Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2016 Issue

A Beatrix Potter Collection from Peter Harrington

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Beatrix Potter

Peter Harrington has created a catalogue designed, quite literally, for the young at heart – Beatrix Potter. A Selection from the Library of an English Bibliophile. Ms. Potter will forever be linked to Peter Rabbit, the naughty bunny she created in a letter to entertain a friend's child. To her surprise, Peter "grew up" to be an institution. She went on to create many more anthropomorphic animal tales, her following among children in England and America wide and deep. Her truest fans know all of the rest, while everyone else knows Peter.

 

Despite her celebrity writer status, Ms. Potter was never a very public woman. Her father dominated much of her life. While adored by children, she had none of her own. She was not married until age 47, though she was first engaged at age 40 to her publisher, who sadly died before the wedding. If her parents controlled much of her life, Potter did control those of Peter and his friends. She was quite demanding about the details of her books, size, format, and such. These books, from start to finish, are very much Beatrix Potter. Here are a few of them.

 

Potter was both the writer and illustrator of her stories. She started out as an illustrator, and it is unlikely she ever would have achieved such success as a writer alone. It was her drawings that caught people's eye. As such, she created greeting cards and such featuring her drawings. The first book in which she participated was published in 1890, and she was the illustrator only for it. The book is A Happy Pair. It is a set of six poems written by Frederic Weatherly. Weatherly was mostly a song writer, and like Potter, he is by far best known for a single creation, in his case, Danny Boy. Potter was not hired specifically to illustrate this book. She sent her illustrations to a couple of publishers. The first returned them, the second, Hildesheimer & Faulkner, loved them, using them for this book and for Christmas cards, and immediately ordered more. The pair she has illustrated are humanized rabbits, looking remarkably like Peter and his family. This first Potter work is extremely rare. Item 1. Priced at £30,000 (British pounds, or approximately $40,015 in U.S. currency).

 

Here is the one you know Beatrix Potter for. Item 6 is a copy of the first edition, first impression, of the privately printed Peter Rabbit, published in December 1901. In 1893, Potter wrote a letter with illustrations to the five-year-old son of her governess from her youth. The child was frequently ill and she sought to cheer him up. In 1900, she thought the drawings might make the basis of a good story and wrote the boy back to see if he still had them. Fortunately he did, and sent them to her. Potter created her book, the Tale of Peter Rabbit. She wanted the book published in a smaller format than preferred at the time so that children could easily handle it. No publisher wanted her book under those conditions, and Potter was uncompromising in her demands. The result was she published it herself, 250 copies, some of which she sold, others she gave to friends. They liked it so much she printed a second impression, and with that, publisher Frederick Warne & Co. gave in to her demands. Item 6 is a copy of that private first edition in the first impression. £75,000 (US $99,920).

 

Item 7 is a second impression of the first edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, one with an inscription that reflects a lesser known part of Beatrix Potter's life. It reads, "For J. Squire, from Miss Potter. March 26, 1902." I don't know much about Mr. Squire other than, in her diary, Potter said she went "to ask him about dry-rot." Fascinating subject, no doubt! It turns out that Miss Potter was something of an amateur expert on fungi. Though quite knowledgeable, she was limited in her studies since, at the time, women were not permitted to seriously pursue science. Nonetheless, she learned enough to write a paper on the germination of fungi that was sufficiently expert that her uncle had it presented to the Linnean Society (she could not do so herself being a woman). £35,000 (US $46,618).

 

Peter may have been a naughty rabbit, but this one was bad, fierce bad. Item 34 is The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit. This rabbit didn't just steal from humans, he stole from other rabbits. Published in 1906, this story featured a different format. It was a fold-out panorama, unfolding from its wallet-like case to 14 pages of text and 14 of illustrations. It may have seemed like a clever idea, but booksellers hated it. People would unfold it in the store but struggle to fold it back up when finished. Three such panoramas were planned, but only two were published before the format was dropped. Both this story and the other were later printed in standard book format. This copy comes in a rare red variant binding. Most were in a green binding. Two copies in Warne's archives were in red, so perhaps this was an earlier trial binding rejected in favor of the green. £3,250 (US $4,334).

 

Potter wrote prolifically through 1913. After that, her production dropped off precipitously. She didn't publish again until 1917, and the gap between books, particularly new ones, expanded. Much had changed in her life. She had been buying up land in the countryside for several years, using the wealth from her books plus an inheritance from an uncle. In 1913, she finally married and moved to the country. The following year, the First World War started, and her dominant father died. She was focused on farming and her husband and his family. Meanwhile, her eyesight deteriorated, making illustration difficult. Most of what followed either used earlier books or were stories she had written years before but never had published. She died in 1943, after 30 years of happy married life. Her final book was published years later. Item 87 is The Sly Old Cat, published in 1971. It was written in 1906, intended to be the third panorama book. It had been retrieved from the mothballs in 1916 by Warne, with Potter suggesting another illustrator to complete her sketches because of her weakened sight. It didn't happen until this first edition was finally published over half a century later, using Potter's original sketches. While this was her last book, it should be noted that a more recently discovered unpublished Potter story is scheduled to be published this month, illustrated by another. £100 (US $133).

 

Peter Harrington may be reached at 020 7591 0220 (USA 011 44 20 7591 0220) or mail@peterharringtonbooks.com. Their website is www.peterharrington.co.uk or www.peterharringtonbooks.com (for U.S. customers).

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.

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