Below, the publisher, Random House Children’s and Penguin Random House Audio, share how the story was discovered and reminds us of Beatrix Potter’s legacy.
"Beatrix Potter’s manuscript for The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots (on sale 9/6/16) 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!”
Beatrix Potter is one of the world’s best-loved children’s authors, with her most famous creation The Tale of Peter Rabbit having sold in excess of 45 million copies globally since its initial publication by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1902. She personally oversaw the launch of subsequent products, making Peter Rabbit the oldest licensed character in history. Today over 2 million of her ‘little books’ are sold globally every year, and Peter Rabbit has appeared in books and products in more than 110 countries throughout the world. 150 years after her birth, we celebrate an incredible woman, an artist, storyteller, botanist, environmentalist, farmer and businesswoman. Beatrix Potter was a visionary and a trailblazer. Single-mindedly determined and ambitious, she overcame professional rejection, academic humiliation and personal heartbreak, going on to earn her fortune and a formidable reputation. On her death, she left an incredible legacy of land and property to the care of the National Trust to ensure that future generations would continue to enjoy the countryside that she was so passionate about, as well as the much-loved characters and stories that were created over a lifetime."
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