Rare Rupert the Bear find for Oulton Broad couple
He is the beloved storybook character whose adventures enshrined him as a national treasure.
But Rupert the Bear once had very humble beginnings, as a north Suffolk couple have discovered.
Alan and Heather Shorten, of Oulton Broad, 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.
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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.'
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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 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 Key's auctioneers, of Aylsham, said: 'This book is scarce in the true sense of the word. If it is in a nice collectible condition it's worth anywhere between �800 and �1,000.
'With a lot of collectible books, like the Rupert annuals, the early ones do not have dates in them, so some people may think they wwill not 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.'