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Beatrix Potter First Editions

View the first edition children's books by Beatrix Potter available at Shapero.


Born during the Victorian era to wealthy and well-connected parents, English children’s author and illustrator, botanist and conservationist Beatrix Potter led a largely solitary childhood. To make up for the lack of company she began to sketch and make up stories about her pet rabbits and her parents seeing her talent paid for art lessons.

She was fascinated by natural history and would spend many hours drawing wildlife such as fungi and flowers, before turning her hand to illustration for children’s books published by Nister & Dutton, wherein prototypes for many of the characters from Peter Rabbit & Friends can be found, including Jeremy Fisher (‘A Frog he would a fishing Go’, Nister’s Holiday Annual 1896). The first rare Beatrix Potter book to solely feature illustrations by her is the ‘The Happy Pair’ (c.1890), which alongside many of her more ephemeral illustrated pieces from that time are highly sought after and can fetch in excess of £15,000 in good original condition.

Encouraged by the reception her hand-done ‘picture-letters’ had received from the young recipients, Beatrix Potter turned her hand to writing & illustrating her own children’s books. She struggled initially to find a publisher, and instead privately printed her first two books ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ (1901) and ‘The Tailor of Gloucester’ (1902), experimenting with new colour printing processes and managing every aspect of the books’ production. Publishers Frederick Warne & Co. were so impressed they decided to take a chance on the budding author, now 36 years old.
The Warnes did not have much hope it would sell many copies; they actually gave the project to their youngest brother, Norman, as a kind of test for his first project. However, Norman proved to be a good choice. He warmed to both the book and Beatrix.

He was determined to make a success of the book and developed a good working relationship with Beatrix as they pored over the individual details of the book. It was Norman who insisted that the plates for the Warne editions of Peter Rabbit would still be in colour. Beatrix insisted that the book remain small so that it would be easy for children to hold. By the end of the year, 28,000 copies were in print and the rest as they say is history. Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books remain in print to this day, a phenomenon of children’s literature.

Beatrix Potter First Editions

First Edition Beatrix Potter books are not always easy to spot, many having ‘issue points’ or variations that can have considerable bearing on value. If in doubt please contact one of our experts for more information. The author also experimented with ‘deluxe versions’ of many of her books, either to binding designs by Beatrix Potter or bound in art fabric from her grandfather’s factory, which are highly collectable when in very good condition.

The last of her works to be published was ‘The Tale of the Faithful Dove’, published posthumously by Warne in 1955 in a limited edition of 100 copies only.


Find Beatrix Potter First Edition Children's Books available at Shapero below.

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  1. 16mo; inscribed on half-title and front and rear endpapers by Annie Maria Harris née Armitt; colour illustrations throughout, one leaf with vertical crease to right-hand side; publisher's green boards with inset rectangular panel to upper cover, pictorial endpapers, front free endpaper rubbed with slight surface loss to fore-margin, spine faded.

  2. Facsimile manuscript, number 474 of a limited edition of 500 copies; 12mo (154 x 91 mm, 6 x 3½ in); 8 colour illustrations tipped-in, 2 black-and-white illustrations tipped-in; gilt-ruled straight-grained dark green morocco, marbled edges, marbled endpapers, slipcase with gilt-stamped design to upper board, near-mint condition.

  3. First edition, first or second printing, deluxe issue; 16mo; 27 colour plates, plain title vignette and colour pictorial endpapers by Beatrix Potter, 2 plates with superficial loss due to adhesion to facing pages, frontispiece lightly touched up to blank recto where cracking slightly, red run from cloth affecting fore-edge and lower fore-corner of most ff., with further impact to preliminary leaves, some other light soiling and finger-marking; publisher's lilac cloth with decorative gilt to design by Beatrix Potter, with inset colour illustration to upper cover, recased with hinges reinforced internally, some damp mottling and rubbing, presented in later cloth solander box.

  4. First edition, deluxe issue, third printing; 16mo; 27 colour plates, plain title vignette and colour pictorial endpapers by Beatrix Potter, small ink name to front free endpaper, overall internally very good; publisher's russet cloth with decorative gilt to design by Beatrix Potter, with inset colour illustration to upper cover, a little rubbing to corner-tips with fore-corners turning in ever so slightly, but overall an unusually good example, gilt edges.

  5. First edition, first issue, [one of 500 copies]; 16mo; 16 colour plates by the author, one plate with pencil initials or flourish beneath, internally excellent, original pink boards lettered and illustrated in black with rounded spine, a superb copy.

  6. First trade edition, later impression with double endpapers rather than repeated single sheets; 16mo; frontispiece and 26 full colour plates, small, faint pencil marking to corner of upper front-free endpaper, otherwise fine: publisher's maroon boards, illustrated pastedown to fielded panel on upper board, two small superficial scratches to upper board, some fading to spine, nonetheless a near-fine copy.

  7. First edition thus, number XXI of XXV hors commerce copies, from an overall limitation of 250 copies; 16mo; comprising printed introductory booklet signed & numbered in pencil by Maurice Sendak, with additional pencil signature of printing historian Iain Bain, in original printed wrappers, 34 line block illustrations printed in brown ink on Arches paper, each with pencil limitation details and printed monogram of Alecto Historical Editions on verso, with tissue guard, each loose in separate printed card sleeve; together housed in original cloth drop-back box with inset illustration on upper cover and gilt label on spine, a fine copy.

  8. First trade edition, first issue with date on title-page and a single-page endpaper repeated four times; 16mo; 27 full-page colour illustrations, title vignette and pictorial endpapers by the author; publisher's dark green boards with inset colour illustration, presented in later cloth solander box.

  9. First edition, one of 100 numbered copies; 16mo (138 x 108 mm.); usual light browning to free endpapers; publisher's green cloth, dust-jacket, an excellent copy.

  10. First Edition. 16mo, 94 pp., title vignette, 15 colour plates and numerous black and white vignettes within text, modern full tan morocco, gilt, original pictorial pastedown to upper cover, green lettering piece to spine, original pictorial endpapers and all edges gilt; small mark to lower outside corner of p.7 otherwise internally very good indeed.

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