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Comical Customers.
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(POTTER, Beatrix.)

Comical Customers.

Published: London & New York: Ernest Nister; E. P. Dutton & Co., [1896]

Stock code: 109216

Price: £3,000

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This item is on show at 43 Dover Street (map)

First edition. With nine line drawings by Potter (signed HBP), featuring her frog illustrations accompanying the verse “A Frog he would a fishing go” by Clifton Bingham. The book also contains a separate full page illustration of “Squintina Tabby” to accompany “The Story of Violante and the Silver Sixpence”, after a pen and grisaille drawing heightened with gouache by Potter. Potter’s uncle Sir Henry and aunt Lucy Roscoe owned a cat called Squintina or Squinty. Potter’s frog illustrations appeared in two collections by Nister this year: Comical Customers and the Holiday Annual. The idea originated with a picture letter to Eric Moore on 5 September 1893, which began: “My dear Eric, Once upon a time there was a frog called Mr. Jeremy Fisher, and he lived in a little house on the bank of a river…” The illustrations were sold to Nister in 1894, with Potter initially hoping that Nister would publish them as a small booklet. Robert Mack of Nister had replied that, “we certainly cannot make a booklet of it as people do not want frogs now”. Nevertheless, he haggled over the price for the drawings, though Potter held firm – eventually she wrote that “I am of the opinion that you had better return them without further discussion”, to which Mack capitulated and paid the price she asked. Potter bought back the copyright and blocks for the illustrations shortly after publication of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and eventually developed them into The Tale of Jeremy Fisher (1906).

Quarto. Original blue cloth-backed glazed pictorial boards, titles to front cover green and red, patterned endpapers. Illustrated throughout. Board edges a little rubbed, front hinge starting. An excellent, bright copy.

Bibliography: Linder, p. 179; not in Quinby.

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