“NOW, MY DEARS… DON’T GO INTO MR. MCGREGOR’S GARDEN”: FIRST TRADE EDITION OF THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT, AN EXTRAORDINARY COPY
POTTER, Beatrix. The Tale of Peter Rabbit. London and New York: Frederick Warne, . 16mo, original brown paper boards, front cover lettering stamped in white, mounted cover illustration, gray leaf-pattern endpapers. Housed in a custom chemise and clamshell box. $20,000.
First trade edition—among the earliest issues, with first-state text and earliest endpapers—of Potter’s first book, one of the most popular of not only her but also all children’s tales, with 30 charming color illustrations.
In 1893, young Beatrix Potter, on holiday with her parents in Scotland, composed a letter to cheer Noel, the child of her former governess, who was suffering from rheumatic fever. "My dear Noel," she began, "I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits, whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter…" The Tale of Peter Rabbit was born. Undaunted by multiple publishers' rejections, Potter published the first two private editions of Peter Rabbit at her own expense, both editions totaling only 450 copies—which immediately sold. Publisher Frederick Warne agreed to print the first trade edition of Peter Rabbit and presented for the first time the now-familiar format of Potter's books: the earlier black-and-white line drawings replaced by full-color illustrations and the famous prancing image of Peter mounted on the front cover. "There are no recognizable differences between the first three printings, except that green boards were introduced after the first printing" (Linder, 421). First-state text with "wept big tears" on page 51, gray leaf pattern endpapers (later changed) and illustrations removed from later editions, such as Potter's caricature of herself as Mrs. McGregor holding a rabbit pie (page 14). Without scarce original dust jacket. Quinby 2. Contemporary gift inscription dated Christmas 1902.
Infrequent scattered light soiling to interior; binding exceptionally lovely and fine. A beautiful copy, most rare in this condition.