Scarcely a day goes by in the Rare Book Department without a visitor asking about our Beatrix Potter Collection. It's not surprising since we have the largest collection of her works--imprints, manuscripts, letters and original illustrations--this side of the Atlantic Ocean. We're happy to report that at long last - IT'S ON! "The Charming Little Bunny: Collecting Beatrix Potter at the Free Library of Philadelphia" opens today in the Rare Book Department and runs through October 14th.
The items displayed demonstrate the undeniable allure of Potter's work. The exhibition also highlights the donors who in some instances spent a lifetime accumulating the books, handwritten documents and works of art of this beloved author and illustrator, and ultimately decided that the Free Library was where these treasured items belonged. Personal letters to friends provide insight into Potter's own thoughts on collecting.
The collection began with Mrs. William M. Elkins's gift of the original manuscript and watercolors for The Tailor of Gloucester, which she presented to the Free Library in 1951. In 1967 three large gifts of Beatrix Potter material were made to the Free Library: H. Bacon Collamore presented his collection of first editions and over one hundred original sketches and watercolors; a collection of letters to Mrs. James De Wolf Perry spanning the years 1928 to 1943 was given by Mrs. Perry's niece, Mrs. Richard Stevens; and Mrs. Charles Cridland, the daughter of Potter's American publisher Alexander McKay, gave the library a selection of letters, a copy of The Fairy Caravan annotated for the McKay children, and the autographed manuscript and 24 additional illustrations used in the American edition of The Tale of Little Pig Robinson.
The exhibition will be a focal point of a conference of the American members of the Beatrix Potter Society, "Preserving Beatrix Potter’s Legacy: Collectors and Collections," to take place at the Free Library and the Rosenbach Museum September 16-18. Registration is required--for more information see the schedule of events. The Rare Book Department will be hosting special Saturday hours for exhibition viewing on July 16th, from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m.
- Joe Shemtov