Frederick Warne & Co

Frederick Warne & Co is a British publisher famous for children's books, particularly those of Beatrix Potter, and for its Observer's Books which have gained a cult following.[1][2]

It is an imprint of Penguin Random House, a subsidiary of German media conglomerate Bertelsmann and British publishing company Pearson plc.

Frederick Warne & Co
Frederick Warne & Co logo
Parent companyPenguin Random House
FounderFrederick Warne
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Headquarters locationLondon


Nursery rhymes.djvu&page=5
From Nursery Rhymes.
Charles Kingley - 1899 Westward Ho! cover 2
1899 printing of Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho!

Frederick Warne & Co was founded in 1865 by London bookseller and publisher, Frederick Warne. The business was a replacement of an earlier association between Warne and George Routledge, who went on to found his own publishing company, Routledge.[1][2][3]

During the second half of the nineteenth century, the company built a good reputation for publishing children's books, publishing illustrated books by well-known authors and artists as Edward Lear, Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane. The company also published a 'Pictorial' series of books of collections of short essays and illustrations on many non-fiction topics. The following list may not be complete.

Pictorial Cabinet of Marvels
Pictorial Museum of Sport and Adventure
Pictorial Records of Remarkable Events
Pictorial Stories of Heroism and Enterprise
Pictorial Travels on Land and Sea
Pictorial Treasury of Famous Men and Famous Deeds
The Pictorial Tour of the World

Toward the end of the century, Frederick Warne had retired and left the firm to his three sons, Harold, Fruing and Norman. Warne was among the six publishers whom Beatrix Potter submitted her first book, the story of a rabbit called Peter. Like the other five firms, Warne turned the proposal down. But the people at the firm changed their minds when they saw the privately published copy in 1901. They said they would publish the book, as long as the illustrations were drawn in colour. The next year, Warne published The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and by Christmas it had sold 20,000 copies. This began a forty-year partnership which saw the publication of twenty-two additional little books. Beatrix Potter was engaged to marry Norman Warne, her editor and the youngest of the three Warne brothers. However, he died tragically in 1905, only a few weeks after their engagement. Harold, the eldest brother, took over as Potter's editor. She continued to produce one or two new Little Books each year for the next eight years until her marriage in 1913 to William Heelis. During the next few years Potter turned her attention to her farm work, but when the company fell on hard times and Harold was imprisoned for embezzlement, she came to the rescue with another new title to support "the old firm." Potter, who had no children, left the rights to her works to Warne upon her death. The company continued to publish them; it also brought out several biographical works about its most renowned author. Over the years, Warne also expanded its nonfiction publishing, issuing among others the world-famous Observer books.

In 1983, Warne was bought by Penguin books. It began developing classic book-based children's character brands. The merchandising program was expanded from a base of thirty-five licenses to more than four hundred by the late 1990s. Over the years, Warne acquired a variety of other classic books.

A major motion picture about the life of Beatrix Potter Miss Potter, starring Renée Zellweger as Beatrix Potter and Ewan McGregor as Norman Warne was released in 2006. While the company no longer exists as an independent company, it continues to exist as an imprint of Penguin Group. The company collaborated with Sony Pictures Animation and Animal Logic to produce the Peter Rabbit film, which was released in 2018.

Beatrix Potter Books

Warne printed twenty-three books written by Beatrix Potter. These books were mainly written about animals, and were written from 1902–1930. Here is the list of her books, the links to their Wikipedia pages and their first edition dates.

Observer's Books

From 1937 to 2003, Warne published small, pocket-sized books, which were available on many subjects. The aim of these books were to interest the observer. They were called the Observer's books. These books were very popular amongst children. Over the past few years they have become very popular collector items. For the dedicated collector this could be a lifetime's work as there are over 800 variations, some of which are now very rare. The values of the books can vary from 50p to hundreds of pounds. They all include a variety of topics, which include hobbies, art, history, wildlife and many more. The earlier books were printed with paper dust covers up until 1969. These were good for printing but where not very practical because they were very delicate and were easy to rip and stain. From 1970, the covers were protected with a glossy coating. This helped the dust covers protection. These types are often referred to as Glossies. From the late 1970s, Warne decided to laminate the covers to the actual books, so the books were highly protected as they didn't really have any covers. The dust covers from 1937 to 1970 had designs that were colourful and attractive as each one had its own unique colouring of squiggly lines at the top. In 1971, Warne decided to refurbish its books with a more formal dust jacket. These were good but it lost the charm that the original covers had had. I have some pictures below of old and new dust jackets in Observer's books. The first Observer guide was published in 1937, and was on the subject of British Birds. This is now very rare, and a mint copy with a dust cover is worth hundreds of pounds. The same year, Warne published a second book, on British Wild Flowers, a mint copy of this book is worth around £220.

By 1941, Warne had published the first six Observer's books. In 1942, a special edition book was brought out on Airplanes. This book had no number in the series, as it was bought out to help people spot enemy planes during World War 2. It was printed again in 1943 and in 1945. When Warne was acquired by Penguin books in 1983, Warne bought out new editions of the Observer's books. These were slightly bigger than the Observer's books and were in paperback, not hardback. The same year penguin, with permission of Warne, started printing their own, more up to date Observer's books. These again were slightly larger than the originals but were hardbacks. Like the later original Observer's books, The dust cover was laminated to the actual book. There were two types of the penguin Observer's books, Bloomsbury Observer's, and Claremont Observer's, (of which there were only 12 different editions). Below is a list of all the original Observer's books with the dates of their first editions, and two pictures of Observer's books.


  1. ^ a b Reading, The University of. "Archive of Frederick Warne - University of Reading". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Bristol University | Library | Frederick Warne Archive: DM1919". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Frederick Warne - Penguin Books USA". Retrieved 25 January 2017.

External links

Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes

Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes is a collection of nursery rhymes written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and published by Frederick Warne & Co. in October 1917. Potter had a lifelong fascination with rhymes, and proposed a book of short verses called Appley Dapply to Warne following the release of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902. Warne preferred Potter's original fantasies to her derivative work, and gave Appley Dapply little encouragement. The book was set aside in favour of other projects.

In 1917 Frederick Warne & Co. suffered a scandal, and asked Potter for a book in an effort to stave off the firm's complete ruin. Potter was unwilling to become involved in the intense labour of preparing an entirely new book, and suggested the publisher raid the Appley Dapply dummy book prepared a decade and a half earlier. Seven rhymes with their accompanying illustrations were chosen and published as Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes. The book sold well.

Modern critics consider Appley Dapply an uneven compilation of illustrations spanning decades and styles across Potter's career and suggest that it fails as a unified work. The rhymes of Potter's composition are critically considered not particularly memorable, and one critic has described the book as "the last squeezings of an almost dry sponge".

Beatrix Potter's career as a children's author and illustrator was launched in 1900 when she revised a tale written in 1893 about a humanized rabbit, fashioned a dummy book in imitation of Helen Bannerman's 1899 bestseller Little Black Sambo, and privately published her work in December 1901 after a series of publishers' rejections. Frederick Warne & Co. had rejected the tale but, eager to compete in the burgeoning and lucrative small format children's book market, reconsidered and accepted the "bunny book" (as the firm called it) following the endorsement of their prominent children's book artist L. Leslie Brooke. Potter agreed to colour her pen and ink illustrations for the trade edition, and chose the then-new Hentschel three-colour process for reproducing her watercolours. On 2 October 1902 The Tale of Peter Rabbit was released.Potter continued to publish for Warne (usually two books per annum) and in 1905 bought Hill Top, a working farm of 34 acres (14 ha) in the Lake District, with profits from the sales of her books and a small legacy from an aunt. Her small format books thereafter took inspiration from the farm, its natural surroundings, and nearby villages. Her career came to an end in 1913 when marriage to William Heelis, the demands of an aged mother, failing eyesight, and the business of operating Hill Top prevented her from investing any time and attention in book production. She continued to publish sporadically after 1913, but her work lacked the brilliance of her earlier years and depended upon the retrieval of decades-old artwork and concepts rather than artistic growth and expansion.

Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes

Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and published by Frederick Warne & Co. in December 1922. The book is a compilation of traditional nursery rhymes such as "Goosey Goosey Gander", "This Little Piggy" and "Three Blind Mice". It was Potter's second book of rhymes published by Warne. Merchandise generated from the tale includes Beswick Pottery porcelain figurines and Schmid music boxes.

The Fairy Caravan

The Fairy Caravan is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter and first published in 1929 by Alexander McKay in Philadelphia. As noted by Leslie Linder, "Potter did not wish for an English edition of The Fairy Caravan, because she felt the stories were 'too personal - too autobiographical' to publish in this country". In order to secure English copyright, however, Potter produced 100 copies with the first eighteen pages discarded and replaced by sheets privately printed in Ambleside by George Middleton.

The Nuttall Encyclopædia

The Nuttall Encyclopædia: Being a Concise and Comprehensive Dictionary of General Knowledge is a late 19th-century encyclopedia, edited by Rev. James Wood, first published in London in 1900 by Frederick Warne & Co Ltd.

Editions were recorded for 1920, 1930, 1938 and 1956 and was still being sold in 1966. Editors included G. Elgie Christ and A, L, Hayden for 1930, Lawrence Hawkins Dawson for 1938 and C. M. Prior for 1956.

The Sly Old Cat

The Sly Old Cat is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter in 1906, and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1971, almost thirty years after her death. The story tells of a cat who invites a rat to a tea party with the intention of eating him, but the rat outwits her and leaves the party with a muffin in a paper bag.

The story was written in 1906 for her publisher's daughter, and was intended to be published in 1907 as a panorama book, a long strip of paper with text and illustrations that folded into a wallet. Booksellers objected to the format, because the item was too difficult to keep folded and in its place once customers opened it for examination. The tale was set aside. In 1916, it was again considered for publication but, again, set aside. Potter's eyesight was failing and she did not want to become involved in the labour of developing a book for publication. It was first published in 1971 with Potter's rough sketches. The book was critically well received.

The Story of Miss Moppet

The Story of Miss Moppet is a tale about teasing, featuring a kitten and a mouse, that was written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. It was published by Frederick Warne & Co for the 1906 Christmas season. Potter was born in London in 1866, and between 1902 and 1905 published a series of small format children's books with Warne. In 1906, she experimented with an atypical panorama design for Miss Moppet, which booksellers disliked; the story was reprinted in 1916 in small book format.

Miss Moppet, the story's eponymous main character, is a kitten teased by a mouse. While pursuing him she bumps her head on a cupboard. She then wraps a duster about her head, and sits before the fire "looking very ill". The curious mouse creeps closer, is captured, "and because the Mouse has teased Miss Moppet—Miss Moppet thinks she will tease the Mouse; which is not at all nice of Miss Moppet". She ties him up in the duster and tosses him about. However, the mouse makes his escape, and once safely out of reach, dances a jig atop the cupboard.

Although, critically, The Story of Miss Moppet is considered one of Potter's lesser efforts, for young children it is valued as an introduction to books in general, and to the world of Peter Rabbit. The character of Miss Moppet was released as a porcelain figurine in 1954 and a plush toy in 1973. The book has been published in a Braille version, translated into seven languages, and was released in an electronic format in 2005. First editions in the original format are available through antiquarian booksellers.

The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit

The Story of A Fierce Bad Rabbit is a children’s book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in December 1906. The book tells of a bad little rabbit who is fired upon by a hunter and loses his tail and whiskers. The book was intended for babies and very young children, and was originally published on a strip of paper that folded into a wallet and was tied with a ribbon. The format was unpopular with booksellers, and eventually reprinted in the standard small book format of the Peter Rabbit library. Although the book sold well, there are not many left in existence. It provides the young child with an introduction to books and the Peter Rabbit universe.

The Tailor of Gloucester

The Tailor of Gloucester is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, privately printed by the author in 1902, and published in a trade edition by Frederick Warne & Co. in October 1903. The story is about a tailor whose work on a waistcoat is finished by the grateful mice he rescues from his cat and was based on a real world incident involving a tailor and his assistants. For years, Potter declared that of all her books it was her personal favourite.

The Tale of Benjamin Bunny

The Tale of Benjamin Bunny is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in September 1904. The book is a sequel to The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), and tells of Peter's return to Mr. McGregor's garden with his cousin Benjamin to retrieve the clothes he lost there during his previous adventure. In Benjamin Bunny, Potter deepened the rabbit universe she created in Peter Rabbit, and, in doing so, suggested the rabbit world was parallel to the human world but complete and sufficient unto itself.

Benjamin Bunny was an instant commercial and popular success, and thousands of copies were in print by the end of 1904. The Times Literary Supplement thought Potter's illustrations "pencil perfect", but suggested that she engage a literary assistant for future productions. Potter created a nursery wallpaper tapping Benjamin's image, and Benjamin returned as an adult rabbit in the Flopsy Bunnies and Mr. Tod. In 1992, Benjamin Bunny was adapted as an episode of the BBC animated television series, The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends.

The Tale of Ginger and Pickles

The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (originally, Ginger and Pickles) is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1909. The book tells of two shopkeepers who extend unlimited credit to their customers and, as a result, are forced to go out of business. It was originally published in a large format which permitted Potter the opportunity to lavish great detail on the illustrations and also allowed her to include black-and-white vignettes. Potter filled the tale with characters from her previous books. The book was eventually republished in the standard small format of the Peter Rabbit series and was adapted to drama in 1931.

The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots

The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots is a British children's book written by Beatrix Potter and illustrated by Quentin Blake published in 2016. The manuscript was discovered by Jo Hanks, a publisher at Penguin Random House Children's Books, in the Victoria and Albert Museum archive in 2015.

Potter sent the manuscript to her publisher in 1914, and mentioned in letters that she intended to complete it; however, her work was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I and personal events such as her marriage and illness.The story centres around "a well-behaved prime black Kitty cat, who leads rather a double life", and includes characters from other Potter stories, including Peter Rabbit, and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.The book was published on 1 September 2016 (ISBN 978-0241247594) by Frederick Warne & Co, the publisher of Potter's other works, which since 1983 has been an imprint of Penguin Group. The publication coincided with the 150th anniversary of Potter's birth.

The Tale of Little Pig Robinson

The Tale of Little Pig Robinson is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter as part of the Peter Rabbit series. The book contains eight chapters and numerous illustrations. Though the book was one of Potter's last publications in 1930, it was one of the first stories she wrote.

The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher

The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher is a children's book, written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. It was published by Frederick Warne & Co. in July 1906. Jeremy's origin lies in a letter she wrote to a child in 1893. She revised it in 1906, and moved its setting from the River Tay to the English Lake District. The tale reflects her love for the Lake District and her admiration for children's illustrator Randolph Caldecott.

Jeremy Fisher is a frog that lives in a "slippy-sloppy" house at the edge of a pond. During one rainy day, he collects worms for fishing and sets off across the pond on his lily-pad boat. He plans to invite his friends for dinner if he catches more than five minnows. He encounters all sorts of setbacks to his goal, and escapes a large trout who tries to swallow him. He swims for shore, decides he will not go fishing again, and hops home.

Potter's tale pays homage to the leisurely summers her father and his companions passed sport fishing at rented country estates in Scotland. Following the tale's publication, a child fan wrote to Potter suggesting Jeremy find a wife. Potter responded with a series of miniature letters on the theme as if from Jeremy and his pals. After Potter's death in 1943, licences were issued to various firms to produce the Potter characters. Jeremy and his friends were released as porcelain figurines, plush toys, and other merchandise.

The Tale of Mr. Tod

The Tale of Mr. Tod is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1912. The tale is about a badger called Tommy Brock and his arch enemy Mr. Tod, a fox. Brock kidnaps the children of Benjamin Bunny and his wife Flopsy, intending to eat them, and hides them in an oven in the home of Mr. Tod. Benjamin and his cousin Peter Rabbit have followed Tommy Brock in an attempt to rescue the babies. When Mr. Tod finds Brock asleep in his bed, he determines to get him out of the house. His initial attempt fails, and the two eventually come to blows. Under cover of the fight, the rabbits rescue the baby rabbits. The tale was influenced by the Uncle Remus stories, and was set in the fields of Potter's Castle Farm. Black and white illustrations outnumber those in colour. The tale is critically considered one of Potter's "most complex and successful in plot and tone."Potter's publisher wanted Mr. Tod to be the first in a new series of Peter Rabbit tales in larger formats with elaborate bindings, but Potter disliked the idea. Nonetheless, Mr. Tod and its 1913 follower, The Tale of Pigling Bland, were published in the new formats, but the idea was eventually dropped and the ordinary bindings were adopted for reprints. The two tales were the last completely original productions by Potter. She continued to publish sporadically but used decades-old concepts and sketches rather than new images and ideas. In 1995, an animated film adaptation of the tale was featured on the BBC television anthology series The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Tale of Peter Rabbit is a British children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter that follows mischievous and disobedient young Peter Rabbit as he is chased about the garden of Mr. McGregor. He escapes and returns home to his mother, who puts him to bed after dosing him with tea. The tale was written for five-year-old Noel Moore, son of Potter's former governess Annie Carter Moore, in 1893. It was revised and privately printed by Potter in 1901 after several publishers' rejections, but was printed in a trade edition by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1902. The book was a success, and multiple reprints were issued in the years immediately following its debut. It has been translated into 36 languages, and with 45 million copies sold it is one of the best-selling books of all time.Since its release the book has generated considerable merchandise for both children and adults, including toys, dishes, foods, clothing, and videos. Potter was one of the first to be responsible for such merchandise when she patented a Peter Rabbit doll in 1903 and followed it almost immediately with a Peter Rabbit board game.

The Tale of Pigling Bland

The Tale of Pigling Bland is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1913. The story describes the adventures of the pig of the title and how his life changes upon meeting a soul mate, in much the same way that Potter's life was changing at the time the book was published.

The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding

The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in October 1908 as The Roly-Poly Pudding. In 1926, it was re-published as The Tale of Samuel Whiskers. The book is dedicated to the author's fancy rat "Sammy" and tells of Tom Kitten's escape from two rats who plan to make him into a pudding. The tale was adapted to animation in 1993.

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in August 1903. The story is about an impertinent red squirrel named Nutkin and his narrow escape from an owl called Old Brown. The book followed Potter's hugely successful The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and was an instant hit. The now familiar endpapers of the Peter Rabbit series were introduced in the book.

Squirrel Nutkin had its origins in a story and picture letter Potter sent Norah Moore, the daughter of her former governess, Annie Carter Moore. The background illustrations were modelled on Derwentwater and St. Herbert's Island in the Lake District.

One commentator has likened Squirrel Nutkin's impertinent behaviour to that of the rebellious working-class of Potter's own day, and another commentator has noted the tale's similarities to pourquoi tales and folk tales in its explanations of Squirrel Nutkin's short tail and characteristics of squirrel behaviour. An abbreviated version of the tale appeared as a segment in the 1971 ballet film, The Tales of Beatrix Potter.

The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies

The Tale of The Flopsy Bunnies is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in July 1909. After two full-length tales about rabbits, Potter had grown weary of the subject and was reluctant to write another. She realized however that children most enjoyed her rabbit stories and pictures, and so reached back to characters and plot elements from The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902) and The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904) to create The Flopsy Bunnies. A semi-formal garden of archways and flowerbeds in Wales at the home of her uncle and aunt became the background for the illustrations.

In The Flopsy Bunnies, Benjamin Bunny and his cousin Flopsy are the parents of six young rabbits called simply The Flopsy Bunnies. The story concerns how the Flopsy Bunnies, while raiding a rubbish heap of rotting vegetables, fall asleep and are captured by Mr. McGregor who places them in a sack. While McGregor is distracted, the six are freed by Thomasina Tittlemouse, a woodmouse, and the sack filled with rotten vegetables by Benjamin and Flopsy. At home, Mr. McGregor proudly presents the sack to his wife, but receives a sharp scolding when she discovers its actual content.

Modern critical commentary varies. One critic points out that the faces of the rabbits are expressionless while another argues that the cock of an ear or the position of a tail conveys what the faces lack. One critic believes the tale lacks the vitality of The Tale of Peter Rabbit which sprang from a picture and story letter to a child. Most agree though that the depictions of the garden are exquisite and some of the finest illustrations Potter created.

Victorian-era children's literature

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