Blogs @ Emporia State University

A Tale of Two Rabbits

Apr 19, 2013

Tags: special collections

Once upon a time there was a little girl who grew up in England.  She didn’t go to school, instead being


educated by a governess and spending long hours playing with animals.  She had a Belgian male hare named Mr. Benjamin H. Bounce, whom she described thus:  “At one


moment amiably sentimental to the verge of silliness, at the next, the up-setting of a jug or tea-cup which he immediately takes upon himself, will convert him into a demon, throwing himself on his back, scratching and spluttering.  If I can lay hold of him without being bitten, within half a minute he is licking my hands as though nothing had happened.  He is an abject coward, but believes in bluster, could stare our old dog out of countenance, chase a cat that has turned tail.  Benjamin once fell into an Aquarium head first, and sat in the water which he could not get out of, pretending to eat a piece of string.  Nothing like putting a face upon circumstances.” 



Later she acquired a new rabbit, Peter Piper, who, she claimed, “really is good at tricks when hungry, in private, jumping (sticks, hands, hoop, back and forward), ringing little bell and drumming on a tambourine.”

This girl loved drawing and illustrating, and, because she had ample opportunity to closely observe various animals’ habits and behaviors, recorded their characteristics in great detail.   Her drawing skills improved, and she decided to write a book.  It was rejected by publishers because the pictures weren’t colorful enough and so she self-published 250 copies.  The next year, 1902, Frederick Warne & Co. published 28,000 copies of the book.

 The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter   The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, by Beatrix Potter


Beatrix Potter created 28 animal characters that were incorporated into 23 children’s books, including The Tale of Benjamin Bunny in 1904, which featured Benjamin Bunny and his cousin, Peter Rabbit. These and other books by Beatrix Potter are available from Emporia State University’s Special Collections and Archives.  The Tale of Peter Rabbit, published by F. Warne & Co., is available in English, Italian, Latin, German, Welsh, French, Swedish, French, and Dutch language editions as part of the Ruth Garver Gagliardo Collection.  The quotes describing Benjamin and Peter were taken from pages 300 and 400, respectively, of The Journal of Beatrix Potter from 1881 to 1897 (RGG P851j).  28 china character figures created by Beswick Pottery between 1955 and 1968 comprise the Beatrix Potter Beswick Figurines collection (NAxxxx.0046).

 Peter Rabbit  Benjamin Bunny

Access these collections by visiting the Special Collections and Archives reading room, which is open Monday-Friday from 11-3 p.m.  Special Collections and Archives staff may also be reached via e-mail ( or telephone (620-341-6431).

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives

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