a second peter rabbit

29 March 2003

i’m fairly certain that beatrix potter’s peter rabbit books (and all of her the other characters) are guarded under some kind of unusual ongoing copyright by her publishers frederick warne and co and although they bring out plenty of new peter rabbit books and merchandise they are all pretty much in character with the original.

so it’s interesting to find these copies of peter rabbit and his ma and peter rabbit and his pa from 1917 and 1916, written by louise a. field and illustrated by virginia albert. peter’s sisters flopsy and mopsy are here but cottontail has expanded into molly cottontail. the style of the book apes the original though the illustrations aren’t a patch on potter’s and the story seems to be independent of potter’s too. peter rabbit and his pa must be a prequel to the original since in the real mccoy (published in 1902) peter is warned:

you may go into

the fields or down the lane, but don’t

go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your

Father had an accident there; he was

put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.

and yet there are so many similar features, the picture of peter squeezing under the gate for instance, that they’ve obviously been written for people who haven’t seen the original peter rabbit.

these books very much look like a rewrite/ripoff for the american market, features like barbed wire and cornfields don’t seem to fit with the english setting. i can’t find anything online about the provenance of the books, but i can’t believe either warne or potter authorised them. and the moral of the original is lost when peter’s gluttony only leads to there not being enough peas to go around for supper rather than peter ending up ill in bed with a cup of camomile tea.

seeing how poorly these stories work only makes me realise all the more how clever beatrix potter really was.

[rosetta project: children’s books online found via dollarshort.org]