or Denys Watkins-Pitchford
What puzzled me and, I guess, many people when they first come across BB's wonderful illustrations, is - why did
Denys Watkins-Pitchford decide to use the pseudonym 'BB'? Well the explanation is quite simple - BB is the size of the lead
shot used for goose shooting.
He decided that it was much more memorable than his real name, was instantly recognizable and gave his work an air of
mystery. In this he definitely succeeded and the mystery continues for the uninitiated today.
BB was born
on 25 th July 1905 , the second son of twins, in Lamport, in the Northamptonshire countryside. His father, a rector,
encouraged him to spend much of his boyhood exploring the countryside around the family home, Lamport Rectory, which was
a spacious Queen Anne period house. It was at this early stage that BB developed his talent for drawing and painting, and
at the age of 15 went to Northampton School of Art.
After art school BB obtained a position as assistant art master at Rugby School where he remained for 17 years.
During his weekends at home he completed his first full length story,
Wild Lone, about a one eared pytchley fox
called Rufus. BB later wrote about this book "the story unfolded with a strange and quite frightening intensity - I
could not write fast enough, it was as though my hand was guided by an invisible driving force". He completed the
book in just eight weeks, sending it to the publishers Eyre & Spottiswoode along with the story
Sportsman's Diary . Most unusually
the publisher accepted both works, a great compliment for a young writer.
BB's fifth book and his first children's book, has the instantly memorable title of The Little Grey Men. It's an enchanting story of four gnomes - Sneezewort, Dooder, Cloudberry and Baldmoney, who live under an oak tree beside Folley Brook. This book was a well deserved winner of the prestigious Carnegie Medal in 1942. BB went on to write some 20 children's books including Down The Bright Stream , a sequel to Little Grey Men, and Monty Woodpig's Caravan - the story of a bachelor hedgehog of settled habits, who one day met a dormouse, Milly Gobbysim. They got married and set off on an adventurous honeymoon in Monty's caravan.
Other children's books by BB include a series of nine books about Bill Badger
in which Uncle Bill and Izzybizzy, his hedgehog friend, sail countless miles up and down the canals in their barge
The Wandering Wind .
BB is a man
of many interests, but one of his most consuming was his passion for the majestic Purple Emperor (Apasture Iris)
butterfly. He realized that the butterfly was on the brink of extinction, and therefore spent long hours seeking it
and finding its eggs and larvae which he raised in specially built outdoor breeding cages.
Right: Illustration from Monty Woodpig's Caravan.
Another of BB passions was fishing about which he wrote several books. The first of these was The Fisherman's Bedside Book .
This title is more common than his other fishing book because it was published in 1945 at the beginning of a revolution
in the angling world, and therefore sold well as fisherman snapped up every title looking for new ideas.
The Fisherman's Bedside Book was the third in the Bedside series of five books.
BB went on writing books well past his 70th birthday, although the frequency slowed down and the style became
more reflective in tone. In all BB wrote and illustrated over 60 titles and also illustrated at least another 30 books
written by other people, his illustrations being distinctive for their black and white scraperboard style. He was
awarded the MBE for Contributions To Literature in 1989, and died a year later aged 85.
Since his death BB's books
have become ever more sought after, mainly for his delightful yet simple illustrations. In the year 2000 a group
of BB's fans founded the BB society, who now issue regular newsletters, an annual journal and conduct an ongoing programme of events.
You can find out more information about the BB Society on their website
Submitted by Adam Parker
A selection of BB books in stock
THE WAYFARING TREEBB, . Illustrated by BB, .
Stock no. 1501285
Hollis & Carter. 1st. 1945. Very good condition in a very good dustwrapper. Light blue cloth with silver lettering to spine and vignette of flying geese to front cover. B/w wood engravings throughout. An attractive country book from the pen of "BB" in which he looks back to his boyhood, tells of the friends he made, of expeditions in search of birds and first attempts at fishing and shooting. 8.75x6.5". 198 pages. Spine and corners a little rubbed. Small name and date in ink to front endpaper and small booksellers sticker to pastedown. Three small puncture holes on front endpaper which also affect next few pages as far as contents page. Contents very good. Dustwrapper edge worn and ever so slightly grubby. [R] Price: £45.00
A STREAM IN YOUR GARDENBB, . Illustrated by BB, .
Stock no. 1501284
Eyre & Spottiswoode. 1st. 1948. Slightly better than very good condition in an almost very good dustwrapper. 'How the amateur may install running water in rock gardens and the construction of pools'. Beige cloth, black title to spine. B/w illustrations to text. 104 pages. Bottom of spine bumped, very slight rubbing to corners and top of spine. Pencil name to front endpaper. Some foxing mainly to endpapers and text block edges. Dustwrapper is edge worn with a little loss at top and bottom of spine and with a closed tear to the front panel. Spine is lightly browned and panels are a little grubby. [R] Price: £25.00
LETTERS FROM COMPTON DEVERELLBB, . Illustrated by BB, .
Stock no. 1501283
Eyre & Spottiswoode. 1st. 1950. Very good condition in an almost very good dustwrapper. A tranquil book calling up the very sights, sounds and smells of the English countryside. Red cloth, gilt title to spine. Endpapers are maps. B/w illustrations. 280 pages, top edge red. Minimal bumping/rubbing to spine and corners. Small faded patches to top, bottom and near bottom of spine. Light stain at top corner of front cover next to spine but not visible on spine. Hinge cracked between pages 186 and 187. Contents very good. Dustwrapper is edge worn with areas of loss and a couple of closed tears. Spine is faded. [R] Price: £30.00
THE LITTLE GREY MENBB, . Illustrated by BB, .
Stock no. 1501281
Eyre & Spottiswoode. 1st. 1942. Very good condition in a good dustwrapper. Grey cloth, red titles. B/w scraperboard illustrations (The true first edition, as this book was later published with colour plates). Spine and corners lightly bumped. Spine lightly browned. Small stain to bottom of front cover. Front joint is cracked next to frontis. Small ink inscription and date to verso of front endpaper. Some foxing otherwise contents very good. Dustwrapper is edge worn with small areas of loss along top and bottom edge. Front flap is creased at top corner and there is a split for approx 2.5 inches along the fold. Also a little grubby. [R] Price: £280.00
THE LITTLE GREY MENBB, . Illustrated by BB, .
Stock no. 1309767
Eyre & Spottiswoode. 1st thus. 1946. Very good condition in a good dustwrapper. The re-issue of a charming book, now with colour plates. The story tells of three gnomes who live in an old tree by the side of the Folly Brook. Their brother, years before, went up the stream and never returned. In their perilous journey to find him, the three have many adventures. As ever, BB includes a wealth of natural history lore. Carnegie medal winner when first published, this is a superb new version. 8 colour plates (originally published with just a colour frontis) and b/w decorations. Grey cloth, red titles. 190 pages. 8.5 x 7". Spine and corners bumped. Some light foxing to front endpapers. Contents lovely and clean. Price-cut wrapper is edge chipped with slight loss, torn to lower front fold and is also a little bit grubby. [R] Price: £160.00
WILD LONEBB, . Illustrated by BB, .
Stock no. 1501279
Eyre & Spottiswoode. 1st. 1938. Very good condition in a good dustwrapper. The story of the Pytchley fox. 9.25 x 6 ins. Green cloth with beige spine. 13 full page wood engravings and 37 b/w chapter headers and footers. Minimal bumping to spine and corners. Spine and covers edges browned. Foxing mostly to endpapers. Dustwrapper is edge worn and torn with small pieces of loss and is browned and grubby. [R] Price: £85.00