Sunday, September 7, 2008

Picture Letters ll

First page of Beatrix Potter's letter to Noel Moore of 4 September 1893 - telling the story of Peter Rabbit for the first time.

The Tailor of Gloucester
Cover (later)

The success of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit was partly based on her study, the real lovable rabbit of hers, Peter. Beatrix also did watercolours of the gardens, the potting shed, the tools, plants, nature and so the connection to the human activity of gardening entered the story. This success encouraged Beatrix to explore the picture letters and other ideas she had based on real life human endeavours. Consider her second and third books the Tailor of Gloucester & The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. The picture letter about squirrel nutkin to Norah Moore formed the basis of The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. It was an elaboration of an earlier letter to Noel about squirrels adventures on a river. All that summer(1901) she studied the red squirrels in the grounds of Lingholm, Derwentwater in the Lakes District of Cumberland, a favourite holiday place of the Potters.

Concurrently Beatrix worked on the other story based on a tale she had heard in Gloucester about a poor tailor in that town. The tale was about the tailor who went home leaving an unfinished suit only to return after the weekend to find it finished except for one buttonhole with a note 'there was no more twist' and then for him to conjecture that the "fairies" had completed it.
The tale was based on an actual tailor in Gloucester. Beatrix visited Gloucester to search out the shop and did studies of both the exterior and interior and features of the tailoring trade. In Beatrix's story the mice were the jolly tailors who completed the waistcoat sans buttonhole in return for the tailor saving them from a cat. This was to be her much loved Rhyme book much in the style of Caldecott and Crane whose work she admired. The rhymes were Christmas rhymes recited by carollers. The 18C costumes on display at South Kensington Museum where she went to do studies set the period although initially she went to study the owls there.
Beatrix again decided to go the route of self publishing and privately printed 500 copies. Warne was again to take up the book and publish them. A deluxe edition was published. The covers were fabric sought out by Beatrix from a mill in the Potter family.
Tomorrow the Pre-Raphaelite connection.


willow said...

I enjoyed the House of the Tailor clip! I find it intriguing on the research she did for her books. I am going to have to do some further reading on Beatrix Potter. You're inspiring me!

Magic Cochin said...

I still have my copies of 'Mrs Tiggy-Winkle' and 'Benjamin Bunny' may favourite books read over and over when I was little.
I was lucky enough to visit the printer Clowes at Beccles, for the publisher I worked for, at the time when the new editions were being prepared. I saw the new scans from the Beatrix Potter originals being checked and compared with the original editions of the little books. As I worked for the same parent publisher I could order a first edition boxed set of all the books at half the retail price. It's interesting to compare the pictures - reproduced very slightly larger from the new digital scans. The corrections she made to some pictures are now visible - have a look yourself (personally I think this is a shame - an illustrator produces work they know will look good reproduced, and Beatrix didn't know digital scanning would pick up every blemish). I still love my 1960's editions the best!!

BTW Melford Hall in Suffolk has a small display of paintings and momentos from when BP visited her relatives who used to own the Hall.


A World Away said...

Willow, Yes she was always 'needing to draw' and was constantly looking and observing all around for subject matter. BP is an inspiration. I'm glad you are enjoying the posts. I would highly recommend Linda Lears bio.
Celia,It is heartening to know that some of the BP books have grown up with you and I imagine can still "take you a world away". Thanks for sharing your experience at the printers. It must have been magical for you to see the original editions. Being under the digital microscope can be daunting to an artist, thats for sure.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I am looking so forward to these every morning when I turn on my computer! Really enjoyable for a Potter lover like myself!

Edward sends greetings as well.

acornmoon said...

Hooray for self publishing!

It's such a shame that most children in Britain will never see a red squirrel although there are a few left in odd corners such as Formby and Cumbria.

Margaret said...

The clip was fabulous! Such a great post--I can't wait to hear about the Pre-Raphaelite connection, although I have my suspicions about what it might be ;)

A World Away said...

Pamela Terry & Edward, I'm glad you are enjoying them as I am just having so much fun writing them. Glad Edward is a "bunnie" lover.

Acorn Moon, Let's have a self publishing appreciation day soon!!

Margaret, your suspicions may be well founded HeHe