November 5, 2012

Beatrix Potter’s picture letters on display in New York


Beatrix Potter’s earliest surviving letter, depicting Peter Rabbit.

It’s been a couple weeks since I last wrote about Beatrix Potter, so I’m sure people are waiting with bated breath for the next post about her …

So I’m happy to report that the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan is displaying some of her letters, which depict her beloved characters like Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, and Pig Robinson, among others .

Potter actually first created her anthropomorphic characters in letters like these, initially only for her own pleasure and for the children to whom she sent them. It wasn’t until years later that she borrowed the letters back to turn them into books that would become classics. In addition to the letters, the museum has some of Potter’s earlier sketches, including nature studies and whimsical drawings of animals, that demonstrate her knack for story-telling and drawing abilities.

The exhibition also includes items that show Potter’s business savvy and insistence on high standards in her work. The museum’s website says, “She had her first books privately printed at her expense, she stoutly defended her rights to her artistic creations, and she personally oversaw the design of toys and games based on her bestselling books, a model for merchandising ventures even now.”

Between now and the exhibition’s close on January 27, the Morgan Library & Museum has a whole slew of Beatrix Potter programming, including a symposium called “Yours Sincerely, Beatrix Potter: Letters and Librarians,” a screening of Miss Potter (a biopic of the author starring Renée Zellweger), a workshop on designing children’s books, and a weekly Sunday Storytime for kids.

The Morgan Library (on Madison Ave. at 36th St.) is worth snooping around any time,  and the New York Times says that this exhibition is “engrossing,” so if you’re at all inclined to seek out Potter’s work, you might want to check it out.



Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.