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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 10:26 GMT
Beatrix Potter drawings fetch 23,000
The book was published nine years before Peter Rabbit
The book was published nine years before Peter Rabbit
The best-preserved copy of the first ever book containing Beatrix Potter's work was sold for 23,250 when it went under the hammer on Thursday.

The book, called A Happy Pair, was Potter's first break in publishing in 1893 and includes her Christmas card illustrations alongside poetry by a different author.

Her Peter Rabbit books were self-published at first
The Peter Rabbit books were self-published at first
A Happy Pair was published nine years before the first Peter Rabbit tales appeared, and only a handful of copies exist.

The sale was part of an auction of almost 30 rare Beatrix Potter first and second editions at Sotheby's in London.

Potter is best-known for writing and illustrating children's books with characters including Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Benjamin Bunny.

But the illustrations in A Happy Pair were created in 1890 when her uncle suggested selling her designs to help her pay for a new printing machine.

Peter Rabbit has recently had an image makeover
Peter Rabbit has recently had an image makeover
The six pictures included a rabbit based on her pet Benjamin Bouncer, and were bought by a German publisher for 6 at the time.

"I may mention that my best designs occurred to me in chapel," Potter said of the watercolours.

"I was rather impeded by the inquisitiveness of my aunt, and the idiosyncrasies of Benjamin who has an appetite for certain sorts of paint, but the cards were finished by Easter."

The publisher, Hildesheimer & Faulkner, used them alongside children's verses by Frederic Weatherly.

Also included in the sale was a first edition of the second issue of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which was limited to 200 copies in 1902, and beat its estimated value to be sold for 14,050.

Macabre link

First or second editions of A Tale of Tom Kitten, The Tailor of Gloucester, The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse were also in the sale.

The appeal of Potter's books continues to this day, although Peter Rabbit has just had undergone an image makeover to help him appeal to modern children.

And earlier this year, it was discovered that Potter may have taken the names of her characters from those of people buried in Brompton Cemetery, west London.

Names on headstones included Mr Nutkin, Mr McGregor, Jeremiah Fisher, Tommy Brock - and even a Peter Rabbett.

See also:

23 Aug 98 | Entertainment
Fighting Peter's pirates
19 Nov 99 | Entertainment
Potter manuscript fails to sell
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