Collecting has been a major part of my life as far back as I can remember. As a child in Canada, my favorite things to collect were marbles, paper dolls, and comic books. Because my family moved alot, my collections were usually dispersed, never to be seen again. It was not until I married, had three children, and moved to California that I recognized that books would make the ultimate collection. This happened upon meeting Gail and Wally Klemm, seeing their collection, and discovering for the first time the world of first editions and rare books.
In 1967, Gail and I bravely undertook the opening of our own shop in Riverside, California, naming it The Antiquarian Bookshop. We stacked it with modern firsts, some Americana, and children's and illustrated books. The children's section was by far the largest in the shop; so, for us, the next logical step was to issue a catalogue featuring those items. A copy of the catalogue was mailed to Justin G. Schiller in New York, and we were pleased to receive an order from him for two of the items listed.
Even more important for me than his order was Justin's request that we attend a local auction to bid on his behalf. The end result was that I did the bidding for him, and, in addition to the shop's commission, I was sent a bonus--my first-ever Beatrix Potter first edition. It was a copy of Ginger & Pickles, and I knew immediately that the focus my book collection would take would be the works of this remarkable author and artist.
What I did not realize, of course, was that my collection would grow far beyond that first goal of acquiring Potter's twenty-three well-known little books. Nearly thirty years later, I can look back and remember the excitement of each special "find," especially when coming upon a title I did not even know existed. My daughter, Katherine, who was ten years old at the time, discovered The Fairy Caravan and led me to where it sat on the shelf in a dusty antiques shop. This was before I owned a copy of the Quinby reference and before Leslie Linder's A History of the Writings of Beatrix Potter had been published, so it was like finding gold.
The centennial of Potter's birth, 1966, was a banner year for celebrating and acknowledging her work. The many Potter exhibits here and in England generated such interest that soon new scholarly publications about Potter became available, most notably those of Leslie Linder. The founding in 1980 of the Beatrix Potter Society ensures that his work is carried on.
Bit by bit my collection grew. Christmases and birthdays were perfect occasions for friends and relatives to present me with the newest Beswick figurine, or perhaps one of the Vienna bronze figures. From the rarest publication (Our Dear Relations) to the least significant piece, each item has given me much joy. But I think of all the items in my collection, those I feel closest to are the eleven Noël Moore copies. After all, if it were not for Noël Moore, the story of Peter Rabbit might never have been written.
It is interesting to note that the Linder collection in the Victoria & Albert Museum contains a number of books owned by members of the Moore family; however, none of these is identified as having been Noël's. For example, Beatrix Potter: The V & A Collection lists a copy (item no. 1639) of the privately printed, first issue of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, describing it as "worn to state of loose sections only; copy belonging to the Moore family; not inscribed." It appears, therefore, that the copies in my collection were assembled later by Noël, Probably when he was a young man. To me, they represent the finest association copies one can acquire.
During the past thirty years, I have been the happy custodian of these treasures, and now I trust they will bring the same pleasure to, and have the loving care of, their new owners.
Doris Keen Frohnsdorff
When Doris Frohnsdorff invited me to write an introduction to this catalogue, I agreed to do so out of respect for a longtime friendship. I hadn't remembered giving her her first Beatrix Potter book thirty years ago, and I feel some anxiety now for what could have happened If I had chosen something different. But she did well and any collector would feel great pride at this accomplishment. Relatively speaking, thirty years is less than half a lifetime but one could not imagine a more complete and comprehensive library still in private hands -- one that would be virtually impossible to duplicate in today's market given the high profile of interest and rarity of so many items.
With only three copies known to survive of Our Dear Relations, and not that many more of Happy Pair, Beatrix Potter's first two books have never before been offered for public sale at the same time. It is also one of the few times during the past twenty years that all three privately printed books (Peter Rabbit 1901, 1902 and Tailor of Gloucester 1902) are being sold together. This is also the largest collection of first edition Potters in varied binding colors and styles to come under the auctioneer's hammer, and the largest quantity of her first editions to be sold still in their original glassine dust-jackets. One dozen signed or inscribed Potters, a similar quantity of books signed or autographed by the person for whom Peter Rabbit was originally written; drawings, letters, photographs, pottery, games and toys.
This is a collector's dream for in the course of just a few hour's one will see the dispersal of a library envied by nearly every one who is looking through these pages. As a dealer we would like to buy so many of the items, but such also will be the thoughts of many -- private collectors, librarians and curators, other dealers as well perhaps as the beginner who realizes a golden opportunity. Good luck to everyone, and good hunting! And thank you Doris for making our efforts so much easier that all it takes will be keeping our bidding paddle in the air until the auctioneer's hammer falls in our direction.
Justin G. Schiller