Home > Oak Knoll Books, Oak Knoll Press > Some history on The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Some history on The Tale of Peter Rabbit

February 1, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

John R. Turner, author of the new publication A Bibliography of Unauthorised American Editions of The Tale of Peter Rabbit 1904-1980 thought his retirement would mean “sitting in my arm-chair, wearing my slippers and watching the world go by.” He quickly discovered that there was little time for that, as he became more involved in researching and compiling his now published bibliography. Read his story and more about the history of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

I first met Tony Yablon (lawyer, book collector, book dealer and publisher) in 1973. I had been working for a publishing company and, as a result of a take-over, I had been made redundant. Tony suggested that we cooperate on a bibliography of books about the Brontes – just what I needed to keep me occupied until I could find a new job.

In due course I was appointed as a lecturer at Aberystwyth University in Wales, where I subsequently spent many happy years teaching courses on the modern book trade, historical and analytical bibliography, and bookbinding and paper conservation.

I retired in 2001 and began preparing myself for a life sitting in my arm-chair, wearing my slippers and watching the world go by. I had not reckoned with Tony. He told me about his large collection of so-called Beatrix Potter piracies. The result is A Bibliography of Unauthorised American Editions of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, published in January 2012 by Tony’s antiquarian book company, Ian Hodgkins & Co Ltd, and distributed by Oak Knoll Press.

Frederick Warne was Beatrix Potter’s publisher and for some unexplained reason they failed to register The Tale of Peter Rabbit for copyright protection in the United States. The book therefore went into the public domain in the United States which meant that American publishers had no legal or financial obligations to Warne and were not breaking the law by issuing their own editions of the book. American publishers seized the opportunity. Some published Potter’s text and illustrations with only minimal changes; others kept the text but added new illustrations; others invented new stories in which Peter Rabbit appears as the main character, for example, How Peter Rabbit Went to Sea, Peter Rabbit’s Wedding, Peter Rabbit and His Ma, Peter Rabbit and Jimmy Chipmunk, and many others.

This bibliography attempts to list and describe all these books, all of course unauthorised by Beatrix Potter or Frederick Warne. There are about eighty publishers and a total of 308 entries in the whole bibliography.

It was illegal for the American publishers to sell the books in Britain and they have been virtually ignored here. I found just one title in the British Library catalogue. I was able to compile the bibliography thanks mainly to six private collections, including Tony’s.

-John

Click here for more information about Turner’s new book A Bibliography of Unauthorised American Editions of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

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