Penguin Random House to publish 'lost' Beatrix Potter story
In September 2016, Frederick Warne & Co., Beatrix Potter’s original publisher and an imprint of Penguin Random House Children’s, will publish a brand-new tale by one of the world’s best-loved children’s authors, Beatrix Potter.
The Tale of Kitty-In-Boots, a manuscript by Beatrix Potter, was rediscovered two years ago when Jo Hanks, publisher at Penguin Random House Children’s, stumbled across an out-of-print literary history about Beatrix Potter from the early 1970s. Hanks found in the book both a reference to a letter that Potter had sent her publisher in 1914, which referred to a story about ‘a well-behaved prime black Kitty cat, who leads rather a double life’, and an unedited manuscript of the tale.
A trip to the V&A archive, where many of Potter’s items are kept, revealed three manuscripts, handwritten in children’s school notebooks, one rough colour sketch of Kitty-in-Boots, a dummy book with some of the typeset manuscript laid out and a pencil rough of arch-villain Mr. Tod.
Other letters in the archive revealed that Potter intended to finish the tale, but ‘interruptions began’ – and continued: from the beginning of the First World War, to marriage, to sheep farming, to colds. And so she never went back to the story.
Jo Hanks said, ‘The tale really is the best of Beatrix Potter. It has double identities, colourful villains and a number of favourite characters from other tales (including Mr. Tod, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Ribby and Tabitha Twitchit). And, most excitingly, our treasured, mischievous Peter Rabbit makes an appearance – albeit older, slower and portlier!’
Quentin Blake said, ‘It seemed almost incredible when, early in 2015, I was sent the manuscript of a story by Beatrix Potter; one which had lain unpublished for a hundred years and which, with the exception of a single drawing, she had never illustrated. I liked the story immediately – it’s full of incident and mischief and character –and I was fascinated to think that I was being asked to draw pictures for it. I have a strange feeling that it might have been waiting for me.’