Beatrix Potter: Author, Illustrator, Mycologist

victorian naturalistfungi

Over the years we have really appreciated the opportunity to learn more and more about the renowned children’s author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter (1866-1943). We continue to find surprises around every corner. She was a close observer and illustrator of the myriad details of nature — focused, perhaps most notably, on the secret world of fungi and lichens.

Beatrix Potter produced hundreds of paintings of fungi, often using the microscope to satisfy her constant curiosity:

During the autumn and winter of 1895 Beatrix spent an increasing amount of time drawing fungi under the microscope. Her objectives had changed from simply assembling a collection of watercolours and photographs to discovering how fungi reproduced.” — from Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear.

fly agaric

Of course, Beatrix Potter was destined to be known not for her mycological drawings but for something quite different:

And so it was that on 4 September, the very day after discovering the rare pine cone fungus, Beatrix sat down in the sunshine on the lawn of Eastwood and wrote a picture letter about a disobedient young rabbit called ‘Peter’. ‘I don’t know what to write to you…so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter.‘” — from Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear.

2 mushrooms

Several books focus on Beatrix Potter’s love of nature, and specifically her life-long devotion to the landscape and traditions of England’s Lake District. Among our favorites is A Victorian Naturalist: Beatrix Potter’s Drawings from the Armitt Collection by E. Jay (pictured above), and the previously quoted Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear (pictured below, along with a wonderful photograph of Beatrix at the Keswick Sheep Show in 1935).

linda learkeswick

And here’s the Land Library’s most recent addition to our Beatrix Potter shelf — a beautifully produced book from France:

les champignons

On Wednesday August 18th, the Rocky Mountain Land Series will host a free program with Gary Lincoff, author of the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. Gary will be speaking on his new book The Complete Mushroom Hunter, and he’ll be bringing along plenty of samples & examples. Over the next few weeks the Land Library hopes to add most posts on the world of mushrooms and fungi. As Beatrix Potter’s work proves, this is a world that has attracted some wonderful books!


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