Records of Ladybird Books

Ladybird books were first produced during the First World War by Wills & Hepworth, a jobbing printer. Initially they were simply children's story books but after the Second World War the firm started to produce educational books which increased sales enormously.  Remarkably, the price stayed the same at 2s 6d from 1945 to 1971, a feat achieved by strict production rules and increasingly large print runs.

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 covers the wide range of subjects Ladybird published, ranging from What to Look for in Spring to Transformers: Laserbeak's Fury.

The collection also contains an incomplete collection of over c. 1,000 Ladybird books.

The Icons of Childhood project, funded by the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) under the Designation Development Fund, is a new University of Reading Special Collections project which seeks to preserve and create access to the Ladybird and the Archive of George Bell & Sons Ltd collections.

More information

  • Chronological, title and illustrator lists are available at the Special Collections Service or download a pdf here (1.63 MB)
  • The book collection is partially catalogued onEnterprise.
  • Manuscript number MS 5336
publishing history, children’s literature business records, art works ladybird

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