Rupert Bear #2
I have written several times previously about Rupert, but yesterday I received an e-mail with the following query
I have just read your fascinating history of Rupert Bear on the Internet.
I have replied to the enquirer and because my reply covers different ground from my previous article on the BOS Web site, I though you might like to read it. The following is how I replied.
Thank you for your e-mail asking about Rupert and the small yellow Rupert books. I was born in 1930, so we are of the same generation. The first of the quarto-sized Rupert Annuals I saw was that for, I think, 1942. It was a Christmas gift to my younger sister, but I absorbed it avidly! It was largely through my interest in paperfolding that I returned to the Rupert Annuals in the 1950s. The old magic of Rupert recaptured me and I am unlikely to escape his enchanted world now.
Rupert appeared in the Daily Express, but Teddy Tail appeared in the Daily Mail and Pip, Squeak and Wilfred in the Daily Mirror. Teddy Tail and Pip, Squeak and Wilfred had already appeared and the Daily Express thought that they should have their own animal cartoon. Mary Tourtel was the wife of one of the paper's sub-editors and she was given the job. The first Rupert cartoon appeared on 8th November, 1920.
Mary Tourtel continued to draw the Rupert cartoons until 1935, by which time her eyesight was deteriorating and the appearances of Rupert were becoming somewhat irregular. The Express sought a replacement for May Tourtel and Alfred Bestall, an established illustrator for fashionable magazines was temporarily given the job for six weeks. However, the six weeks extended to thirty years until Alfred eventually retired fro drawing the daily cartoon for the Daily Express in 1965.
The Rupert Annuals were the idea of Alfred Bestall. At first they were printed only in black, white and red, but during the war, the cartoons were coloured for the annuals by a succession of ladies. This was the time when where I came in. The paperfolding was first introduced in 1946 to increase the attraction of the Rupert Annuals after the War, when more competition from other Children's annuals was expected.
Alfred Bestall gave up the daily cartoon in 1965, but he continued to be associated with the annuals, drawing and painting the covers and end-papers, creating the puzzles and drawing the diagrams for the paperfolding. He continued until 1973, when he stopped because of an unfortunate incident.
For some reason, Rupert's head in the stories in the annuals was left uncoloured, although the covers always showed him with a brown teddy bear coloured head. So Alfred painted him for the 1973 Annual. A few copies were published with the brown head, but then some ignorant official decided that this must be a mistake, because in the stories, Rupert's head was always shown as uncoloured, in other words, white. So the official ordered the colour of Rupert on the cover to be changed from brown to while and the great majority of the annuals for 1973 were issued the head and face of Rupert shown on the cover in white. My own copy has a white face. Brown-faced copies are a rarity and collectors' pieces.
The change from brown to white was made without consulting Bestall. Alfred Bestall was a very mild-mannered man, but he was furious and considered that his artistic integrity and artistic independence had been impugned. From then onwards he gave up his connection with the Rupert Annuals and the Daily Express. This was a pity, because none of his successors had the artistic skill and imagination of Alfred Bestall. He continued to live until the age of 93, eventually dying on 15th January, 1986. To the great delight of many people, he was awarded an MBE shortly before he died.
In subsequent Annuals (drawn by other artists), the covers show Rupert with a brown face again, although in the drawings for the stories within the annuals, his face is still left uncoloured.
Very few copies of the 1973 Annual were distributed with Rupert having a brown face. I don't know the numbers, but, as you would expect, the brown-faced edition fetches a much higher price than the ones with the white face.
You ask about the small Rupert books bound in yellow board covers. I have mentioned the interest that the wartime annuals given to my sister aroused in me. However this wasn't my first acquaintance with Rupert. I lived with my parents above my grandfather's jeweller's shop in a busy road lined with shops and was allowed to go up and down the wide pavement in front of the shops on my tricycle, sometimes to the sweet shop at the other end of the block. One of the shops was a circulating library and besides lending books they had racks of books for sale in the window. Among them were always a number of copies of the yellow Rupert books and I often glued my nose to the window to look at them covetously. But a few were occasionally bought for me and these were my first introduction to Rupert. The books originally cost a shilling each.
These yellow books were not by Alfred Bestall, but were of the stories that Mary Tourtel had previously written for the Daily Express. In the course of the publication of the yellow books Rupert's appearance changed somewhat. At first he had a long nose like the early Seiff teddy bears, but later books showed him with a shorter nose more Rupert as drawn by Alfred Bestall.
My yellow Rupert books were eventually given away by my mother, when she thought the time had come for me to put away childish things. However, I always remembered them and after my interest in Rupert revived, I managed to buy a few of them second-hand. After the War, reprints were issued and I acquired a few of those too, but my interest in the yellow books was much less than in the Alfred Bestall Annuals, which interested for the quality of the drawings, the intriguing stories and, of course, the sections on paperfolding.
If you are interested, an index of Rupert stories and books has been issued. The second edition, called "The New Rupert Index" was published in 1991. I don't know whether it is still in print. It was updated by John Beck, who is a dealer in Rupert books and he may be able to supply copies. If you are interested, write to him at 29. Mill Road, Lewes, Sussex, RH15 9UA. The Index gives full lists of the stories appearing in the Daily Express Newspaper as well as lists of all Rupert books, of which there are very many, by Mary Tourtel, Alfred Bestall and subsequent writers and artists.
According to the Rupert Index there were no less than forty-six of the original yellow books which were published between June 1928 and May 1936, apart from the later reprints.
There is a considerable market for Rupert books and memorabilia generally and apart from Mr. Beck, there are several other dealers. Some years ago a mint copy of the first Rupert Annual, complete with dust cover sold for £2000. Its price would probably be much more now.
I may also be of interest to you that there is also a Rupert society with the name, "The Followers of Rupert". The URL of their website is <http://oldeee.see.ed.ac.uk/~afm/rupert/>
I hope that this reply gives you the information you were seeking, but if you have any further questions about Rupert, do write to me again.