Have you heard about the ‘First Editions: Redrawn’ auction? It will take place at Sotheby’s in December and will raise funds for the charity House of Illustration, which runs an educational and heritage centre in London. What’s very special about this auction is the lots: 38 editions of classic children’s book, each re-illustrated and annotated. As House of Illustration explains: ‘Thirty-four acclaimed illustrators – and some authors – have returned to one of their classic books, adding extra illustrations, comments on existing drawings and personal insights about the motivation behind characters.’
The books up for auction include:
- Lost and Found, in which Oliver Jeffers notes that his book was inspired by the true story of a little boy who stole a penguin from Belfast Zoo.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which Quentin Blake draws a brand-new sketch of Charlie eating a chunk of vanilla fudge.
- The Snowman, in which Raymond Briggs confesses he was never too happy with the rendering of the melted snowman.
- Paddington, in which Michael Bond explains the inspiration for the story, dating back to memories of evacuees during the war.
The chance to get a peek into the mind of the artist is rare – and wonderful. Take The Snowman, for example, a classic of children’s literature first published in 1978. But how does the creator feel it sits in the modern era? He writes in his annotated edition:‘Blue and white striped pyjamas! Pre-historic, I’m told. For me, pyjamas have to be blue and white stripes otherwise they are not pyjamas.’ And: ‘Dressing gown! Pre-historic again? Youngsters now wear ONESIES, whatever they are.’
The concept is a wonderful one, don’t you think? A little like the extra you find on a DVD movie these days that offers a cut of the film with commentary from the cast and director. I wonder: should this be the norm, rather than a rarity? Should an author create a special print copy of his or her book, and then jot notes in the margin?
In my novels The Echoes of Love and Burning Embers, for example, there is so much I could share about how I feel about a plot element or a character; why I made certain choices in the writing; and of course the many inspirations for the books. I could slip in an anecdote of my times in Kenya and Italy. I could note down a recipe for a meal the characters are sharing. I could explain the background of a historical landmark, or share a legend associated with the story. I suspect, in fact, that my annotated edition would have to be printed with very wide margins to fit all I’d love to include!
What do you think of annotated editions? Do you think they enrich the reading experience? Reward the most loyal readers? Inspire, perhaps, others to write also? I would love to hear your thoughts.
The ‘First Editions: Redrawn’ auction will take place at Sotheby’s, New Bond Street, London, on 8th December at 7.30pm. You can bid in person, in advance of the auction or via the phone. For details, visit www.houseofillustration.org.uk . The full catalogue is available at www.houseofillustration.org.uk/media/_file/l14910-singlepgs.pdf.