30 April 2024

Celebrating 40 years of Beatrix Potter at M&S

It’s 40 years since M&S first began selling Beatrix Potter merchandise and we’re celebrating with a special opportunity to view the collection.

‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’, written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, was privately printed by the author in 1901, after being rejected by several publishers. In 1902, the first commercial edition was printed by Frederick Warne & Co. and became an instant success. Over 45 million copies have been sold, in over 30 languages, and it remains one of the best-selling books of all time.

M&S was one of the earliest major retailers to acquire a license to sell Beatrix Potter merchandise, in 1984. Beatrix herself started with a soft toy, which she designed, made and registered with the UK Patent Office in 1903. She took a pioneering approach to merchandise based on her artistic creations, extending into a nursery frieze, board game, slippers, painting books and a children’s tea service.

A colour photo of a selection of books and children's clothing on a white table.

Our collection includes products and packaging dating from 1984 to the present, kindly donated to the Archive by former M&S colleague David Pepper. David, a keen and knowledgeable Beatrix Potter enthusiast and active member of The Beatrix Potter Society, was a Customer Assistant at our Moortown store for many years, and also hosted visitors to the M&S archive exhibition. David continued to pursue his passion for heritage after leaving M&S, including time working for The National Trust, at Beatrix’s home, ‘Hill Top’, in Ambleside in the Lake District, and volunteering at the V&A Archive in London, working with the Beatrix Potter collection.

This is a rare opportunity to see M&S merchandise featuring the famous illustrations that helped to make Peter Rabbit and his friends such enduring favourites.

The collection will be available to view in our Reading Room from Monday 3 June to Friday 7 June, from 10am to 4pm, no appointment needed.