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Updated: Mar 25, 2023

A look at the sublime first-edition illustrations FROM 1911

Spoiler warning: please be aware, this post features revelations about major events which occur in the novel Peter and Wendy. OK to read on? Good. Let's go.

Following the 1904 play Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, J.M. Barrie published, in 1911, the novel Peter and Wendy.

The 1911 first edition.

Elevating this work were eleven splendid illustrations - plus a title page - by the London-born artist F.D. Bedford (1864 - 1954).

The title page of the novel, as published by Hodder & Stoughton.


Francis Donkin Bedford, to give him his Sunday name, originally intended to become an architect, just like his father. Consequently, he trained for that purpose in South Kensington.

However, the young Bedford found the calling of art too seductive to ignore. He therefore enrolled, in 1885, in the Royal Academy Schools. After travels overseas, which spawned illustrations now held in the V&A, he married a fellow artist, the portrait painter Helen Carter (1874 - 1949).

Bedford’s literary illustrations began in 1897 with A Book of Nursery Rhymes. More titles followed: The Book of Shops in 1899. Four and Twenty Toilers in 1900. Plus The Visit to London in 1902.


It was in 1911 though that Bedford would create the illustrations for which he is most celebrated: those for Barrie’s Peter and Wendy.

And so it begins...


Even a cursory study of these eleven plates demonstrates the powerful role they and the title page performed in establishing the look and feel we still understand of Peter, Wendy, Hook, the Neverland and more.

With the base of each illustration featuring a relevant quote or sentiment from the text, every drawing punctuates and adds flight to significant moments in the novel. These include:

‘The Birds Were Flown’

The discovery, by Mr and Mrs Darling, and Nana, of the open nursery window.

‘To Die Will Be An Awfully Big Adventure’

A contemplative Peter alone on Marooners' Rock.

‘This Man Is Mine!’

Peter and Hook captured in battle aboard the Jolly Roger.

'Peter and Jane'

The grown-up Wendy discovers Peter has returned...

This Peter and Jane illustration is especially worth expanding upon as it provides needed attention to the often-ignored-by-adaptations epilogue ‘When Wendy Grew Up. An Afterthought’.

Fascinatingly, Bedford's drawing actually reveals the grown-up Wendy gazing at a flying Jane, and presumably understanding that Jane, just like Wendy before her, will be leaving for Neverland, with Peter, via the open nursery window.

Years later, Peter will take Margaret too - Jane’s daughter. And so it will go on, Barrie promises us, so long as children remain ‘gay and innocent and heartless’.


Bedford’s drawings are imbued variously with movement and emotion, awe and - that essential Pan ingredient - danger. And this is true whether his illustrations locate us in the nursery of the Darlings’ Bloomsbury home or in the Neverland itself.

The eleven illustrations. These open in a gallery.


Post-War - and post-Pan - Bedford’s illustration style was fated to fall from fashion, however he did contribute to works written by another literary heavyweight, Charles Dickens: The Magic Fishbone in 1921, A Christmas Carol in 1923, and The Cricket on the Hearth in 1927.

Beyond book illustrations, F.D. Bedford was a revered exhibiting artist, and a member of the prestigious Art Workers’ Guild. Interestingly, this placed him alongside Arthur Rackham, an artist who had provided more than fifty illustrations for Barrie’s 1906 novel Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

In 1954, Bedford died in Kensington - so close to Barrie’s own Bloomsbury area and thus to the locality of Peter Pan, the character and universe to whom he gifted an aesthetic still resonating today.


All of the F.D. Bedford Peter and Wendy illustrations featured in this post have also been collected into a Pinterest board.

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