Auctions | July 8, 2016

Beatrix Potter: Books and Works on Paper, including the Collection of John R. Cawood at Auction

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.04.19 AM.pngDreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions will hold an auction dedicated to Beatrix Potter and in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of her birth. The auction will take place on her birthday, 28 July 2016 in Maddox Street, London.  The John Cawood Collection of Beatrix Potter forms a large share of the lots on offer and comprises nearly 100 pieces including First Editions and Works on Paper amassed by the collector since 1972. John Cawood is a resident of The Lake District and prominent member of the Beatrix Potter Society who developed a passion for Beatrix Potter’s tales as a child. Estimates for the collection range from £250 to £35,000.  

Consignments are currently being accepted for the sale with a closing date of 16th of June. 

It was through a childhood friendship formed at his school tennis club with David Steedman (who grew up to become a third generation antiquarian bookseller) that John Cawood developed his passion for collecting which started by chance in 1972.  John, who had qualified as a solicitor, commented to Steedman that he had recently read a biography of Beatrix Potter that he found fascinating. A few days later his friend, with a canny eye for business, telephoned to say that he had a fine copy of Mrs Tiggy Winkle. From that moment he was hooked and for the next 40 years set about trying to achieve ‘a complete set of 1st editions of her ‘little books’. He always strived to buy the best condition of any title and this sale presents an excellent opportunity for new collectors to acquire some of the best examples of her work.

Headlining the sale is a first edition of Beatrix Potter's iconic work, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. This version is a first issue and one of only 250 copies ever made. It has a colour frontispiece and 41 full-page line drawings by the author as well as the original grey-green boards lettered and illustrated in black. This is an exceptional example  of the true first printing of one of the most important children's books of the twentieth century and was privately printed at the behest of the author by Strangeways in December, 1901 (est: £25,000-35,000).  Originally conceived by Beatrix Potter as a picture letter and sent to her former governess’ eldest son Noël in 1893, The Tale of Peter Rabbit was to become one of the pre-eminent children’s books of all time, and firmly established Beatrix Potter as a popular author and illustrator.  This edition was produced largely due to the author’s exasperation at the failure of various children’s book publishers to take on the work, and immediately proved such a success amongst her friends, family and others (including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) that, within a week or two, she had requested a second impression be produced. At the same time Frederick Warne & Co. had reconsidered their position on publishing the work, and a deal was made with Beatrix Potter to produce the edition with coloured plates throughout, maintaining the author’s preferred format in regard to size and sticking with the three-colour process she had commissioned Hentschel to use for this privately printed issue’s frontispiece.

Prior to Beatrix Potter achieving fame with The Tale of Peter Rabbit she made her living as an illustrator of children’s books and ephemera. Included in the auction is a rare and charming chromolithograph Christmas Card of Two Mice in a Coconut.. Designed in England, it was printed in Germany, c. 1890 by Hildesheimer & Faulkner. Beatrix Potter's original design for this Christmas card depicted a mouse in a nest rather than a coconut.  Two original watercolour designs for this work are in the V&A, the former depicting the mouse inside the nest, and the latter depicting the nest viewed from the outside, est: £600 - £800.

Two notable lots relate to the quintessential 'cat and mouse tale' - The Story of Miss Moppet. Highlighting the auction is an original watercolour design for the mouse autographed by Potter and featuring instructions from her in pencil indicating how it was to be reduced in size for the title-page illustration. The watercolour, dating from c.1906, is tipped onto card and window mounted, framed & glazed.  It is an excellent original illustration, initially used in monochrome only for the panoramic edition of The Story of Miss Moppet (1906), and never reissued in colour for the 1916 or subsequent standard format editions. est: £8,000 - £12,000. Very few original illustrations are available on the open market. Also for sale is a first edition of The Story of Miss Moppet in panoramic format, comprising 14 colour illustrations. This is one of only two panoramic Peter Rabbit titles aimed at younger children and issued for Christmas (est: £400 - £600).

A first issue and first edition of The Tailor of Gloucester is one of just 500 copies ever produced and was printed privately by Beatrix Potter in 1902 by Strangeways. The book features 16 colour plates and is estimated at £3,000-4,000. Developed from one of the author’s famous illustrated letters, this time gifted to Freda Moore, this work features rhymes & verses that Beatrix Potter enjoyed woven into a tale told to her by Caroline Hutton during a stay at Harescombe Grange near Stroud, Gloucestershire, for which the author took sketches of Gloucester landmarks & streets, and even tore a button off her own coat so she could watch a tailor in Chelsea at work. The Tailor of Gloucester was the author’s favourite among all her works, writing of this edition “I find that children of the right age - 12 - like it best; the smaller ones who could learn off the short sentences of Peter find this one too long.

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, first edition with 27 colour plates and title vignette by the author features the original floral patterned cloth and lettered in gilt, darkened and slightly creased at spine, rubbed at corner-tips,. Published by Warne in 1903, this was one of two titles to be bound for a deluxe edition in art fabric from Beatrix Potter’s grandfather’s printworks at Manchester and carries an estimate of £700 - £900. 

Beatrix Potter only every produced one Almanac and it is included in the auction estimated at £300-400. Peter Rabbit’s Almanac for 1929 is a first edition with 13 colour plates (frontispiece and one for each month) and colour title vignette by the author and is a good copy.  A first edition in excellent condition of Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes, first or second printing includes 15 colour plates and a plain title vignette by the author and is complete with its original printed glassine dust-jacket. This book was originally planned at the time Peter Rabbit was published, developing on Beatrix Potter’s interest in traditional nursery rhymes combined with her enjoyment of the illustrations of Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott. However, Warne did not publish it until 1917 (est: £1,800 - £2,200).

A handwritten letter from Beatrix Heelis to Mrs [Celia N./Nurse] Edwards dated 23rd February 1924, Sawrey, Ambleside, informing Nurse Edwards that "the committee has confirmed your appointment" [as a Queen's Nurse for the Hawkshead and District Nursing Association] and noting a desired engagement date is estimated at £800-1,200. The author notes luggage arrangements before commenting on the departing nurse ("I should say she always had a quick tongue, but there could not be a kinder hearted woman, I have always liked and respected her, and a splendid surgical nurse. She gets very irritable when feeling ill and tired. I would not write all this, only you are sure to hear plenty of grumbles...") and notes "People are ready enough to make excuses for ex-service men, but when a woman is neuraltrenic [sic] - she is simple "cross"..." 

Image: The Story of Miss Moppet, first edition, in panoramic format, (est: £400-£600).