While in her 20s, Beatrix Potter sent illustrated story letters to the children of her former governess, Annie Moore. On this day 120 years ago, 4 September 1893, she wrote to five-year-old Noel telling the tale of a rabbit named Peter (Beatrix based the anthropomorphic character on her childhood pet bunny, Peter Piper). The letter, which was intended to cheer up and pass the time of the poorly boy, included sketches illustrating the story. Peter Rabbit first appeared in print in The Tale of Peter Rabbit in June 1902, when a trade edition of the tale (including sketches from the original letter) was published by Frederick Warne & Co; by the end of that year, 28,000 copies were in print. Over the years, The Tale of Peter Rabbit has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. Peter Rabbit appeared in five more of Potter’s books between 1904 and 1912, and as of 2008 the Peter Rabbit series has sold more than 151 million copies in 35 languages.
Happy birthday, Peter Rabbit!