POTTER (BEATRIX) Archive of material relating to Beatrix Potter and Todhunter sisters, makers of "We
Lot 312
POTTER (BEATRIX) Archive of material relating to Beatrix Potter and Todhunter sisters, makers of "Wee Folk" leather dolls; comprising
Sold for £3,840 (US$ 6,454) inc. premium
Lot Details
Archive of material relating to Beatrix Potter and the Todhunter sisters, makers of "Wee Folk" leather dolls, comprising: 2 autograph letters signed ("H.B. Heelis ('Beatrix Potter')" and "Beatrix Heelis"), together 4 pages, one split at fold, 8vo, "Castle Cottage, Sawrey, nr. Ambleside", March 3 [and 6], 1936; The Tailor of Gloucester, FIRST EDITION, LIMITED TO 500 COPIES, INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR "For Edith Todhunter from Beatrix Potter, Jan 6th, 1937", 15 colour plates only (of 16, without illustration at p.46), publisher's pictorial boards [Linder 420; Quinby 3], 16mo, [Privately Printed], December, 1902; The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse, later edition, INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR "For Elizabeth Todhunter from Beatrix Potter, Jan. 5, 1937", 26 colour plates, publisher's boards, 16mo, Frederick Warne, [after 1918]--TODHUNTER (REBECCA) Rhymes of the Wee Folk, illustrations "posed by Mr. T. Longworth Cooper", publisher's wrappers, [?Windermere, Privately Printed, c.1935]; an original "Wee Folk leather doll" made by the Todhunters in wire, papier maché and softened leather, approximate height 300mm.; and some related ephemera (small quantity)


  • A fascinating archive, including two fine autograph letters and two books inscribed by Beatrix Potter to the Misses Todhunters, makers of "Wee Folk" dolls.

    Sisters Elizabeth and Edith Todhunter established a small business designing and making bendable dolls - "The Wee Folk" - at their home in Windermere, later moving to premises on the river Ouse in York. It is apparent from Beatrix Potter's letters that she had received several "Wee Folk" figures and a copy of Rhymes of the Wee Folk, with verses by Rebecca Todhunter illustrated with photographs of the dolls. She asks to pay for the book, and for a further copy to send to Mr. Stephens at her publisher Warne & Co. "with a mark against p.5, the grass background". Their arrival obviously touched Potter. On 3 March, 1936 she writes "...I have been spending the afternoon arranging the Wee Folk on the chimney piece. They are lovely and their possibilities endless", noting that the photographs in the book have "not quite done justice... the arms & legs not quite correctly bent". Having praised Rebecca's rhymes she continues "I too have heard the fairies; and who knows? I may have seen them..." Enthused, she assures the sisters "I will commission a McGregor and a Peter Rabbit for myself - and what about the scarecrows? and old Mrs. Rabbit suitably clothed in leather...". On 6 March, regretting that "seventy years of experience have not cured me of the fault of procrastination", Potter says she had intended to "call at Goblin market sometime", then reminisces fondly "I once -(long ago and mislaid-) made a figure of Peter Rabbit, which was like your puppets, in that they looked alive, and was really charming... There is nothing more to be made of "Peter" commercially. There have been dolls, china, slippers, etc. for years - they bring in royalties; but somehow I never care for any of them. I should much like to handle your dolls, mine were made of painted velvet... but I did not do the mechanical parts very well, the joints and clothes were clumsy - I wish I had not lost it all the same - the head and whiskers were lovely..."

    Potter's desire for the Todhunters to make dolls of her own creations became a reality. In an article entitled Wee Folk in Yorkshire G. Bernard Wood wrote "Do you recall the gardener [McGregor] whom Beatrix Potter immortalised - the gardener who was for ever chasing rabbits? Designed on the novelist's own description, a figure of him was made by the Todhunters for her Cumberland home" (Yorkshire Advertiser Illustrated, December, 1947).

    The lot includes a first edition of The Tailor of Gloucester, privately printed in an edition of 500 copies in 1902. Sold on behalf of St. Werburgh's Church, Chorlton-Cum-Hardy.