28/06/2017 11:41 PM AEST

Michael Bond, Paddington Bear Creator, Dead At 91

The children's book character became iconic in the U.K. and beyond.

Michael Bond ― creator of the beloved fictional character Paddington Bear ― has died at 91, according to his publisher, HarperCollins. He died at home after a short illness.

Bond said he was inspired to create the character after once spotting a stuffed bear at Paddington Station in London on Christmas Eve. Two years later, in 1958, the first installment of his series was published.

Paddington has since become an iconic children’s book character in the U.K. and beyond. His most notable attributes include a peculiar suitcase that can carry much more than it would seem, a puffy coat, a pair of specs and a penchant for politeness.

Photoshot via Getty Images

Bond’s books, which were published well into the aughts, were adapted into a BBC TV show and a Warner Bros. film. The Paddington series, translated into at least 40 languages, sold more than 35 million copies globally. Beyond Paddington, the author published over 200 titles for children over the course of his career, creating other beloved characters like a mouse called Thursday.

“I was happy reading, so in that sense I wasn’t lonely,” Bond once told The Sunday Telegraph of his childhood. “I think I’ve always had that feeling as a writer ― I’m never alone. You’ve got your characters and when you’re walking down the street, they’re with you in a funny kind of way. For instance, if I bumped into Paddington one day I wouldn’t be at all surprised. He feels very real to me, you see.”

Already, tributes to the bear and his creator are proliferating on Twitter. Stephen Fry wrote, “So sorry to hear that Michael Bond has departed. He was as kindly, dignified, charming & lovable as the immortal Paddington Bear he gave us.”

“I feel privileged to have been Michael Bond’s publisher ― he was a true gentleman, a bon viveur, the most entertaining company and the most enchanting of writers,” Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher of HarperCollins children’s books, explained in a statement.

“He will be forever remembered for his creation of the iconic Paddington, with his duffle coat and wellington boots, which touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations. My thoughts and love are with his wife, Sue, and his children, Karen and Anthony.”