The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
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Privately printed: December, 1901. 16mo, coloured frontispiece and 41 black and white illustrations. Original grey paper boards, flat spine, decoration and titles to upper board in black. The boards a little chafed, extremities slightly rubbed, slight soiling on lower cover, otherwise a very good copy of a fragile book. In a green morocco folding box. First privately printed edition, one of 250 copies. The true first printing of Potter’s first and most famous book with the author’s signed presentation inscription on the front free endpaper: “For Miss [Caroline] Hutton with love from Beatrix Potter Christmas 1901”. Potter was 27 and living at home when she wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Five publishers rejected her illustrated manuscript but Potter arranged for it to be privately printed by Strangeways and its immediate success launched her career. Inscribed association copies of the first printing are truly rare; this copy, inscribed at the time of publication when she gave away several copies as Christmas presents to family and friends, unrestored and in relatively fine condition, was once said to be the “only copy to contain a personalised presentation inscription by Beatrix Potter. The remaining copies [at auction] either contain simply her signature, publication details in her hand, or an inscription dated December 22 with no named recipient.” In fact, one other copy which we handled recently, was inscribed to a family retainer. The two copies in the V&A are inscribed, one in 1901 and the other in 1917. Caroline Hutton, a distant relative, was responsible for carrying Potter off to her family home near Stroud at a time when Potter was not well, and she became good friends with Caroline’s father who christened her “The Busy Bee” so well did she flourish in that home. It was he who told her the story of the Tailor of Gloucester (to be Potter’s second book) and it is not idle to suspect she may have conceived of Peter Rabbit while with Caroline and her father. Osborne, p 382.Provenance: Pacific Book Auction Galleries (1996). Private collection (anonymous). (Item Id: 110735)

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