In 1915, jobbing printer Wills & Hepworth published the very first Ladybird book in Loughborough. They soon registered an official logo and devoted themselves creating ‘pure and healthy’ literature for children. After the WWII, the publisher expanded its remit to include educational nonfiction, and Ladybird books have been a beloved part of many childhoods ever since. As a publisher, it’s range has changed to suit the needs of today. Alongside its famous classics, the current portfolio includes Peppa Pig, Hello Kitty and Lego, as well as digital publishing ventures.
Ladybird, now part of Penguin Books, celebrates its centenary this year. Here at Special Collections, we’ll be celebrating too, as we hold the records of Ladybird Books. The collection comprises 700 boxes of original artwork, proofs and some documentation from the 1940s to the 1990s, including examples of the work of notable artists such as C.F. Tunnicliffe, Rowland Hilder and Allen Seaby. The collection also covers the wide range of subjects Ladybird published, ranging from What to Look for in Spring to Transformers: Laserbeak’s Fury.
Most recently, we welcomed the BBC Breakfast team into our archives to discuss Ladybird with leading design illustrator Lawrence Zeegen, author of the upcoming book Ladybird by Design. The programme aired this morning and is available on the BBC website.
We’ll be contributing to and taking part in further events throughout the spring. If you’re interested in illustration, you can view quite a few of our Allen Seaby pieces at Reading Museum’s current exhibition, Allen Seaby: Art and Nature (through 22 March). On Tuesday 10 March, we’ll be hosting a lecture by Lawrence Zeegen, who will discuss Ladybird by Design, which investigates the design history and cultural impact of these ‘well-considered, well-written and well-designed, affordable little books’. Guests will have a chance to view a special pop-up exhibition of items from the Ladybird Archive before the lecture (for more info, please see our What’s On. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org).