Early Beatrix Potter illustrations brighten Bonhams' rare books auction

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.

Beatrix Potter guinea pig art
Classic early Beatrix Potter illustrations

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.


Join our readers in over 200 countries around the world - sign up for your free weekly Collectibles Newsletter today 

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock