The V&A holds several of Beatrix Potter's early sketchbooks and this is the earliest surviving one, made when she was just eight years old. It may have been her first, since it is made from scraps of paper, including drawer lining paper and letter paper taken from her family home, stitched or stuck together.
The booklet is labelled 'Dalguise, Dunkeld, Perthshire' and dates from one of her holidays in Scotland in 1875. Beatrix's family stayed at Dalguise House during the summer months between 1871 and 1881. Beatrix had very strong and fond memories of the area.
On the first page of this sketchbook, alongside light pencil sketches of a rabbit playing, she drew the statue known as the Mercat Cross of Dunkeld, which stood on the lawn in front of the house. Elsewhere she drew local landmarks. But on other pages are flowers, butterflies, caterpillars and birds' eggs drawn from nature, which give tantalising glimpses of Beatrix's schooling – she was taught by governesses at home.
One page features drawings of birds' eggs numbered 1 to 4. On the following page, Beatrix describes their appearance and bird species, but does not complete the task. A page of caterpillars is similarly accompanied by notes on the species, their habitats and food. Beatrix broke off part way through writing them, returning later to finish her work in pencil but leaving the last sentence unfinished. Perhaps she was called away to dinner and forgot to finish her lessons?
Explore Beatrix Potter's sketchbook
Sketchbook kept at age 8 by Beatrix Potter, dated 1875, pencil, pen and watercolour on paper, stitched and stuck together to make a booklet. Museum no. Linder Bequest BP.740. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London, courtesy Frederick Warne & Co Ltd.