Victoria & Albert Museum
Celebrate the birth of Beatrix Potter 150.5 years ago!
Beatrix Potter’s children’s books have certainly stood the test of time. They have been passed down from one generation to the next and treasured. She is one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors, born 150.5 years ago. Her birth date was July 29th, 1866, and for the past 100 years her beautifully illustrated books have delighted adults and children alike. I cherish my collection of her books.
She grew up in London and was an artist, storyteller, botanist, environmentalist, farmer and businesswoman. She was born to privilege, and was educated by governesses so she did not grow up knowing any other children except her younger brother. She had lots of pets and her family went to Scotland and the Lake District for holidays, so she loved the beauty of land, animals and all of nature. She grew to appreciate all of the natural sciences except astronomy. At the age of 8 she began studying and sketching animals and insects. Her parents were both artistic and she loved to paint. She has said that her love of painting and drawing made her very observant.
In her thirties she published her first and hugely successful book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She studied the classic fairy tales from Western Europe and loved stories from the Old Testament, Aesop’s Fables, and the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. Starting very young, she studied book illustrations. She began illustrating the classic stories she loved like “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty” but that eventually bored her. She found it much more fun to illustrate fantasies about her own pets which included mice, rabbits, kittens and guinea pigs. She began writing and illustrating children’s books full time.
She married at the age of 47 in 1913, purchased a farm and became a prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep. She became interested in land conservation and bought up nearby farms as they became available. She continued to write and illustrate, totaling 30 books, 24 of them being her children’s books. In addition to managing a farm and breeding sheep, her business acumen led her in 1903 to make and patent a Peter Rabbit doll. Other merchandise based on her very popular books including coloring books, board games, wallpaper, china tea sets and baby blankets followed. She licensed them and earned a very good income. She died at the age of 77, leaving almost all her accumulated property to the National Trust. She is credited with preserving much of the land of the Lake District National Park. She and her husband of thirty years never had children.
Penguin Books brought out the Beatrix Potter Designer Editions to celebrate the 150th anniversary of her birth. Five iconic fashion designers re-imagined the covers of her most popular and loved stories. $3.50 each. Here are my two favorites:
If you are a Beatrix Potter fan, and can get to London, visit the Victoria & Albert Museum. The V & A holds the world’s largest collection of Beatrix Potter’s drawings, literary manuscripts, correspondence and photographs. The museum holds a regularly changing exhibit on different aspects of her work.