The Lord of the Rings meets the Wind in the Willows at Bloomsbury

Today in London, Bloomsbury Auctions are offering nearly 500 lots of books and documents or startlingly different kinds. The item which has caught the media's attention is a letter by war criminal Josef Mengele to his wife written during WWII.

That is part of the history section of the sale, but there are more wholesome pieces on offer in the  Manuscripts, Literature and History, Children's and Illustrated Books auction.

Leading the way are some items from the personal collection of Pauline Baynes. Baynes was an illustrator who was discovered when an author went to discuss some disappointing artwork which had been commissioned for his novella Farmer Giles of Ham.

Noticing some witty re-interpretations of the Luttrell Psalter which had been sent in without commission or prompting, he insisted that whoever had created it take over the illustrations for his work.

Baynes did so, and the author - one J R R Tolkien - enthusiastically declared that the results were so good they "reduced my text to a commentary on her drawings". Baynes went on to paint covers, maps and posters for The Lord of the Rings, and later CS Lewis's Narnia series amongst many other works.

It's therefore unsurprising that Baynes's collection is offering up one of 1,000 printed copies of the first deluxe edition of The Lord of the Rings, each title page of which is signed by her friend Tolkien himself. The book is listed at £3,000-4,000.

E H Shepard's communication to Pauline Baynes
E H Shepard's note to Pauline Baynes

However, the pieces expected to reach top lot status relate to another illustrator: Baynes's close friend E H Shepard who illustrated A A Milne's Winnie the Pooh and Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows.

Firstly, there is series of autographed postcards between Shepard and Baynes in which Shepard talks about his enjoyment of drawing for The Wind in the Willows and compares a character he's drawing elsewhere to Christopher Robin.

At one point he frets about his work "I do hope your drawings are going better than mine - I think a thing looks right when I knock off in the evening & then, next morning, it looks horrible and I want to begin all over again" and talks about progress in his autobiography.

The whole set, typically signed 'Kip', are estimated at £2,000-3,000.

E H Shepard signed illustration from The Wind in the Willows
E H Shepard signed illustration from The Wind in the Willows

A pen-and-ink drawing with white highlights in a presentation copy of The Wind in the Willows is the expected top lot however. It illustrates a scene in which Mole is dangerously wandering into the dark woods, prior to meeting Badger.

Shepard has autographed it "To Pauline [Baynes] / with love from Kip / Sept 9th 1959". It is expected to bring £8,000-12,000. Previously, original Shepard drawings have fetched even greater amounts at auction, notably at Sotheby's.

Bloomsbury's sale starts at noon in London today, and online bidding is accepted. Collectors may also wish to know that a very rare unpublished work by Harry Potter author J K Rowling is currently on the market.


Join our readers in 182 countries around the world - sign up for your free weekly Collectibles Newsletter today

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock