The Royal Mail‘s new Rupert Bear special issue stamps, to mark the character’s 100th anniversary in November, are on sale now from all Post Offices and online, too.
The set, created by the Royal Mail in partnership with DreamWorks Animation (who acquired rights to Rupert back in 2012 through the purchase of Classic Media) and Universal Brand Development, is made up of four pairs of stamps, each pair featuring two illustrations from one of Rupert’s adventures, all by Alfred Bestall – “Ruperts Rainy Adventure” (1944), “Rupert and the Mare’s Nest” (1952), “Rupert And The Lost Cuckoo” (1963) and “Rupert’s Christmas Tree” (1947).
Rupert made his first appearance in the Daily Express on 8th November 1920. Herbert Tourtel, who wrote the stories, was an editor at the Express, and his wife, Mary, was the illustrator.
Mary illustrated 89 stories, later reprinted in books, retiring in 1935 due to her failing eyesight and replaced by Alfred Bestall, then already an established artist with Punch and other magazines, who also illustrated children’s books.
Bestall wrote and illustrated 224 Rupert stories for the newspaper and provided 47 other tales, mostly for the Rupert Annuals. He was awarded the MBE for his work in 1985, but died the following year.
Bestall developed the Rupert tradition of featuring a rhyming couplet beneath each picture, plus a few lines of story text to accompany them. His couplets often ended with the promise of a mystery – a cliffhanger to leave children curious to see how the story would unfold, and eager to read the next day’s paper.
A fold-out souvenir featuring the special issue stamps is on offer, a beautifully illustrated collectible keepsake that explores Rupert’s story – from his creation by Mary Tourtel in 1920, through the iconic style developed by Alfred Bestall up to the modern era under John Harrold – charting the history of the Rupert Annuals, which have become the treasured mementoes for fans of Britain’s longest continually running comic strip.
The 2021 Rupert the Bear Annual is on sale now, also marking the 100th anniversary, and containing a collection of carefully curated stories and activities themed around the idea of celebration, including Rupert and the Rainbow (Alfred Bestall, 1948) and Rupert and the Apple Trees (John Harrold, 1999).
Published in 2003, The Life and Works of Alfred Bestall is a wonderful account of the artist’s life, the result of many years careful and painstaking research. Caroline G. Bott pieced together the life of her godfather Alfred Bestall, who illustrated Rupert Bear almost uninterruptedly for 30 years. The artwork was bequeathed her by “Fred” Bestall to the author with the words, “you will probably want to make a bonfire of this” – which I think we can all agree would have been a tragedy.
Caroline lovingly collected together and catalogued Bestall’s work, which ranges from incisive cartoons for Punch to romantic, dreamy watercolours, as well of course as his Rupert Bear illustrations. Caroline was also bequeathed his diaries, from which, alongside letters, photographs and other archive material, she has drawn together his life.
What emerges is a gentle, very generous man, who was loved by all who met him. His diaries include his experiences in the World War One, and his travel diaries include remarkable journeys to Egypt as well as those of his beloved Wales. His fans are as diverse as Sir Paul McCartney (who wrote the book’s foreword), Prince Charles, Terry Jones, Terence Stamp, Richard Rogers and Sir Hugh Casson.