Henry Altemus Company


Peter Rabbit First Edition


It is common knowledge that Warne failed to secure the American copyright for Peter Rabbit in a timely manner. Because of this, in 1904 the Henry Altemus Company was able to publish the first American (pirated) edition. Massive confusion exists however as to which Altemus edition is the true American first edition.

Most of the confusion is caused by the fact that Altemus did not change the early title pages from edition to edition. Thus a 1915 Tale of Peter Rabbit book, for example, has the 1904 date at the bottom just like the 1904 first. In fact all Altemus' The Tale of Peter Rabbit books have this date at the bottom. Thus it is rather clear where the mistakes come from.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit appeared initially in the six book Wee Books for Wee Folks Series.

Altemus published Peter Rabbit in three different formats. The first format which is the rarest was published only in 1904. It is pictured here. It has line drawn pictures on the end papers. Originally it was sold boxed with the Foolish Fox book. It is 5.5 x 4.25 inches.


True First Edition




By the end of 1904, Altemus had begun publishing the second format of the Wee Books for Wee Folks Series. Initially this book had a green cover as is pictured here. The inside of the book was identical to the first edition book. Between 1908-1912, Altemus published Peter Rabbit with a whitish/beige designed cover . (see below). All but the earliest copies of this latter book deleted the decorated endpapers. The illustrations are the same for the first three books. These books also have the curious set up such that there is a picture opposite of each page of text and then two blank pages.


Second Edition (first format)

Second Edition (second format)


In 1917 a third format of the second edition was published. This blue book dropped the blank pages and the illustrations are different from preceding volumes. This book and all that followed it had 63 pages. The previous books had 123 pages.


Second Edition (third format)

Third Edition


In 1917, the third format of the Wee Books for Wee Folks Peter Rabbit was introduced. This book has the familiar appliqué (paste-on) cover. In fact at this time three other Peter Rabbit books were published. Went to Sea, at the Farm, and Christmas. Although initially they were part of the Wee Books for Wee Folks Series (since it states Wee Books for Wee Folks at the top of their title pages), by 1918, these four books made up the Wee Folks Peter Rabbit Series. Despite the fact that the 1918-1920 Peter Rabbit books still said Wee Books for Wee Folks, the first four books were now listed in catalogues and other books as being part of the Peter Rabbit Series. See http://henryaltemus.com/series/series189.htm for more information.

Between 1917 and 1920 when the first four Peter Rabbit's with the paste-on cover were introduced, the lettering on the cover was in light green-yellow. Two different paste-ons have been seen on these early books. The usual one which shows mother rabbit speaking to Peter and the exceptionally rare variant which shows mother rabbit talking to Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail.


Third edition-early

Third edition-early variant


The earliest (1917 and early 1918) books had a frontispiece which was not labeled as "frontispiece". Thereafter it said "frontispiece" below the picture. See below.



The earliest dust jacket reverse in 1917 had a list of Wee Books including two Peter Rabbit's. The 1918 jacket reverse listed four Peter Rabbit books as the Peter Rabbit Series.



NOTE: Even the Tale of Peter Rabbit books published after 1917 with the appliqué cover had 1904 on the base of the title page.

Dating the third format books (books with the appliqué cover) can be done easily. The advertisements and the end paper designs/colors have a characteristic dating pattern. See http://henryaltemus.com/wee_books/index.htm and http://henryaltemus.com/series/series186.htm.


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Last Revision July 30, 2016