This 1897 picture letter from Beatrix Potter to her young cousin Molly Gaddum illustrates a favoured tale of her own childhood, Lear’s ‘The Owl & the Pussy Cat’. It sold for $32,500 (£26,420) at Doyle.

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Those noted here were either purchased on behalf of a collector, Mary K Young, by the well-known American dealer and children’s book specialist, Justin Schiller, or sold to her directly by him.

Owl with hands

Six of them are illustrated below, along with another work, above, that is worth a special mention as much for its inscription as its illustration.

Including eight original drawings, it was one of the many picture letters that Beatrix Potter produced over the years – this one sent in 1897 to a young cousin, Molly Gaddum.

"It was one of the many picture letters that Beatrix Potter produced

When she was much the same age as the recipient (four to five), Potter had been given a copy of Lear’s Nonsense Songs, one of which is ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’.

In a short note to Molly that accompanied her picture letter she wrote: “It is very odd to see an owl with hands, but how could he play the guitar without them?”

Acquired at Sotheby’s London in 1986, it sold somewhat under estimate at the auction on April 22 for $32,500 (£26,420).


A Beatrix Potter watercolour, $32,500 (£26,420) at Doyle.

1. Sold at $32,500 (£26,420) was a Beatrix Potter watercolour of a rabbit wearing a red jacket and shovelling snow, a drawing known in more than one version and possibly produced originally for reproduction as a greetings card. Though it is now lost, the frame that once held the drawing bore on the back an inscription reading “To Mrs. White from Miss Potter, in remembrance of a pleasant time in Hastings, January 1899.”


‘Mrs. Rabbit buttoning Peter’s Coat’, a watercolour on silk re-creation of an illustration from the opening pages of 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit', $35,000 (£28,455) at Doyle.

2. Bid to $35,000 (£28,455) was ‘Mrs. Rabbit buttoning Peter’s Coat’, a watercolour on silk re-creation of an illustration from the opening pages of BP’s best loved book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Thought to date from around 1901-1905, it had been bought at $11,500 in a 1987 Sotheby’s New York sale.


Scene from Chapter VII of 'Wind in the Willows', $20,000 (£16,260) at Doyle.

3. This boating scene from Chapter VII of Wind in the Willows featuring Rat and Mole was not one of the originals for the first fully illustrated edition of 1931. When a new edition of 1959 was planned to include eight colour plates, EH Shepard, who famously produced a great many copies of his original work for friends and admirers over the years, also decided to make alterations to some of his original drawings. This example – inscribed “Redrawn in Jan/56” – sold at a low-estimate $20,000 (£16,260).


Scene from Chapter II of 'The House at Pooh Corner' of 1928, $37,500 (£30,490) at Doyle.

4. Found in Chapter II of The House at Pooh Corner of 1928, ‘In which Tigger Comes to the Forest and has Breakfast’, is this drawing identified by the words “Your friend, said Eeyore, appears to have bitten on a bee”. It depicts Eeyore, Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger, who has a troublesome mouthful of thistle. It made $37,500 (£30,490).


A Shepard original drawings for 'The House at Pooh Corner', $55,000 (£44,715) at Doyle.

5. “So he sat down on the stone in the middle of the stream...”, another of Shepard’s original drawings for The House at Pooh Corner, depicts Pooh seated on a steppingstone in a stream, looking up at a dragonfly. When acquired for his client by Schiller at Sotheby’s London in 1989 the price was £16,000, but in New York this year the bill was $55,000 (£44,715).


Shepard original drawing for 'The House at Pooh Corner' from Chapter VIII, sold at Doyle for $62,500 (£50,815).

6. “Suppose a tree fell down when we were underneath it” – a Shepard original drawing for The House at Pooh Corner, is found in Chapter VIII, ‘In which Piglet Does a Very Grand Thing’. Purchased for Mary Young in 1989 at CG Sloan of Washington (now Sloans & Kenyon), it sold at Doyle for $62,500 (£50,815).