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Rare Rupert the Bear find for Oulton Broad couple

PUBLISHED: 13:00 27 January 2012

Alan Shorten who discovered a first edition copy of the Adventures of Rupert: The Little Lost Bear by Mary Tourtel


Picture: James Bass

Alan Shorten who discovered a first edition copy of the Adventures of Rupert: The Little Lost Bear by Mary Tourtel Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

HE is the beloved storybook character whose adventures enshrined him as a national treasure.

The bear necessities – what you need to know about Rupert

•Rupert’s creator, Mary Tourtel, was a classically trained artist and a well-established illustrator of children’s books. She joined forces with her husband, Herbert, night news editor of the Daily Express and poet, who wrote the verse that appeared under the daily panels

•Initally, Rupert appeared wearing a grey check scarf and trousers with a pale blue jumper. He did not acquire his familiar red jumper until the late 1930s when Alfred Bestall succeeded Tourtel

•In the 1940s, Rupert was one of the first cartoon strip characters to survive the paper shortages during the second world war. Despite severe rationing, which reduced the size of the Daily Express, Lord Beaverbrook insisted Rupert must remain to keep up nation’s morale

•During the cartoon strip’s heyday in the 1950s, yearly sales of Rupert annuals topped 1.7m

•For collectors, the 1942 annual is the most difficult to find. Published with paper covers because of war time shortages, it had a very limited print run

•Famous fans of Rupert include Prince Charles, Terry Jones and Paul McCartney, who wrote the hit Frog Song Chorus and produced a 20-minute animated video of Rupert

•Rupert hailed from Nutwood and counted numerous animals as his “chums”, including his best friend, Bill Badger, Edward Trunk the elephant, a mouse called Willie, two dogs, Pong-ping and Algy Pug, as well as Podgy pig, Ming the dragon and Wise Old Goat who also lived in Nutwood

•The character celebrated his 91st birthday on November 8 last year. The 76th Rupert annual was published this year and tells of his encounters of with a talented robot created by the Old Professor.

But Rupert the Bear once had a very humble beginning, as an Oulton Broad couple have discovered.

Alan and Heather Shorten are the proud owners of The Adventures of Rupert the Little Lost Bear – a rare first edition of the first ever story featuring the check-trousered character and his friends.

This treasured tale by Mary Tourtel has been in the Shorten family for generations, having been bought for Alan’s cousin Edna Balls. But it was not until Edna passed away that Alan discovered it, carefully tucked away in a cupboard.

It is a find that one auctioneer has deemed “scarce in the true sense of the word,” with a well-kept copy fetching between £800 and £1,000.

Alan, 80, a retired Waveney District Council foreman, said he was unaware the book was even in the family until he cleared out Edna’s house. He said: “I don’t think my cousin realised how valuable the book was. She kept it because it was given to her by her mum. We wouldn’t sell the book. We don’t want money at our age. The book has a sentimental value to us.

“My mum and dad brought me a Rupert annual every year, and if it wasn’t them, then an aunt of mine would get me one for Christmas. I think my age group like to have the Rupert annuals so we can pass them on to the next generation.”

Published in 1921 by Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, the book collates the Rupert stories which were first published in the Daily Express newspaper from November 8, 1920.

Since then, the white bear in the red sweater, knotted scarf and yellow checked trousers, has become a publishing phenomenon, with hundreds of adventures with his friends in Nutwood and his own TV series.

Andrew Bullock, head of the book department at Keys auctioneers, 
of Aylsham, said: “This book is scarce in the true sense of the word. If it is in a nice collectable condition it’s worth anywhere between 
£800 and £1,000.

“With a lot of collectable books, like the Rupert annuals, the early ones do not have dates in them, so some people may think they wont have a first edition when actually they might do.”

Alan’s cousin Edna lived near Belle Vue Park, Lowestoft, and died in the late 1970s. In the front cover of the book a message reads: “Dearest Edna with love and best wishes for Xmas from Mummie, 1921.” Describing Edna, Heather Shorten, 75, said: “She was a lovely woman who kept herself to herself.”

Meanwhile, Heather also told of her love of Rupert, and how she would rush to take the newspaper from her parents so she could read about his adventures.

She said: “We used to have the Daily Express every morning and myself, and other children, would want to see the paper because we all wanted to find out what happened to Rupert.”

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