From what I have read on Beatrix Potter, I feel as if she would have loved to see how affordable and available bookplates have become. In the past bookplates were typically for those of wealth and status. Bookplates often were designed using the coat of arms or family crest for such purchasers. However today, they can be almost anything and. For that reason, I would have chosen to have a bookplate designed by Beatrix Potter. There are simple sticker ones available online using her art, but I’d prefer to have a unique one.
Most of Potter’s art, both her drawings and watercolors, depict nature of some form, whether animals like Peter Rabbit or the landscape surrounding her estate as shown below. The art is beautiful and is something that I believe would make a wonderful bookplate.
While it is not my favorite character of hers as far as stories go, I love the way she illustrated her owl, Old Brown, in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. Owls are something that represent a great deal for me. They are something my dad has always loved, signify wisdom which I strive for, and on a more whimsical note are a big part of my favorite books, Harry Potter. For that reason, I would want to have one of her owl illustrations be the central focus of my bookplate.
For the border, I would have a floral script like design. Again, I am awe of her paintings of flowers because of the incredible detail she gave to them. Either of the designs below would make lovely borders for my bookplate. I also would have liked the script that was designed with the flowers to have somehow come up to form my name under the owl.
When Potter initially wanted to publish her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, in the early 1900s, no one wanted to publish it. Even the Warne who would later buy the rights to publishing refused it, wanting a more extravagant, bigger book at the time. Potter, ever the determined writer, chose to originally print them on her own so that she could have the books be exactly as she envisioned. To do this, she turned to Strangeway & Sons in 1901 for a private printing. At the time, they most likely used a platen press like the one below. By then, the technology had advanced so that it was automated and would move two platens to print along a fixed bed to create the pages of books.
For the printing of her illustrations, Potter preferred the newer printing methods of three-color half tone process rather than the color wood engraving process that was often used in children’s books during this time. Because of this, Strangeway & Sons, and later even Warne himself, utilized Hentschel blocks. Hentschel created these blocks through process of both photomechanical methods and manual work. This was used to create the color frontispiece used for her original 250 copies she had printed, one of which can be seen below.
While Potter liked the blocks themselves, she did not approve of Hentschel printing her art, even though Hentschel was quite sought after for his work in press and printing. She felt he did not properly handle the blocks and inks, but felt his actual work on the blocks was good enough. When Warne took over for a more mass printing of Peter Rabbit, the blocks were used, however Hentschel was replaced by Edmund Evans as the printer for her illustrations.
Like most things in the printing industry, paper had changed a great deal by the time Beatrix Potter was writing. What had once relied heavily on hand production could now be churned out on a more industrial scale thanks to some inventions that had arisen during the 18th century. By Potter’s time, paper was manufactured and often wood based. This allowed it to be cheaper and more available to the general public. Seeming as how most of Potter’s original works stemmed from letters that she wrote and illustrated, this most likely had a great impact on her as an author.
Most papers used in books are never a pure white color as it makes reading the text more difficult. Potter’s books were no exception to this rule. Her books were printed on a creamy white instead, which showcased both text and illustrations nicely.
While the actual quality and what went into the paper of her books is interesting, the story behind her endpapers is even more fascinating. Originally, Potter wanted to have plain endpapers to give readers a break from the illustrations on the cover and those of the actual story. In the original Peter Rabbit from 1902, the endpapers were printed, colored paper, despite her wishes for a plain colored paper.
However, after his publication of that book, Frederick Warne felt as if the books, which were growing in popularity, needed something different for the endpapers. He requested, much to Potter’s annoyance, that the endpapers feature her characters printed on the pages. Potter eventually relented and designed illustrations for them. However, in more recent editions printed by that of Penguin Books, the endpapers are simple blue paper that is closer to Potter’s desires.