1890 Beatrix Potter’s A Happy Pair – First Peter Rabbit

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While eBay is not the bookselling venue it once was, I continue to regularly purchase collectible children’s books there. I’ve been a buyer of collectible children's books on eBay since 1998 and perform about 50 saved searches weekly. Over the past five years the quality and quantity of collectible children's books listed on eBay had declined dramatically, however I still find value on occasion.

One of my saved searches is completed books sold for over $300, to see what I might have missed, and to learn (there are some knowledgeable booksellers on eBay, and I often learn something from their descriptive listings). A couple of months ago, a very rare item turned up in the Completed search, the following is the entire listing, verbatim:

A Happy Pair by Frederic Weatherly Hildesheimer & Faulkner Mini Cord Bound Book

A Happy Pair by Frederic E. Weatherly

Illustrated by H. B. P (could this be Beatrix Potter)

Hildesheimer & Faulkner Publishers

Soft cover Miniature Book with corded Binding

14 pages with gold gilt edges Book is 4 inches by 5 inches.

Designed in England

Printed in Germany

Color illustrations of two bunnies throughout

Cover front and back shows some wear including edge wear and soling.

Book in acceptable condition. Binding is tight. Pages are clean

Innocuous enough, even sparse. Surprising when, at least to me, on January 21, 2012 this little booklet (Item 220933184464) sold for $4,396.

As mentioned earlier, I often learn something from eBay auctions. In this instance, I’m not going to learn from the seller's descriptive listing, but rather from what the seller omitted, and what I can discover on my own accord. After a little bit of Google Search, I came upon this 2001 article from BBC News, Beatrix Potter Drawings Fetch £23,000 (the following excerpt from BBC News):

The best-preserved copy of the first ever book containing Beatrix Potter’s work was sold for £23,250 when it went under the hammer on Thursday.

The book, called A Happy Pair, was Potter’s first break in publishing in 1893 and includes her Christmas card illustrations alongside poetry by a different author.

The Peter Rabbit books were self-published at first A Happy Pair was published nine years before the first Peter Rabbit tales appeared, and only a handful of copies exist.

The £23,000 would be equivalent to around $36,000 at today's exchange rate.

After a little more research, I came upon a lesser copy offered for $30,000 by Bauman Rare Books, an ABAA member bookseller (the following excerpt from Bauman Rare Books):


(POTTER, Beatrix) WEATHERLY, Frederic E. A Happy Pair. London: Hildesheimer & Faulkner, [1890]. 16mo, original pictorial wrappers, original cloth ties with tassels, all edges gilt; pp. 12. $30,000.

First and only edition of a true children’s rarity: the first book illustrated by Beatrix Potter, one of the most elusive of all her works, known in only a very few copies (estimated as few as ten, although to our knowledge no formal census exists). With six lovely chromolithographed illustrations, each signed H.B.P. in the stone, and cover designs, all by Potter. A charming copy and an inestimable addition to any collection of children’s literature.

This little pamphlet bought on eBay is the rarest collectible children’s book I’ve seen on the venue. A very nice purchase for $4,400.

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