It is no accident that Beatrix Potter merchandise has become so popular, as in 1903 Beatrix herself patented a Peter Rabbit doll — the first licensed literary character in the world! There quickly followed a succession of designs for slippers, calendars, wallpaper, tea sets and even a board game, all of which were developed with her approval and licensed by her publisher, Frederick Warne.
Beatrix Potter’s delightful characters, brought so charmingly to life through her twenty-three Tales have been delighting generation after generation since the first commercial publication of The Tale of Peter Rabbit™ in 1902. All of the Tales have been translated into thirty languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide.
Born in London in 1866, Helen Beatrix Potter became one of the world’s most successful authors. She was educated at home by a series of governesses and had a somewhat lonely childhood, as her brother Bertram went to boarding school. Perhaps this is why she turned her attention to studying and drawing many of her large menagerie of pets. From an early age she also began to express an interest in natural history and landscape painting. During her summer holidays in Scotland, and later the Lake District, she would send illustrated letters to the children of her former governess, Annie Moore.
On the 4th September 1893, Beatrix Potter sent a ‘picture letter’ to Noel Moore; the sick son of her former governess; to cheer him up. ‘My dear Noel’, she wrote, ‘I don’t know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter…’
Eight years later, undeterred by numerous refusals from publishers, she privately published an initial 250 copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit™. It was an immediate success and she had another 200 copies printed. By this point Frederick Warne was very interested and agreed to publish her book commercially, with the provision that the illustrations appeared in colour, which Beatrix Potter duly undertook. A phenomenal 50,000 copies of the book had been sold by the end of 1903, and it has never been out of print since!
Part of everyone’s childhood, the delightful characters she created in her wonderful Tales remain as popular today as they were over a hundred years ago and are loved by millions of people who continue to pass on these extraordinary stories to the next generation of young readers.
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