Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Beatrix Potter • Peter Rabbit & Friends

ONCE upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter. They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree … and so goes the story of Peter Rabbit. I think we all remember it and other Beatrix Potter stories from our childhood.

Helen Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943) was an English author, illustrator, mycologist and conservationist. She is best known for her many best-selling beautifully illustrated children's books that featured animal characters.

Potter wrote the story of Peter Rabbit when she was 27, contained in a letter to the 5 year old son of a former governess. She later expanded it, added more pictures and self-published it in 1901. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was commercially published the next year. Potter was a shrewd business woman and patented the character Peter Rabbit, making him the first patented literary character.

She followed it with The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin in 1903, starting a string of 23 books over the following 27 years, all in the same small format. Her books were popular because of the colorful illustrations and the natural likeableness of her characters. Plus, as I recall, it was easy to identify with the situations and feelings of her little critters.

In her later years, Potter had already accumulated quite a fortune, investing in numerous farmhouses and over 4000 acres of land. She devoted those years to breeding sheep and fighting for land conservation, as well as studying and cataloging local mushrooms. Her will left virtually everything to the British Land Trust.

The popular books and characters continue to delight people of all ages. In 1980, the Beatrix Potter Society was founded by a group of people professionally involved in the curatorship of Beatrix Potter material. The Society’s website is loaded with Potter references, resources and biographical information.

The Beswick Pottery started producing a line of Beatrix Potter figurines in 1948. Tableware and music boxes followed. These have become highly collectible. We recently purchased a nice collection of these little figurines and have put them up for sale on our online antique sales website. These are, of course, also available in our Los Gatos shop – Vintages.

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