Posted On July 26, 2016
In 1893, a woman wrote and story as a gift for her former governess’ son. The book was “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” and the writer was a woman named Beatrix Potter. She also illustrated the book.
Miss Potter grew up in a privileged home and was privately tutored. She did not have friends and spent hours walking the hills allowing her imagination to run wild. She painted with watercolors and drew illustrations of the local fungi. Even though she was not highly educated, by the time she was in her late twenties she was respected in the field of mycology for her ability to capture the likeness of fungus.
In 1901, she submitted her little book to several publishers and all of them turned her down. Determined, she privately published the book and thus became one of the first self-published authors. I take my hat off to her for that alone.
In early 1902, the Frederick Warne & Co. a publisher that had earlier turned her down told her they would agree to publish if she would redo the illustrations in color. She agreed and by Christmas of that year, 28,000 copies of the book were in print and 22,000 had sold. The Tale of Peter Rabbit has become one of the world’s best-selling books with over 45 million copies in print. It is published in 36 different languages.
In addition, the publisher and Miss Potter recognized another opportunity and used the book to start the idea of merchandising. Besides the books, shirts, games, dolls, caps, mugs and copies of the illustrations are still being sold. Frankly, I think George Lucas should face the direction of England and say “thanks” to Miss Potter every night. She was years ahead of her time and Lucas and others have made millions of dollars following her lead.
Potter, as well, became very wealthy and she invested her money purchasing farms that came up of sale in an area known as the Lake District. Other moneyed interests wanted to purchase the land for development, but Potter bought it with the intention to preserve its natural beauty. She walked this area as a child and young woman and it was here her love of nature began.
Miss Potter died on December 22, 1943 and her wealth she bequeathed to The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty. “The Trust,” as it is known is an organization of private investors dedicated to the preservation of natural lands in the British Isles and the land given them by Miss Potter became known as the Lake District. In 1955, the area, which had grown considerably with the gifts of other patrons became recognized as a national park and is now The Lake District National Park.
The park covers 885 square miles and Miss Potter donated one fourth of it. Not bad, considering it all started with the mischievous deeds of a young rabbit.
July 28th is Beatrix Potter’s birthday and in honor of this writer, illustrator, natural scientist, conservationist, and prize winning sheep farmer I ask that you take time to read The Tale of Peter Rabbit. After all, we can all use a spot of chamomile tea every so often.