Frederick Warne & Co

Frederick Warne & Co
Parent company Penguin Random House
Founded 1865 (1865)
Founder Frederick Warne
Country of origin United Kingdom
Headquarters location London
Official website

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 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 had built a good reputation for publishing children's books, publishing illustrated books by well-known authors and artists as Edward Lea, Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane. 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 will be collaborating with Sony Pictures Animation and Animal Logic to produce the upcoming Peter Rabbit film, which is set for release in 2018.[4]

Beatrix Potter Books

As mentioned earlier, 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 bought 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. 1 2 Reading, The University of. "Archive of Frederick Warne - University of Reading". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  2. 1 2 "Bristol University | Library | Frederick Warne Archive: DM1919". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  3. "Frederick Warne - Penguin Books USA". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  4. McCue, Michelle (September 28, 2016). "James Corden, Rose Byrne and Daisy Ridley To Star In Live Action Peter Rabbit Movie". WeAreMovieGeeks. Retrieved October 29, 2016.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.