October 2, 2012

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The appeal of Ladybird books as collectible items is well known, with specialist websites and blogs such as The Wee Web and Vintage Ladybird Books offering a growing wealth of online and detailed information on the volumes available and on the history of this rich strand of children’s literature and publishing history. In terms of the biographies of individual copies of Ladybird books many of these will find themselves in the hands of collectors at some point in their lifetimes. The copies we have borrowed for the exhibition are no exception.

The Tunnicliffe collector's book shelves

This photo shows the book shelves of Tunnicliffe collector Lionel Kelly, whose personal holdings include earlye ditions of many works illustrated by the artist.

We have on display a copy of the first edition of the Autumn volume that has been kindly lent by Lionel Kelly, a former academic who worked for many years in the Department of English here at the University of Reading. Like numerous other scholars of literature, Lionel was an enthusiastic book collector for many years. When he retired he became especially keen on the work of Charles Tunnicliffe and began collecting early editions of books that had been illustrated by him. This, of course, included copies from the What to Look For series.

Lionel Kelly's copy of 'What to Look For in Autumn'

Lionel Kelly’s copy of ‘What to Look For in Autumn’ is a frist edition but is lacking the standard dust jacket that came with the original volume. This lack of dust jacket reveals the monochrome Tunnicliffe image that graces the cover beneath.

Lionel has also lent his first edition copy of What to Look For in Winter, which features one of the most entertaining (not to mention worrying!) errata slips I have ever seen, and one with which other Ladybird enthusiasts are already familiar. This is shown in the picture below.

Errata slip from Lionel Kelly's first edition copy of the 'Winter' volume.

Errata slip from Lionel Kelly’s first edition copy of ‘What to Look For in Winter’.

The slip reads as follows:

ERRATA page 16 // “The red and purple berries that look like tiny jam tarts are not poisonous.”// should read // “The red and purple berries that look like tiny jam tarts are ALSO poisonous.”

One young owner of this particular copy of the book has tken it iupon themselves to write ‘are poisonous’ alongside the wording of the errata slip. Someone – perhaps the same previous owner – has also made the correction on page 16, as shown in the following image.

Correction made in pen to page 16 of Lionel Kelly's copy of the 'Winter' book.

A correction has been made to the text on page 16 of Lionel Kelly’s copy of ‘What to Look For in Winter’.

We are enormously grateful to Lionel for lending these two books and for lending a handful of other gems from his wider Tunnicliffe collection. These include two books illustrated by Tunnicliffe and, like the What to Look For series, also authored by Elliot Lovegood Grant Watson. He has also lent us a copy of Tunnicliffe’s How to Draw Farm Animals, an original pencil sketch from which we have borrowed from Oriel Ynys Môn. Why not drop in to see the exhibition and take a look at this original pencil sketch on display.

Lionel Kelly's copy of 'How to Draw Farm Animals'

One of Lionel Kelly’s two different editions of ‘How to Draw Farm Animals’.

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Book design was of paramount importance in developing the format of Ladybird books as we now know them. Indeed, as the exhibition reveals, the format and size of these volumes was determined by a desire to be economical and to get the most out of cutting a single sheet of paper without wastage. We have on display an uncut printer’s sheet from a Ladybird book that helps to illustrate this point, as well as detailed discussion of the design of Ladybird books, which has been provided by our colleague Professor Sue Walker of the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication.

Ladybird books and the complexities of their design history notwithstanding, we have had our own design challenges in the course of planning and developing the exhibition itself. Our collaborator and consultant in this venture has been Mark Meredith of Waysgoose Design, whose vibrant and lively artwork has invigorated our ideas and helped render them presentable and visually appealing, as can be seen by his design for the exhibition poster (click to download here).

What to Look For exhibition poster

The ‘What to Look For’ exhibition poster, as designed by Mark Meredith of Waysgoose Design.

Mark is himself a graduate of the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication and was at one time taught by Sue Walker. He also worked for her for a number of years after graduating. It is nice to see them both working on this project. Mark also managed to find time to get married whilst (seemingly simultaneously) finishing off amendments to the designs he had produced for this display, which just goes to show what talent and ability he has.

Congratulations and thanks are therefore due to both Mark Meredith and to Sue Walker for their contributions towards and commitment to this exhibition. Like the classic and well-loved look of the Ladybird book, this exhibtion wouldn’t be what it has become without the design and the authorship that lies behind it!

Banner designed fro the exhibition by Mark Meredith.

This banner on the theme of Book Design was designed for the exhibition by Mark Meredith and is based on the specialist knowledge and input of Professor Sue Walker.

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