Only 100 numbered copies were produced in the book’s first run in 1955, 12 years after the author’s death. At the Ewbank’s 25th anniversary sale on March 22, 89 numbered and three unnumbered copies are offered separately, each with an estimate of £200-400.
Potter wrote the story for children’s publisher Warne & Co but refused to illustrate the story.
“Beatrix jibbed at the rather ‘namby pamby’ pigeons, since they left little scope for pictorial variety – ‘it is too much pigeon over and over’ – and she had never been good at birds,” the publisher’s Fruing Warne said later.
Though Potter suggested a different illustrator, the tale was ulimately set aside. Decades later, when it finally went to press, it was not intended for public sale. By printing the books the Warne’s retained the copyright and the resulting volumes were presented as gifts to friends of the firm.
Offered in the original green cloth, each copy comes in the original cream-coloured dust jacket, printed in dark green. The lowest available issue number is 3.
Auctioneer Chris Ewbank said the books have been stored together and all the books are in comparable condition.
“This is an exceptionally rare opportunity to acquire an all but pristine first edition copy of an extremely limited run by one of the world’s most celebrated authors,” he said.