Beatrix Potter’s Little Books

Cover illustration from 'The Tale of Two Bad Mice' - Copyright Frederick Warne & Co, 2004

Cover illustration from The Tale of Two Bad Mice
© Copyright Frederick Warne & Co, 2004

Beatrix’s stories were written directly for children and many started life as picture letters to children of her family and friends. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was Beatrix Potter’s first published children’s book. It began life as a letter to Noel Moore, written in 1893.

“My dear Noel, I don’t know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits ….”

In 1900, Beatrix borrowed back the letter and worked up a plan to get the story published. When at least six companies rejected her proposal, she decided to publish it herself. The privately printed edition was a great success and soon Beatrix had a publishing offer from Frederick Warne & Co.

Warne’s first edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published in 1902 and was immediately popular, selling around 46,000 copies in the first twelve months. Warne and Potter soon began to work on many more stories including, 'The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin', 'The Tailor of Gloucester', 'The Tale of Benjamin Bunny' and 'The Tale of Two Bad Mice'.

Beatrix had strong ideas about how her books should be presented, down to size, price and overall look. She also realised the wider market appeal of her characters and initiated the development of related merchandise, such as the Peter Rabbit doll manufactured by Steiff, Germany, in 1903. She always took an interest in all of the creative and commercial matters surrounding her characters and books.