When We Were Very Young’ or ‘Winnie-the-Pooh.’ But these are all sold. If you wish it I could do you a small replica, one for each of the books, which I would, of course, sign. Believe me yours sincerely, Ernest H. Shepard.” Two bookplates: Heiman’s, and Milne’s bookplate (bearing his home address), signed by him. Vintage publicity materials and clippings, presumably collected by Heiman, laid in. The slipcase features a print with several Shepard sketches of Pooh.
Book fine. Original dust jacket lightly rubbed and soiled with a few short closed tears, tape repairs to verso. A beautiful copy of a scarce nursery classic, desirable with Shepard’s letter and Milne’s signed personal bookplate, with admirable provenance.