Charlotte's Web catches a World Record price for its classic illustrations

Charlotte's Web, written by American author E B White in 1952 is considered one of the great classics of children's literature.

Charlottes Web Cover Art
Charlottes Web Cover Art

The book tells the story of the runt of a pig litter, saved from death first by a farmer's daughter named Fern, and then by the messages written by a barn spider named Charlotte in her web to persuade other that there is something special, even magical, about Wilbur.

It has inspired three films (most recently one starring Julia Roberts and Dakota Fanning) and even a video game, and the pictures by illustrator Garth Williams have become familiar to every generation since the book was published.



Last week, Heritage Auction's illustration art auction closed with 42 of Williams's original illustrations going under the hammer for a total of $780,245, with the cover art topping the bill with a bid of $155,000.

"The response to the Charlotte's Web art was tremendous, especially to the iconic cover art," Barry Sandoval from Heritage Auctions said, "We expected that the cover art would exceed our initial estimate of $30,000 or more, but for it to break $150,000 is breathtaking.

"It just shows how universally beloved this book and this art really are."

Charlottes Web Terrific

Another famous illustration from the book, showing Wilbur with 'TERRIFIC' appearing in Charlotte's web above him sold for $95,600. The illustrations are annotated, and signed by Williams.

Children's book illustrations can sometimes be surprisingly valuable, either because of the underrated quality of the art or the sense of nostalgia it captures. Beatrix Potter's illustrations are a good example, and E H Shepard's drawings for A A Milne's Winnie the Pooh even more so.


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