The Tale of Peter Rabbit (First Edition) by Beatrix Potter
The Tale of Peter Rabbit is a children’s book written and illustrated by English author Beatrix Potter (1866-1943). This work was first published and printed privately by Potter herself in 1901, and circulated amongst friends, and then printed for trade in 1902 by Frederick Warne & Co, London. Background
Beatrix Potter had been sending illustrated stories in letters to the children of her former governess throughout the 1890s. The governess suggested she make them into books, so Potter borrowed back the letters and selected the story of a rabbit called Peter, based on a rabbit she had once owned. She expanded the story, and when it was rejected by several publishers, went ahead to print it herself, and circulate it among family and friends, including Arthur Conan Doyle and his children. After adding several colour illustrations, and handing over one privately printed copy, Frederick Warne & Co agreed to publish it. Only a year later, there were 56,470 copies in print. Today it is considered a classic, and remains a favourite among children worldwide.
Plot, characters, themes
The book includes the characters of Peter Rabbit, and his sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail. They have been told by their mother not to enter the next door garden of Mr. McGregor. While she is shopping, and his sisters are collecting blackberries, Peter enters Mr. McGregor’s garden, eats so many vegetables he becomes ill, and is chased around by the irate farmer, losing his clothes on the way. He finally escapes and his mother puts him into bed, with some chamomile tea, and his well-behaved sisters receive milk, bread and blackberries.
Helen Beatrix Potter was, as well as a children’s author and illustrator, a respected natural scientist and conservationalist. She used much of her wealth to preserve farmland and country landscape in the English Lake District, and at her death, left this property to the National Trust. Her literature was inspired by fairy tales, fantasy, and a deep love of nature.
Notable auction sales and collecting tips
The true first edition are the privately printed copies. These are also much more rare, and therefore extremely valuable.
For example, privately printed copies (1901) were sold by Christie’s New York for $79,500 in April 1997, $82,250 in December 2000, and $95,600 in December 2004.
Frederick Warne & Co trade first edition (1902) sold for £47,800 by Christie’s London in November 2004, and with Potter’s signature for $80,000 by Profiles in History in December 2009.
Is it not recommended to restore first editions of these books, as they are worth infinitely more in their original bindings.
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