Early Beatrix Potter illustrations brighten Bonhams' rare books auction
These captivating watercolours were made to go with Potter's Amiable Guinea-Pig poem
Bonhams' Fine Books and Manuscripts auction looks to have something from everyone. We've already reported on the classic texts marking mathematical and scientific progress alongside a beautifully illustrated piece of historic travel writing.
However, a set of illustrations of a very different kind are also on offer - some early watercolours by Beatrix Potter.
The affection felt for Potter's works is sometimes underestimated. Back in November 2009 we reported on a selection of original works by the writer, artist and scientist which easily beat their estimates at Bloomsbury auctions.
Notably, a Jeremy Fisher scene in full, beautiful watercolour over the oval pen and ink drawing sparked a small bidding war and quadrupled its expected price of £3,000-5,000 to be taken home for £16,000 (nearly $26,000). So her work is well worth considering as an investment.
The illustrations on offer at Bonhams are associated with The Amiable Guinea-pig.
To be precise, this sequence of 5 vignettes was drawn in 1893 and three of them redone years later for The Amiable Guinea-pig from Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes, first published in 1917. Potter's journal entry for February 5th, 1893 recounts:
"I went to the Pagets somewhat guilty. This comes of borrowing other people's pets. Miss Paget has an infinite number of guinea-pigs. First I borrowed and drew Mr. Chopps. I returned him safely. Then in an evil hour I borrowed a very particular guinea pig with a long white ruff, known as Queen Elizabeth.
"This PIG - offspring of Titwillow the Second, descendent of the Sultan of Zanzibar, and distantly related to a still more illustrious animal named the Light of Asia - this wretched pig took to eating blotting paper, pasteboard, string and other curious substances and expired in the night... I suspected something was wrong and intended to take it back,
"My feelings may be imagined when I found it extended a damp - very damp disagreeable body. Miss Paget proved peaceable, I gave her the drawing."
The Amiable Guinea-pig is among the earliest of rhymes that Potter used for the 1917 work, and the illustrations are listed here at $12,000-18,000 for Bonhams' auction which takes place on February 13, 2011 in San Francisco, California, USA.
Collectors interested in investing in the illustrations of children's authors may wish to take a look at this unique piece related to an entirely different Potter: a wonderfully illustrated horoscope lovingly prepared by J K Rowling for a child.
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