World Stamps

By Denise McCarty

Royal Mail stamps celebrate Beatrix Potter’s 150th birth anniversary

August 04, 2016 01:00 PM

  • Characters from Beatrix Potter books for children are pictured on these six stamps issued by Great Britain’s Royal Mail July 28 to mark the 150th anniversary of her birth on July 28, 1866.
  • Great Britain’s Beatrix Potter souvenir sheet shows illustrations from The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

By Denise McCarty

Great Britain’s Royal Mail celebrated Beatrix Potter’s 150th birth anniversary on postage stamps, a souvenir sheet, and two booklets issued July 28.

The designs depict characters she created and illustrated in her more than 20 books for children.

Born Helen Beatrix Potter July 28, 1866, in Kensington, London, she began keeping a journal and drawing at a young age. 

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The Peter Rabbit website of Penguin Books Ltd. said: “Beatrix was always encouraged to draw, and she spent many hours making intricate sketches of animals and plants, revealing an early fascination for the natural world that would continue throughout her life. Although she never went to school, Beatrix was an intelligent and industrious student, and her parents employed an art teacher, Miss Cameron, and a number of governesses, including Annie Moore, to whom she remained close throughout her life.”

The character of Peter Rabbit originated in an illustrated letter that Potter sent to Moore’s son Noel, then 5 years old. 

In 1901, Potter self-published A Tale of Peter Rabbit in book form for her family and friends; the following year it was published by Frederick Warne. Since then it has been translated into more than 30 languages, and more than 45 million copies have been sold.

The souvenir sheet features this tale. Inscribed in the selvage to the left of the block of four stamps is “The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter” and the book’s opening sentence, “Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were — Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.”

The first stamp in the upper left of the sheet shows Mother buttoning up Peter’s blue coat. She tells him and his siblings, “NOW run along, and don’t get into mischief. I am going out.”

She warned them not to go into Mr. McGregor’s garden, but Peter, who was naughty, headed straight there, squeezing under the garden gate, as shown on the next stamp, a £1.33 denomination.

After filling up on lettuce, French beans and radishes, he starts to feel sick and goes to find some parsley. This scene is featured on the nondenominated first-class stamp in the lower right. A sparrow also is pictured in the illustration.

The final stamp, another  £1.33 denomination, shows Peter, who has lost his jacket and shoes, slipping underneath the gate as Mr. McGregor chases him with a hoe.

The other six stamps in this Beatrix Potter issue are in se-tenant (side-by-side) pairs printed in sheets of 60 (sold in panes of 30 at most postal outlets). 

Peter is pictured on one stamp in the nondenominated first-class pair. The other stamp shows a hedgehog washerwoman, the title character of The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (published in 1905).

The two £1.33 stamps depict Squirrel Nutkin (The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, 1903) and Jemima Puddle-Duck (The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, 1908). 

Pictured on the stamps in the £1.52 pair are Tom Kitten (The Tale of Tom Kitten, 1907) and Peter’s cousin, Benjamin Bunny (The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, 1904).

The stamps denominated £1.33 pay the rate for international mail up to 20 grams, and the  £1.52 stamps pay the rate for mail to Europe weighing up to 100 grams. The first-class rate is currently 64 pence.

Charlie Smith Design designed the six stamps in se-tenant pairs, and Magpie Studio designed the souvenir sheet and the four stamps in it. 

All of the stamp designs are based on illustrations by Potter. Frederick Warne &. Co. is the owner of all rights, copyrights and trademarks in the Beatrix Potter character names and illustrations.

The stamps in the souvenir sheet are square, 35 millimeters by 35mm, and are perforated gauge 14.5. The sheet measures 115mm by 89mm.

The other six stamps measure 35mm by 37mm each, and are perforated gauge 14 by 14.5.

One of the two new Beatrix Potter booklets is a prestige booklet containing text and illustrations in addition to four panes of stamps. 

Three of the panes contain the new Beatrix Potter stamps, and the fourth contains eight Queen Elizabeth II Machin stamps (three 5p, two 10p and three £1.05 denominations) with a label in the center showing a photographic portrait of Potter.

The other booklet contains six stamps: the first-class Peter Rabbit and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle stamps and four first-class Queen Elizabeth II Machin definitives.

Royal Mail’s other products for this Beatrix Potter set include first-day covers; a presentation pack with mint examples of the stamps and text by Emma Laws, the Warne curator of children’s literature at the Victoria and Albert Museum; and 11 postcards reproducing the designs of the 10 stamps and the souvenir sheet. 

Ordering information is available from Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB, Scotland. They can be ordered online here.

Royal Mail’s two agencies in the United States are Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557; and the British Stamp Service in North America, 1 Unicover Center, Cheyenne, WY 82008. 

Beatrix Potter characters have appeared on other stamps from Great Britain. The first was the Peter Rabbit stamp in the 1979 International Year of the Child set (Scott 867). In addition to showing Peter Rabbit, this stamp also pictures Jemima Puddle Duck and Squirrel Nutkin.

Peter Rabbit is depicted with his mother on a 1993 Greetings stamp (Scott 1484) and is shown mailing a letter on a 1994 Greetings stamp (1543). 

The frog Jeremy Fisher is included on a stamp in the 2006 set showing animals from children’s books (2334). Royal Mail also issued a prestige booklet in 1993 titled “The Story of Beatrix Potter.”